Sharing the Love of Dance with a New Generation

A mother’s happiness is like a beacon, lighting up the future but reflected also on the past in the guise of fond memories – Honore de Balzac

Motherhood and Dancing

How can the arts support the creative act of dancing, choreographing, practicing, performing and making babies? As someone who has been dedicating their life to Balboa and Lindy Hop well over a decade, at the age of 30, I currently face challenging questions of wanting to start a family as well as maintain my creative outlet.  As I watch my friends and community grow older and have children, I am finding that questions around pregnancy, motherhood and dance are as unique, complex and emotionally demanding as the process of becoming a “lifetime” dancer – perhaps even trickier.

Many dancers today dedicate a large chunk of their lives to learning, performing, competing, teaching and travelling.  Such a transitory lifestyle is the norm for working artists.  But at some point, the biological clock starts ticking and oftentimes, a choice is made: to pass on family for life on the road, start a family and quit dancing, or find a way to balance motherhood and dance.  Thankfully we exist within a supportive community which encourages dancers to start families and return to dancing with babies in tow.

For Mother’s Day 2013, I had a chance to sit down and chat with incredibly inspiring dancers, who also happen to be mothers.  We discussed their experiences of being pregnant and raising little children while continuing to social dance, teach and perform; and I had the particular honor of interviewing Atomic Ballroom co-owner, dancer, instructor and mother of two, Nikki Marvin.

Becoming a Mother
Active dancers may think family life will be too demanding – It takes an amazing amount of energy to maintain a home and family when children are small. It’s a 24 -hour job that needs a fair amount of consideration before jumping in, head first, with your mate. But even the busiest professional dancer can go from pregnancy to birth in a safe environment with a supportive partner, family and community.

Each of the mother’s I spoke with had plenty to say about dancing and pregnancy. First rule of partner dancing, is safety comes first, especially when you’re expecting. When Nikki was first pregnant with her daughter, Anjali, she and her dance partner, Mikey Pedroza, had to make adjustments to their routines and teaching to accommodate her body. “My center of gravity had completely changed,” said Nikki, but together they managed to find the right balance point, allowing Nikki to continue teaching and performing. Then, there were times when her first and second child had grown to a point that they began moving around, “it was like a alien had taken over my body,” Nikki once remarked to me. For all dancing mothers, making balance adjustments seemed to be a constant issue that had to be addressed once again after delivery.

On a social dance floor, pregnancy can be difficult when you have to make choices of safety and acknowledgement by both parties. In a partnership, safety can be developed for the duration of the pregnancy, but on the social floor, each person you dance with will have a varied knowledge of how to “take care of you”. Moms-to-be have to determine if someone is going to throw them around the floor, however, usually everyone is super careful. And thanks to a thoughtful dance community, both Nikki and fellow lindy hopper (and sister-in-law to Nikki’s dance partner), Claire Pedroza, were able to safely dance through both of their pregnancies in heels – why sacrifice a vintage feminine aesthetics if safety is a non issue, right?

For women working as dancers, they will have difficult decisions to make in getting pregnant. Without dancing their income could grind dry up, but many are involved in other ventures which allow them the freedom of dancing throughout motherhood. Either way, pregnancy will be a difficult emotional and psychological adjustment.

Making Time for Family and Dancing
When I sat down with Nikki at the Women’s Club of Orange during Inspiration Weekend, her eldest child, Anjali, was dancing around the ballroom as son Arjuna slept in the stroller they walk over from their home 3 blocks away. She and her husband Shesha had just put on another successful weekend workshop – where I saw them both working with kids strapped to their chest or alongside – and it left me wondering…How do you find the time?

Nikki and Shesha have the unique experience of being both professional dancers and business owners. Both endeavors require a significant amount of scheduling to keep all the things working in balance. “We get to go out less, together,” explains Nikki, “[usually] if I go out, Shesha stays home or I stay home when he goes out. And I set limits to go out earlier and not stay out as late.” They also have made a point of continuing to travel – Nikki is spending Mother’s Day in Minnesota at Midwest Lindyfest – both individually and together, to keep their careers and business healthy.

At home in Orange County, the swing dance community is uniquely keen to keep an eye out for little ones around the dance floor. Anjali and Arjuna will rarely be alone with so many other babies and children around – they often have twin cousins and a new baby from dancing parents the Tan-Marvins, as well as best friends the Pedroza boys, and number of other pals their age at dance events, baby showers, baby-wearing parties or Disneyland.   And the support these other dancing parents offer has allowed these mothers to share their experiences, educate each other on methods for time management and continue to dance for fun or work.

Having the kids around the dance community “[has made them] independent, social and confident,” says Nikki on looking forward to raising such strong children.   Nikki is keen to encourage her kids “to follow their bliss” just as dancing has been a source of bliss in her life.

Happy Mother’s Day to all those dancing moms out there! 

Celebrating Mom

For this entire week, Atomic Ballroom is encouraging attendees to CELEBRATE MOTHER’s WEEK!  Bring in a mom for one free class during this week or give her the gift of dance.  Check out the calendar for this weeks scheduled group classes and drop-in to Atomic Ballroom with mom for some swing, charleston  salsa, or any other class.