This year, in fertile Luna Dance Institute land, two new babies are born, bringing the total child count up to eight kids in an organization of eight full-time employees. In the November 2012 issue of In Dance, Alyce Finwall reflected on her dual commitments to parenting and dance-making. Finwall’s questions mirrored those Nancy Ng and I addressed when first creating Luna’s organizational structure. As feminists, we wanted to create a company wherein dance educators had “real” jobs—ones that they could depend on year-long, with benefits. We built an organization dedicated to children, to teaching professionals about sound developmental practices and attachment theory, and to programs that strengthen the parent-child bond. These perspectives did not seem to be at odds in theory. Yet, in practice, how could we, a modest nonprofit, keep our program quality high and hold our staff accountable, yet still allow flexibility for parents?
I asked our Family Services Manager to write an account of her own experience as a parent for Luna’s annual newsletter. The essay is included below. Erin’s narrative allowed me to see the interconnected nature of the work we get to do. Beyond feminism, as humans we get to bring our passion for dance to life in our teaching. Because we teach with a Critical Pedagogy lens, we are constantly reflecting on our own values, assumptions and practices. It makes sense that we would bring this approach to our parenting as well, supplementing the instinctive nature of parents to pay super close attention to every aspect of that role.
Our children have participated in Luna in many ways—taking class, enrolling in summer camp, helping with events or moving. On maternity leave, new moms might bring their infants to an MPACT class. By bringing children to Luna, our faculty has the opportunity to dismantle walls between work and home. Instead of focusing on “work/life” balance with rigid boundaries, our work allows us a fluidity to see connections and to allow our spheres to mutually inform each other. In the end, each new mother must re-author her own life with child. Meanwhile, at Luna, we are pleased to announce that while the rest of us were holding our 2013 Winter Open House, faculty member Jochelle Pereña was at home giving birth to a brand new baby girl named…Luna.
By Erin Lally
What an incredible year this has been. One year ago, I welcomed my sweet baby boy, Felix Rafael, into this world and life has never been the same. Elated to be a new mom, I prepared as best I could, though nothing could really equip me for the reality of motherhood—priorities shifted, sleep had a new meaning, and I was constantly in a state of learning. I loved it.
Three months of maternity leave vanished in a blur and just like that it was time to return to work. My husband’s commitment to help care for our son made the transition easier although it was hard to leave the comfort of baby and home. Fortunately, working for a child-focused dance organization fulfilled my desire to share my love of dance with others.
A dance educator for ten years, I’ve spent the last four years as Family Services Manager at Luna Dance Institute where I am responsible for Luna’s Moving Parents and Children Together (MPACT), a family dance program. MPACT focuses on parent-child bonding by promoting play and fun through dance. It is my favorite program at Luna and one that touches many families from all walks of life. We take MPACT on the road and conduct classes at many locations including residential homes for moms recovering from substance abuse. There, moms live with their youngest children and participate in MPACT to support reunifying and mending their parent-child relationship.
Teaching parent-child classes without the experience of motherhood was a little tricky. Before Felix, I was confident in my role as expert in dance content and child development, but I lacked the actual experience of mothering and the joys, sorrows, frustrations and pure love that accompanies it. Often moms looked to me for parental education seeking guidance on how to interact, what to expect of their children and assurance that they are “good” moms. Until Felix came along, I could only share teacher knowledge—“it’s okay if your four-month old is not crawling yet,” “two-year olds assert their independence.” Now my knowledge is grounded in personal experience—I relate as a fellow parent—the perfect combination!
Felix changed my life in profound ways but I had not anticipated how parenting would make me a better and happier teacher. And to my surprise, Felix not only informed my work with moms and children, my work informed my parenting! I loved being pregnant and was excited to know and physically feel Felix move in utero, practicing development patterns that he would continue once born. I also loved teaching dance to moms with my big round belly and sharing these experiences and stories of our pregnancies together. And I treasure relating to moms in a whole new capacity because we were now in the same club – the mother club.
Witnessing Felix move through the first year of life has been remarkable and applying my teacher knowledge to my own parenting has been reassuring (for example, knowing that rocking back and forth on all fours activates the head-tail connection, preparing the baby for crawling). At home, dance and play times are an integral part of our day. We have progressed from tummy time dance, to singing, to dancing with Felix in a Moby wrap, to crawling after him on the floor, and now as we bop and clap to music, we dance! Our current nightly ritual includes fifteen minutes of high-energy dance before bath time and then winding down for the evening. Dance is an essential part of my being, my work and my parenting. I look forward to experiencing how Felix will continue to challenge and inform my role as teacher, and how dance will continue to shape the life of my sweet baby boy and the lives of the many parent-child participants.
Coda: As the founder of Luna, I’ve longed to create community through the art of dance. So, nothing makes me happier than seeing our faculty moms bring their children into the studio. Iris Rasera-Holden took the Waddler & Toddler class with her mom Alisa last semester, Cherie Hill’s son, Erijah, enrolled in Modern Dance Improvisation, Felix Rafael Lally does his own thing in the middle of the dance floor as Erin his mom holds parent meetings and my own 17-year old son, Colin, will soon be helping with security at our events. All in the family is a key ingredient to building community.