At the Sunday afternoon pool party at Orlando Salsa Congress last year, the thing that struck me the most was how many families were at the event. Parents had kids—from infants in arms to teenagers— out with them, listening to music, dancing, floating in the pool, watching the fun, and soaking up the sun.
There were multiple generations of dancers and dancers-to-be, and I loved that the parents were involving their kids in their dance lives. They didn’t have to choose—dance or family. They merged the two. I caught up with more dance parents, as well as the dancing mamas I interviewed last month, and got their take on having it a all—a dance life and a family life.
Dance might not be #1 anymore:
For avid dancers, the transition to parenthood can be a big adjustment. Multiple nights in a row dancing, teaching, and rehearsing have to be replaced with nursing, diaper changing, and (hopefully) sleeping.
“Priorities change, schedules change, and you are absolutely no longer in control. As much as we like to think we are—our kids are the bosses!” says Elyse Inzinga, founder of Roc Dance Company and Roc with Me Kizomba Radio.
“Time and energy is much more limited. Especially with a new baby who nurses every three hours, it can be a challenge just to get the grocery shopping done at times,” says Katariina. “Finding the balance between work, family, and dance is a constant work of progress. In our case, both of us (mom and dad) are dancers, so BOTH of us being able to enjoy a night out or travel out of town can be tricky.”
But parents who have to do more maneuvering to dance may savor their time on the dance floor more when they do manage to get there.
“I think that I try to squeeze as much joy as possible from dancing now. I think that I used to take it for granted before, but now that I have less time, or better yet, more concrete hours, I cherish every single step,” says Betto Herrera, director of Mambo Dinamico Dance Company in Raleigh, N.C and father to two-year-old Cruz.
Passing on the passion can be just as rewarding:
Benjamin Franklin said “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”
Though dancing parents don’t want to force dance on their children, involving kids in dance from an early age can teach life lessons that will stick forever.
Sherri Beth Mitchell, instructor with Soul of Dancer in Charlotte, N.C., has involved both of her children, now teenagers, in dancing since she started seven years ago.
Her daughter Serenity, 13, especially took interest and is a budding dance enthusiast.
“She has started learning to lead, has joined our ladies performance team, and even took up a dance class in school. She is always asking which socials she can attend (in compliance with going to bed at normal hours on school nights), and attended her first salsa congress last year,” says Sherri Beth.
For a young person navigating the bumpy waters of teenage life, dance is a fantastic outlet and tool for growth.
“Dancing has helped boost her confidence tremendously,” says Sherri Beth.
Sherri Beth plans to take Serenity and her son Cody, 16, on the L.A. Aventura Dance Cruise this year “to expose them to a whole new world of dance and adventure.”
“Dance is where I lay all of my worries, fears, dreams, and excitement to be interpreted by my body movement to the music. It’s something which moves my soul as well as my feet, and I have never regretted starting to dance,” she says.
And she can only hope that her kids get the same benefits.
You can start your dance journey AFTER the kids:
Some people may have always wanted to dance, but once they had kids, put that desire on the back burner. It doesn’t have to be that way though.
Mia, a new dance student in Charleston, S.C, has found a love for Latin dance as her daughter Autumn, 14, is growing up.
“As a mom, I always feel a bit guilty taking time, effort, and money on something for myself. But Autumn is at an age now that I can leave her at home and go to class and take time for myself,” says Mia.
Mia and her husband have been able to take classes and go out dancing socially and not have to worry about coordinating childcare.
“It took awhile for me to start thinking about myself again. Now I can participate in the activities that make me happy. Dancing has been fun even though I’m a beginner. It makes me smile and enjoy something outside of my daily life. It’s very therapeutic!” she says.
Mia’s story is for all the would-be dancing parents who haven’t taken the leap yet. But some parents don’t wait until their kids are teens to pick up dancing.
Betto introduced new parents to Latin dance through his baby-wearing Salsa classes, where parents danced with newborns in carriers.
“We did it for a few months and had a blast with other families with newborn babies,” says Betto. An added bonus: the kids were always asleep by the end of the class.
Being a parent and being a dancer doesn’t have to be an either/or. Dancing parents all over the world are splitting their time between dance life and family life and inspiring their kids with a love for dance and music.
“A lot of times, I hear from dancers who leave the dance scene because they started a family. Without judging anyone’s decision, I think it’s very possible to have both, and share the love for dance with your child. Cruz knows that ‘Daddy’s job is Baila,’ and he always tells me when I’m about to leave—‘Daddy is going to Baila…do a good job, Daddy!” says Betto.