The Born-Again Balletomane's Blog

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Ballerinas and Motherhood September 13, 2012

Filed under: ballerina,ballet — theworstat @ 5:22 pm
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Sorry for the long break.  Those will happen on this blog.  I just go through long periods of time when other things get in the way.

Anyway, the other day I was cruising around the Internet and came across the information that two Maryinsky principals, Viktoria Tereshkina and Alina Somova, have canceled performances in L.A. because they are pregnant.  Congrats to both of them on their expected babies!

After I saw that, once again I remembered The Old Days.

There is a nearly-forgotten ballet movie that was quite popular in its day, “The Turning Point.”  I believe it was released in the 1970’s, but I’ll have to go look at Google.    One of the themes of this movie was ballerinas and motherhood.  There were two main protagonists in the film — one a famous ballerina who had given up her life to dance and was approaching the end of her career, and the other a former corps dancer who had given up her career for motherhood.   The story was that the two had started their dance careers together years before in New York, and met up again in Oklahoma (a supposed backwoods dancing desert), where the mom-former-dancer was living, many years later.  Both women rehashed their lives and regrets, etc., and of course the former dancer’s daughter  turned out to be a ballet star in the making.  At one point the youngster asked her mother if it was true that she’d have to give up her private life to become a great ballerina.

Those of us who follow dance know that while maternity was once a difficult issue for ballerinas, it never stopped them from having children.  Especially recently, it seems that many, if not most, ballerinas become mothers during their careers.  As in: it’s no big deal anymore.

Once upon a time,women were expected to give up everything in terms of career when they married.  I guess that’s where the old myth that ballerinas cannot have children came from.  Certainly it was never based on fact.  I remember reading something many years ago about pregnancy-related changes in a dancer’s body making it impossible for her to resume her career.  Take that ______ (insert major ballerina’s name on blank line).  At the time I didn’t dismiss it as being merely another myth about womanhood.  People really believed that stuff back in the day.  But since, having observed the effect of similar myths on women’s sports such as tennis, gymnastics (the only sport in which it holds a grain of truth), and figure skating, I see it for the nonsense it is and always was.

Yes, being a mom is a 48-hour-a-day job.  And ballet demands almost as much time.  I do know that one of the reasons for Darcey Bussell’s fairly early retirement was that she wished to spend more time with her daughters.  And I also wonder how other ballerinas manage to maintain a work/life balance, because it seems that in ballet, there is little of that.  Certainly there is none in motherhood.

But still, “The Turning Point”‘s entire plot revolved around an old myth.  One wonders how, as late as the 1970’s, that could be so.  I think a more interesting film might be the story of a ballerina who has 2 or 3 kids and is trying to continue her career with a major company at the same time she is trying to bring the kids up.  Anyone interested?

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