For very nearly my entire life, I have been surrounded by mirrors. I started ballet classes when I was 4, and from that point on I spent anywhere from 1 to 6 days a week in a large, empty room with full-length mirrors lining the wall. For some women, I'm sure this would sound like an absolute nightmare scenario... something akin to What Not To Wear's dreaded 360-degree mirror where they tell you just how awful you look (and most people tend to agree... I mean, how can you fight it when you can see your own awful-ness from every angle?). And of course there were times in my teen years where everything I saw in that mirror needed to be fixed. As a classically trained dancer, you are always checking the mirror to see what is wrong with the placement and positioning of your body, or how much higher your arm or leg should be. As a teenager, you start also noticing how much more narrow everyone else's hips are, or how tight that leotard is on your posterior regions, or how your legs would look so much better if they were just a little bit skinnier. I always tell people that it is amazing to me that I disliked my body so much more then, at my very skinniest (and I was VERY skinny at points in my life) than I did as I got into college, even though I didn't maintain my ballet physique.
But even though I was hard on myself as I progressed in my ballet training, I also got used to looking at myself in a very detached and analytical way. I was familiar with my body and what it could and couldn't do. I knew how to push myself to the limits of my physical capabilities. And as a ballet teacher, that has helped me to better understand my students, to learn their bodies and help them see how much farther they can push themselves without injury and with the result of a double instead of single turn, or a high grande battement to the side.
As I re-entered the studio these past few weeks, I wasn't sure how my teaching style was going to need to change as I become bigger and bigger. I'm pleased that I feel I can still teach in mostly the same way, just by pacing myself a little differently and not demonstrating with quite as much fervor as I might have before. However, I hit a wall when I tried to participate in the jazz and lyrical classes taught by our guest teachers for the weekend. My body just would not cooperate with me. I felt unwieldy and awkward... the movement was more frustrating than enjoyable. My hips were tight and my legs were heavy and everything just felt very foreign as I tried to move it. I'm disappointed to say that I pretty much just gave up on that first day, slightly shocked by the realization that for once I did not know or control my body.
Initially, my reaction was frustration and disappointment and even a little resentment. I let myself be upset for a little while, but the next day I woke up determined that I would participate in at least one full class, dancing to the best of my ability, proud to be able to do ANY of it while nearly 6 months pregnant. And I did. I strutted and kicked and turned my way through a jazz routine to "Poker Face" and it actually felt good. I moved differently, and my balance was off in my pirhouettes, but I was dancing. And I was dancing with my first baby. And as I checked my positions in the mirror, I thought that although it is not a body that I am used to, and it is very different than I have looked before, it is, in it's own way, beautiful.