Mom-to-be Jennifer Philips during a rehearsal of her solo dance, Pregnant Study #3.
Dancing while expecting
By Sara G. Levin
To many female dancers, pregnancy looms large as the symbolic ending to an active career. For Jennifer Phillips, who is seven-months pregnant and part of Ellis Woods dance group, it has opened a new door. She will be performing a six-minute solo, Pregnant Study #3 this Friday and Saturday, March 24-25, as part of the female troupes evening-length performance at the Tribeca Performing Arts Centers 2006 Work & Show Festival. In anticipation of opening night, Philips was happy to describe how her dancing has evolved with her bodys changes.
Why do a dance while pregnant?
As soon as I got pregnant [Ellis Woods] started taking me out of group pieces. A lot of [Woods] movement is so active, and I could no longer do partnering. I think it was Elliss idea to start thinking about a solo
to think about how Im feeling with the everyday changes, coming up with movement that was suitable for my body at that time.
Did the dance change as your body changed?
Thats tricky. I started making the solo back in December. Some of the things Ive had to adapt. Ive had to try to keep it fresh and alive, but physically try to stay familiar with certain things so my body could keep up with the dance. Since its a solo, theres a lot of leeway for changes.
Do you emulate the sensation of being in the womb in the piece?
I think its more about my emotions, rather than what the babys doing in there. I started working in December and my father had just died. For me its about being pulled in two directions, mourning my fathers death and expecting this child emotions that are on opposite ends of the spectrum. I feel like there are some stereotypes, youre supposed to be all light and happy. Its more about ways that youre supposed to face the world and at the same time wanting to hide from it, the dark and light.
The piece is called Study #3. Did you do two previous ones?
Ellis also danced while pregnant. She has two children, so this is the third pregnancy in the company.
Ellis Wood Dance is an all-female troupe. Does that mean all of your dances have a feminist bent?
I think in the end all the pieces are about women and empowering women in some way, showing the range of things that a woman might go through
sides that maybe people dont want to see or arent pretty. Trying to raise [women] up in a way that sometimes might be overshadowed by men in modern dance.
Are you worried about the baby kicking or hurting her during the performance?
I notice her movements more when Im passive. When Im dancing I dont notice her kicking as much. [In the performance] Im not doing anything that might hurt her. I myself might pull a muscle, but thats the risk you take as a dancer. Ive read and been told that the only way you can really hurt your baby is slamming yourself against a wall! (She laughs.) Im not doing any rolling on the floor, nothing touching my belly other than my hands. So I feel pretty confident about that. And because Ive been dancing so long, I feel comfortable with gauging what I can do.
Pregnant Study #3 premieres this weekend, the first of Tribeca PACs 2006 Work & Show Festival, which runs through April 8. All tickets are $10, and are available at the Box Office, by calling 212-220-1460 or online at www.tribecapac.org. Tribeca Performing Arts Center is located at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, 199 Chambers Street.