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A Nine Month Pas De Deux

October 5, 2007

swebbheadshot.jpgGuest writer:  Principal ballerina Sara Webb
(Read Ms. Webb’s bio…)

At eight months pregnant, I look at myself in the mirrors covering the walls in the dance studio and am reminded of the dancing hippos in Disney’s “Fantasia.”  I still take class with the Company, but find myself stuffing my toes into my pointe shoes, squeezing my new form into a stretchy leotard, and twirling as best I can to the tinkling of the black and whites’ familiar tunes.  Thankfully, no one needs to lift or throw me in the air – do you remember those poor alligators?  I now have a new respect for those dancing hippos in their pink tutus, happily spinning and leaping, despite how awkward their form might be.  Pulling off “graceful” is an impossible task for me these days.

Dancing hippos are one thing, but dancing pregnant ballerinas are another.  There was a time, not too long ago, when pregnancy meant retirement.  It was unheard of for a dancer to have a child and return to the stage.  Fortunately, times have changed, and so have our options.  Today, many ballerinas take time off to have children, find their “grace” once again, and return to those bright lights and pink tutus.  Stanton Welch, born to a ballerina mom, encourages dancers to have children when they are ready.  Houston Ballet has had many ballerina moms over the last decade.  Some have come back and some have retired, but it’s great to know we now have the choice.

I was able to perform Madame Butterfly, Don Quixote, and Coppélia in the early months of my pregnancy last season. I found dancing pregnant was much more exhausting.  My muscles fatigued faster and didn’t “fire” as easily as they had before.  My stamina was harder to sustain, and nausea made it hard to focus.  I remember coming home after long days of rehearsals and collapsing on the couch, falling fast asleep.  But I also found dancing pregnant to be a unique and special experience.  With a growing belly, my center of gravity was lower, and therefore turning and balancing was easier.  I felt like I wasn’t alone in the spotlight during my solos anymore, which was comforting when my nerves acted up.  I enjoyed sharing the stage with my growing little one – we were a team.  I found it easier to understand Madame Butterfly’s pain in losing a child, especially being in the early months of pregnancy and fearing the possible loss of my own baby.  Don Quixote and Coppélia are both very technically challenging ballets.  Performing them pregnant was a very rewarding experience for me.  However, when I finished my last performance of Coppélia at 17 weeks, I knew I had reached my limit for performing pregnant.  My body was ready to focus all energy on growing a baby.

As much as I miss the stage right now, I have been enjoying these last few months pursuing other interests and hobbies, and preparing for this new life I am about to introduce to the world.  In addition to taking Company class, I have been taking Pilates, Gyrotonics, and frequenting the gym to try and stay in some kind of shape (I’ve found a new friend in the elliptical machine!).  I hope these will contribute to a more manageable labor and an easier return to dancing.  All of the ballerina moms that I have read about and sought advice from agree that having a baby not only changes you, but makes you a better dancer.  They say that you physically become stronger, your emotions deeper, and your reasons for dancing more defined. “Dancing hippos” aren’t so bad, but I am happy to leave the performing to them right now.  After my son makes his debut in November, I look forward to returning to the stage as a “ballerina mom” next year.

See you then!

Sara Webb

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5 comments

  1. What a wonderful piece, Sara, especially “All of the ballerina moms that I have read about and sought advice from agree that having a baby not only changes you, but makes you a better dancer. They say that you physically become stronger, your emotions deeper, and your reasons for dancing more defined.” Thank you. Jean


  2. To be a mother is a magical thing and to be a mother and dance is even more beatiful. Congratulations for the new member of the family. I used to dance and unfortunaly and quit after having my 2 babies and I feel bad about. So keep dancing because that’s the most beautiful art that exist, ever.


  3. I am so happy for you. And way to go at 17 weeks with Coppelia! WOW! I did Swan Lake at 12 weeks, at Miller and thought that was bad! It was so much easier after the baby though and you have that to look forward to. Things will be easier and then other things such as time off to be with your baby will be a little more difficult, but, your life will be much enriched and it is SO very worth it. Congrats! You speak so well about the experience! You’ll have to keep going with it after the baby is born!


  4. My Lil’ One!

    Don’t know why but I decided to Google you tonight. I think it was a gravitational pull towards you during this beautiful time. I can’t believe my baby is married. I can’t believe my baby is going to have a baby boy. I am so incredibly proud of all you have accomplished. I’ve always known you’d be the one to rise above. You look beautiful. I miss you and would love to hear from you. Please find me at JUSTLIA@BELLSOUTH.NET. May God bless you and your new reason to dance. I love you…

    Lia


  5. I like this post!

    I wrote about in my Dancing into the Future blog on Great Dance:

    http://greatdance.com

    or

    http://greatdance.com/danceblog/archives/dance_bloggers/001876.php



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