Dancing While Expecting: Salsa Mamas Share Their Stories

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 Salsa Diva Griselle Ponce has been uploading videos to her Facebook and Instagram pages of her teaching Salsa, often in heels, 30-plus weeks pregnant…and totally slaying.  A video of Stephanie Stevenson (video above) in her third trimester dancing in the LA’s Top Social Dancer competition recently went viral , wowing viewers with Stevenson’s moves— which included a full split.  Top pros, like Arlette Guerra from Zafire Dance Project, taught and performed well into pregnancy, and continue to teach and perform nationally and internationally, bringing the little one(s) along.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KecRG-ENts0]

It’s common to see expectant mothers on the dance floor—whether they’re social dancers, instructors, or professional performers. I spoke to Latin dance moms from all over the country about their experiences dancing pregnant and here’s some of what they had to say:

It’s O.K. to dance pregnant (and to dance with a pregnant lady!)

Summer McPherson getting down with her baby belly. Photo courtesy of Summer McPherson.

             All of the moms I spoke to who danced during pregnancy were so glad that they did, citing all of the benefits of dance that we know and love—stress release, exercise, and socializing—as being especially helpful during a physically and emotionally turbulent time.

For professional dancers and instructors, dancing through pregnancy is not optional—these ladies rely on dance for their livelihood. For others, it’s a physical, mental, and emotional necessity

            “I loved to dance pre-pregnancy. Dance in every way is my therapy to treat my anxiety & my depression— it is my release, and it is my artistic expression when I can’t paint. When I became pregnant, that did not change. If anything, I needed dance more as I was a single pregnant woman with a volcano of emotions threatening to erupt at any moment,” says Krystal McManigal from Charleston, S.C, an avid dancer and mother of a now three-year old.

Roc Dance Company founder and host of “Roc with Me Kizomba Radio” Elyse Inzinga, from Rochester, N.Y., taught and performed right until 9 months.

“Dancing while pregnant was challenging but so, so worth it. I did not gain crazy amounts of weight, I had lots of activity to distract myself from some of the worries and fears that accompany pregnancy, and I felt more in tune with myself in a time that my body wasn’t my own,” says Elyse.

Wilmington Latin Dance owner Summer McPherson has two children and had different experiences dancing pregnant with each one.

“I had started dancing just a few years before I had my first one and I was timid [about dancing pregnant]. I was still new into the scene and got many weird looks after my belly had gotten bigger,” says Summer. She says dancing was much smoother with the second one.

“I had just began teaching with Charlotte Latin Dance when I found out I was pregnant with my second. I danced all the way until maybe 2 weeks before having her, teaching, performing and dancing socially. I loved dancing and teaching while pregnant with my second. I may have felt nauseous that day, but the moment I began teaching or dancing, it was gone. She knew what was up!” says Summer.

Although some leads are nervous to dance with pregnant women, expectant mothers know their bodies and know what they can and can’t do safely.

“When I did start gaining weight and Geordan got bigger, it became challenging to dance for the entirety of a song. I also would be very picky about who to dance with. I would need to trust that person and their dancing style very well. If I knew someone was a very clumsy dancer, I would politely decline,” says Krystal.

Elyse Inzinga didn’t let pregnancy slow her down. Photo courtesy of Elyse Inzinga.

Katariina Gay, an instructor at Wilmington Latin Dance and co-founder of the Port City Salsa Splash agrees that safety becomes a bigger consideration on the dance floor.

“You definitely become more aware of yourself and your dance space on the social dance floor with elbows flying and high heels stepping all over the place,” says Katariina.

Your dancing will change as your body changes

Kizomba and Bachata dancers especially find they have to adapt their movement styles more as they advance through their pregnancies.

“I am a Kizomba dancer, so, connection definitely changed as my body did. We rely on chest-to-chest connection, which became impossible as my belly grew. It challenged me to find new ways to connect and definitely forced me to be creative. My dance partner and my team were super supportive and patient with me!” says Elyse.

Kristen Jett, a recent new mother and instructor at Holy City Salsa Dance Studio in Charleston, S.C., had to rely on others to demonstrate certain moves.

“The most challenging part of teaching was keeping my Bachata moves, such as dips, body rolls, and other isolated body movements. It was harder to demonstrate in class for the students to get the full understanding,” says Kristen. She also nixed multiple turns while pregnant because of changes in her center of gravity.

Many expecting mothers find they have less stamina the further they progress into their pregnancy and have to contend with aches and pains that weren’t previously present.

“Once your belly really pops out, your center of gravity shifts and ligament pains start to set in. Shortness of breath, swollen ankles, and sciatic nerve pain are just the cherry on top in pregnant dancing!” says Katariina.

Katariina Gay performing for two. Photo courtesy of Katariina Gay.

For women who perform, they have to consider the intensity of the routine and dial it back some.

“The more ‘jumpy’ routines were harder because I got winded easier with less lung capacity and often my baby was kicking during the routine to let me know she was there,” says Kristen, who performed five months pregnant at the Columbia Salsa Summit in 2016.

And performers may have to get creative with making costumes fit to accommodate growing bellies.

For many women, dancing pregnant is an experience like no other.

“I have learned a lot about my own strength, my femininity & power through childbirth and dance,” says Summer.

Every body is different and everyone’s experience will be different.

“To any woman wondering if it’s “appropriate” or safe – do what is right for YOU! If you’ve danced for years, nothing says that can’t continue,” says Elyse.

 

Are you a dance mama? Did you dance pregnant? Are you planning to? Share your experiences in the comments!

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

  • Abbey Plotkin says:

    I have never had children but being in the Salsa scene for OVER 25 years, one MUST give credit to those who were doin’ it LONG before these talented young women. Maria Torres (of Eddie & Maria Torres) used to perform RIGHT up until she was ready to pop, doing FULL cartwheels, one to one side & immediately right back to the other side. She would have the baby (starting with Nadia, then Manuel, then Marguerita) and be BACK on the stage after 2 weeks!!! She never missed a BEAT!!! And that was about 30 years ago! So I’m glad you girls are still out there, but you are CERTAINLY not the 1st!!! VAYA, Maria Torres!!! LOVE HER!

  • Melissa West-Koistila says:

    This is a great article! I’m not a mom, but to date, one of the best Casino/Cuban Salsa social dances I’ve ever had was LED by a woman who was 8 months pregnant. I was slightly scared to dance with her because I was afraid I would inadvertently hit her baby bump, but she handled it like a pro.

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