Nobody puts baby in a corner… The Politics of Pregnancy

Deep in preparations for her Cecchetti Grade II teacher’s exam, my friend and colleague Enid Smith got news that she wasn’t allowed to take the exam.  The reason? She’s pregnant with her second child.

We in the scientific community are pretty solid on the idea that dancing, or exercise in general is safe and even healthy during pregnancy.  Enid continues to teach 15 classes a week, take 3, and is not putting her upcoming February performances on hold.

But whatever your opinion on dancing while pregnant, The Council clearly states in its bylaws that a teacher (or anyone, for that matter) cannot take an examination while pregnant.  Of course, the bylaws have not been updated since 1986, but the Cecchetti Council is a private and voluntary organization and they have the right to make their own rules regardless of moral or political implications.

The Cecchetti Council of America is deeply invested in preserving the traditions of the Cecchetti method.  They created a teachers’ certification program to ensure the staying power of Cecchetti’s legacy and safeguard the specificity of the method.  Another benefit of the Cecchetti program is that its teachers don’t simply learn the syllabus and perform it, but are tested in history, music, and anatomy as well.  They are asked to articulate common errors and how to correct them.  You are taught to count properly, teach with words as well as movements, and to mark with accuracy.  These tools are invaluable in teachers who wish to experience long careers, or who are teaching while injured or….. pregnant.

Preserving antiquity is one thing, and living in it is quite another.  I don’t expect The Cecchetti Council to change their rules, and they don’t even have to have a good reason for making them.  Since it’s a private organization and Enid is participating as a voluntary member, she has agreed to whatever fine print is in the bylaws, and has the choice to accept it or not.  If they don’t want pregnant ladies in their exams, that’s their prerogative.

HOWEVER, it is not 1986 and it’s not dangerous (or offensive) to be a pregnant dancer.  The Council preserves the longevity of the Method, but in order to preserve the longevity of the Council it must change and adapt to the age in which we are living.  It can’t afford to lose valuable members like Enid over a technicality.

Many dancers feel that they must choose between being a dancer and being a mother, and this is pehaps another example of why that perception persists.  But for Enid, dancing and parenting go hand in hand.  For other dancers and teachers who are balancing a professional dance career and motherhood, she has this advice to offer:

“Your body is so intelligent. It lets you know what your capabilities are and what your boundaries should be.  Your body was designed to be a mother but you’ve trained it all your life to be a dancer.  It can do both.  It’s amazing how resilient the female body is when taken proper care of.  On the other hand, don’t expect your dancing or your dance life to be the same after you’re a mother.  Allow for changes and be flexible.  You may be pleasantly surprised.  I’ve never felt better in my dancing than I do now!”

Enid Smith earned her BFA from the NC School of the Arts in 1999.  She danced in NYC with the Merce Cunningham Repertory Ensemble, Ivy Baldwin Dance, Anita Cheng Dance, and MAC cosmetics among others. Enid was a recipient of a 2009 Evanston Cultural Arts Fund Grant. Her choreography has been presented at Evanston SPACE, The A.W.A.R.D Show! Chicago, the Evanston Dance Showcase, the Dance Chicago Festival, Dancers Against Cancer, and by The Freeport Community Concert Series. She will present Just Resting Here, an evening length concert, at Links Hall February 25-27, 2011 and her piece Black Among Yellow and Red will be premiered by the Evanston Dance Ensemble in March.  She currently teaches ballet and modern at Dance Center Evanston, is a member of the Cecchetti Council of America, and is the director of enidsmithdance.

Photo credit: Matt Glavin.



Author: Lauren Warnecke

Lauren Warnecke is a reporter for NPR affiliate station WGLT and freelance arts and culture critic, primarily reviewing dance for the Chicago Tribune. Lauren enjoys cooking, cycling and attempting to grow things in her backyard. She lives in central Illinois.