I thought that I would have to stop dancing after I had children. I didn’t begin dancing seriously till my mid twenties, after my mother told me to stop bemoaning the fact that I didn’t have dance lessons as a child and just take some classes. She grew up on a farm too, she told me, and she didn’t start dancing till college. I remember watching her point her toes and stretch on the living room floor in the midst of children, and I used to play dress up with her old ballet slippers and Spanish gypsy costumes as a little girl. I was fascinated by her stories of dancing Wade in the Water in a long white dress with a parasol in a modern dance production directed by a seminarian inspired by the Alvin Ailey company.
Realizing that my mom didn’t begin dancing till college helped inspire me to begin dancing at the advanced age of 26. On the other hand, it was clear to me as the oldest of nine kids on a ridgetop far from town that dance class was not going to be a part of my mom’s life again any time soon. She was completely at peace with that fact, and I know that the dance and theatre and basketball and teaching she did before getting married helped make her so joyful and at peace with her vocation as a mother. I assumed that my life would follow the same pattern in a way- I would have my adventures, then begin the adventure of married life and children, without dance class.
I took as many dance classes as I could in the years before I married, trying to learn as much as possible before I had to stop. After moving to Pittsburgh as a newlywed newly pregnant and newly exhausted bride, my husband pushed me to get up off the couch where I was lying in a crumpled heap of self pity and just take a dance class. I returned from class with a renewed level of energy, hope, and joyfulness. Going to class every week helped me settle into this city, into my body, into my marriage.
Just as I was surprised to find myself living in a city, I was surprised to find myself dancing more after becoming a wife and mother. I began teaching in my second trimester, and taught till two weeks before Olympia was born. There is a Turkish restaurant and performance space down the hill and around the corner five minutes from my house, where I have been able to work with incredible women teaching, studying, and performing bellydance. I am so grateful to be involved in a dance community that welcomes and supports women as mothers.
I have begun to realize that we all have different paths, and that right now it is possible for me to be a mother and a wife and a dancer. We’ll see what happens if I have nine kids, but I’m not moving to the farm any time soon. In the meantime I’ll be at dance class, half the time crossing the floor with a baby in my arms.