Updated: Sep 24, 2022
Dancer - Ebony Molina and Family in Dance Mama’s short film created by Flett Flims & Tambrisk Pictures
Whether it’s busting out some cathartic moves on a Friday night in your now-a-regular-feature-from-lockdown-Sophie-Ellis-Bextor-inspired-kitchen-disco, or ‘Marching up and down’ with your baby in a rhyme-time session, dancing is most definitely in the job description as a Mum in some form or other. Whether you prefer to dance when no-one is watching, or you enjoy throwing some shapes with friends at any given opportunity, I am happy to remind you that dance is very good for us and plays an important role in being human.
Over the last ten years, I have observed and experienced how dance manifests in the maternal phase of life from two perspectives; from taking my own children to groups as well as pursuing my dance career and advocating for other professionals to continue theirs through Dance Mama. It’s an experience that confirms my view that dance, by its nature, has so many features that can help us on so many levels.
What Dance Can Do
Dance has been documented, researched and explored for many years now through the advent of dance science (yes, that is a thing!) proving how beneficial dancing is to our health. Parenthood is no exception to this, and myself and industry colleagues are in the process of gathering evidence to support what we know to be true through our own personal experiences.
Dance is multifaceted. It helps us to connect directly and physically with ourselves and others, plays a role in our social order (first wedding dances, anyone?), whilst enabling us to process information viscerally. It allows us to express ourselves, present and explore new ideas and, for a majority of the time, is employed to elicit and exude joy. It’s malleable. You can dance alone, in a group, you can make small movements, big movements in a range of cultures and styles. You can dance to music, sound or silence, and importantly, pregnant or postnatal, you can adapt it to your ability and movement range.
Where To Start: Dancing For Yourself
Dance is an economic pursuit, and you can simply get going at home by putting on some of your favourite music and moving to it to reconnect to yourself. Choosing music in itself can be a challenge when our lives have been consumed with playing music for our children (no, we don’t want to talk about Bruno all the time!). Dig out some anthems you haven’t heard in a while to help get you going. The kitchen or lounge are good places to start if you’re feeling a little under-confident as your only audience member is likely to be your baby, or you may be doing a duet with your bump.
Since the pandemic we are more used to dancing at home, but be aware of your surroundings to avoid accidents and of course, don’t bump the bump. If you're recovering from birth give yourself time to heal in the first few weeks, then start with small movements and build up.
For some great tips, check out the Find Your Active resource I contributed to, produced by Active Pregnancy Foundation.
Dancing with your children is a great way to connect with them and deepen your bond. It’s fun, helps them burn off some of their energy and is a good mood booster for you. On a deeper level, its helping all of you work on a variety of things including; motor skills, coordination, memory, cardio-vascular fitness, flexibility, strength training (if your safely carrying or lifting). It also helps with spatial awareness and active listening to rhythmic patterns, instrumentation and lyrics, boosting language and communication skills. And there you were thinking you were just ‘wiggling about’ to Dua Lipa…
Canadian dance company Foolish Operations have a fantastic programme called Dancing the Parenting which takes this to another level where caregivers and their children can perform together.
Taking A Class
Taking part in a dance class pregnant or postnatal is a really great thing to do, as moving with like-minded people who have the same interest as you is great for your wellbeing. I would encourage anyone to be proactive in having a conversation with your teacher or dance studio/ fitness centre before starting a class to communicate your needs. In general, your teacher should already be able to support you in whatever stage you are in; such adapting exercise content and intensity for different stages of parenthood and taking into account the level of activity you were doing before you were pregnant.
However, it’s important to acknowledge that access to inclusive or specific sessions continues to be unequal across the UK. There is still much work to be done on this as well as improving knowledge for dance teachers on supporting maternal dancers. Dance Mama, The APF and other colleague organisations strive to raise awareness and standards on best practice in including pregnant and postnatal people in activity and it may be beneficial to direct your teacher to the ‘Find your Active’ resource if they are not already familiar.
Dancing Mums Around The World
Over the last few years there have been great developments in specific dance classes be available for mums and babies. Dance Mama piloted online sessions for the general public during the pandemic, giving an alternative to in-person opportunities, which are continuing to develop. This builds on the work of our international colleagues. Since 1979, Yale University (USA) practitioner Ann Cowlin has developed Dancing Thru Pregnancy. Here in the UK, organisations such as Manchester-Based, Dance Like A Mother provide classes for parents and new babies in baby carriers. Midlands-based Dance Artist, Clare Palethorpe, runs Movement and More – a specific programme combining dance and baby massage, and in Ireland, Dance Artist Sam Lyons ran Missing Peace, a dance and health project on supporting people through baby loss at a local hospital. These examples demonstrate dance’s fantastic ability to mold and change to be of service to all types of people anywhere in the world.
So, dance then, wherever you may be! There are so many options for you to take part and get moving. It is an art form of possibility, accessibility and variety that helps distinguish us as a species, and most certainly belongs to us in parenthood.
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