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Pregnancy & Flamenco – Part 3

Thoughts about Months #6 to #7
Getting bigger, still dancing!

Written by Kasandra from Jerez de la Frontera, Spain
March 6, 2008

Last summer, I signed up for a couple of dance workshops at the Festival de Jerez.  The Festival de Jerez is a 2 week long flamenco festival with 7pm, 9pm, midnight and 1am shows, dance classes and penas every day.  I highly recommend it if you are keen on intensive flamenco.  I attended the festivals in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2008.  This small town called “Jerez” becomes a mecca for flamenco aficionados worldwide, as dancers and musicians from Europe, South America, North America and Asia all congregate for a big flamenco celebration and an opportunity to see the finest flamenco artists in a two week period.

Perspective on Professional Class with Rafaela Carrasco

Normally I take about 5 hours or 2 courses per week, but this year I decided to just take one class per week just in case.  GOOD thing too, because the first week almost killed me…a professional level technique class with Rafaela Carrasco, an avant garde athletic dancer in her 30s.  She is personally one of my favourite people in flamenco, an open and engaging person, a generous and organized teacher and unbelievable dancer with a lot of coraje.  I’ve always wanted to study Rondena with her, ever since I saw her in “Amargo” in Madrid in 2000.  She brought the house down with an awesome interpretation of Rondena and I’ve been in love with the palo ever since.

That being said, doing a professional level technique class with Rafaela is not something you want to be doing at 6.5 months pregnant.  Sorry.

Essentially the class was 2 hours and 20 minutes of footwork. A 45-60 min footworkout in the beginning, some 30 min of marking steps with remates (more footwork) and to top it off, another 50 min of Rondena choreography peppered with crazy llamadas and remates (more footwork).  Not fun.  The hardest thing about being pregnant is knowing that I can do these things if I wasn’t pregnant.  One really has to be 100% to do this.  Right now I’m trying to keep my dancing at the 50% threshold level, not strain, not do chufla and not jump.  This is actually making the learning process harder.  With flamenco you really have to go for it. If you don’t, the moment is lost.

Here is a clip from my facebook blog.  If you are on facebook, look me up as Kasandra Flamenco.

“It is now 6 days into Rafaela’s class and I must say that 2 hours and 20 min of footwork at this pace is brutal for anyone, let alone someone pregnant.  Don’t do it. I do not recommend this in the future, putting it mildly. What the hell am I doing? I ask myself that question every day as I head into this class.”

HOWEVER, I DID get through it, I did learn a lot, I did get a lot of exercise and I did find it interesting choreographically.  She has a lot of interesting movement, choreographic ideas and rhythm.  But would I do it again?  No.  After class, I was tired.  Feet hurt.   I was done.

I reflected upon this a lot. “What am I doing here in Jerez at 27.5 weeks pregnant?”  Most women at this stage choose to clean up their houses, make a comfy life for themselves, sleep in and be close by loved ones.  So what happened to me?

I simply did not want to regret losing this opportunity to train again.  My life has never been about regret, so I had to do it.

How’s the baby doing?
The baby is growing every day and also growing stronger every day.  At this point, I can sometimes feel baby kicks in 2 or 3 different places at once.  I want to know…What is she doing?  Yawning and stretching?!

Hey, the baby likes flamenco.  She’s content when I am dancing.  She is happy when we are listening to footwork or doing footwork.  But as soon as I stop, she starts kicking and fussing.   This happens before bed and during quiet periods like siesta.  I hope she comes out already knowing 12 compas and seguirya.

Having a baby is really putting flamenco into perspective for me.  I’m learning how to slow down, take it easy and breathe.  Most days after class, I am content with going to Calle Larga and having some tapas and cafe con leche at various outdoor restaurants with Elvira.  We sit there for hours, listen to our MDs, take notes, write postcards and just loiter. Mind you, the pace in Spain is a lot slower.  Jerez forces one to slow down, take one’s time with meals and generally bum around, walk slowly and enjoy the 25C sunshine.

What “they” say, versus my experience…

At 28-29 weeks, I am starting my third trimester and am approximately 7 months pregnant and starting the third trimester.  Since I’m currently in Spain, I have no scale, so cannot tell you how much I’ve gained but I am sure I am bigger.  I’m supposed to be gaining a pound a week.
Books say one should be losing a sense of balance about now.

Books say that one should not be doing things that compromise balance such as turning.

I have to disagree.  I can still turn.  I am still doing bata de cola and turning all the time.  In my 7 day workshop (2 hours and 20 min a day) with Milagro Mengibar, we have done lots of media vueltas, pirouettes, classico and flamenco turns.  I’m ok.  People in class are asking me if it is any problem for my back but so far it has been no problem.  Again, I’m dancing at 50% so I’m doing really controlled turns.  No spaztic turns.

Books say that your feet swell and your feet could grow up to a size bigger.

While in Jerez, I had to buy a bigger pair of Begonia Cervera flamenco shoes for my feet.  They’re pretty awesome looking, burgundy suede with embroidered cream flowers.  Sweet! I also bought a pair for my future daughter!

I’m not sure if my feet are permanently going to be bigger or not.  Maybe it’s just I’m dancing a lot here and the temperature is hotter.  When I get back to cold Vancouver, I’ll see if I can wear my regular flamenco shoes. 

Books say that there is lower back pain due to extra weight in front.

So far no problems there.  My belly is definitely bigger, but I don’t have back pain.  I think my core is still pretty good.  If anything, I feel tired after a 2.5 hour class.  Ordinarily I could probably dance 5 hours a day but now probably 2 hours would be comfortable.  Again, I think it is because I’ve been dancing for over a decade and flamenco is something my body is accustomed to.

Honest thoughts about air travel and flying.

I have flown a lot in my 20s and 30s and have made plenty of trips to Asia, Europe and have flown all over North America.  I have made trips to Spain 8 times, so I am not a novice or a wuss.

This journey, my flight from Vancouver to London was about 8-9 hours and when I got off the plane my tailbone really hurt for 5-6 days.  I have never experienced anything like it.  To boot, I got sick the day after and could not go for a proper tour of London.  I spent the next day in bed with a sore throat, coughing until my ribs hurt and spent a few sleeplessness nights.  My body has never experienced such pain, all over.

After a brief 2 days in London, I got back on the plane to Madrid and then to Jerez.  Again, this really hurt my tailbone.  On the flight back, I bought a pillow for my seat.  This has alleviated any repercussions to the tailbone, but the trip from Jerez-Madrid, Madrid-London, London-Vancouver, was extremely long and uncomfortable being 29 weeks pregnant.  It was impossible to sleep and I had to get up every 90 min to go for a walk or go to the loo.  Standing is preferable to sitting at this stage.  TIP:  Get an aisle seat.  Insist that you need to be close to the washroom.

So for people wondering whether it is possible to travel, yes, it is possible.  But it is probably not the most comfortable thing you can do for yourself at the end of the second trimester.  Would I do it again?  No, I’d really have to think about the journey.  I would say that a 3-5 hour journey is no problem, but anything greater would have some repercussions.  You’ll be fine, but it might be an experience to regret.

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