Wondering about burlesque and pregnancy?
When I tell people I’m pregnant, they are so happy for me and congratulatory! We have been wanting to have kids for a while so it is a very happy time.
When I tell people I am still performing burlesque, they are astounded! Yes, people are surprised that I have been performing at all, let alone in my third trimester.
So I thought I’d pop down some thoughts and information for anyone who does burlesque and is pregnant or would like to be pregnant and wonder how it could all work. Many of the below points can also apply to those learning or wanting to learn burlesque too.
Every pregnancy is different
I am in a bunch of mum-to-be groups on Facebook and if anything, those groups have taught me 2 things:
- I am having a very normal, and seemingly average pregnancy (for which I am grateful), or perhaps I’m actually having a relatively easy pregnancy!
- Feminism still has a long way to go…
I can tell I’m having a fairly good run when I see so many posts about pain, discomfort, family challenges, work challenges, physical challenges and so on. So the main thing I can take and share from my own experience is that every person and their pregnancy is different. There is no way to know how you and your body will react and cope with pregnancy. I can tell you I personally dislike being pregnant – there’s definitely no requirement to ‘love’ being pregnant!
But that means that burlesque performers who are pregnant should remember not to compare themselves to others who are or even are not pregnant. There is no way to say one person’s pregnancy is standard and should be the measure for all others.
Know and accept your limitations
Your body is doing a ridiculous amount of stuff all at once. It will react and respond to different things in completely unpredictable ways. I have the most ridiculous situation with what I feel I can or can’t eat and is super frustrating.
However here are a few things to consider when looking to learn, practice or perform burlesque while pregnant
- You’ll more often not want to rehearse or practice – your energy is lower and is being diverted to growing a human!
- Give yourself time and space to take many small breaks while you rehearse. Picking up items will be a real pain too
- Your ligaments will loosen and stretch more easily – this is a dangerous thing to take for granted! Do not push your body to move or stretch in ways you wouldn’t normally as you may injure yourself
- You’ll lose the ability to bend at the waist and most of your ability to isolate your hips
- Your centre of gravity and balance will be affected fairly early on! Just be ready to stumble more
- Corsets and anything that overly restricts your abdomen are to be used with caution and for only the first few months, if at all. I wore a corset and performed an act through the first few months, and ensured not to tighten across my stomach and abdomen beyond making it fit. This means I had to alter and let out costumes to fit during this time
- Wearing heels will become difficult probably before you reach the halfway point
- Going barefoot is totally ok
- You may get hotter quicker and should always know where and how to cool down when at shows
- If you can, take the opportunity to perform! It’s a rare thing to be able to experience both for you and the audience!
Communication is key
If you’re wanting to attend burlesque classes, be sure to advise the school and teacher of your pregnancy, and keep them in the loop with how you’re feeling throughout. Don’t be afraid to take breaks and step out to conserve your energy or avoid moves that you are concerned about.
If you’re looking to continue performing, I found the key is to communicate clearly with producers. When accepting or applying for a show spot, be sure to advise your producer of your pregnancy and how far along you will be at the time of the show.
If the producer isn’t aware of what support you may need or the challenges of pregnancy, share with them in a calm and professional manner. Don’t assume people know what pregnant people can and can’t eat, drink or do!
By communicating early and clearly, you’ve also set the way forward with your producer. If you need to cancel your appearance, even at relatively short notice, continue the clear and calm communication. Your producer should accept any changes in your situation with grace.
Performing while pregnant
Be ready to improvise! Your body changes frequently while pregnant, so think about what alternate moves you could use should you discover on stage that you can’t get to the floor, or that an item doesn’t fit, or that your body doesn’t move that way any more!
If you’re creating an act for your later pregnancy, plan a slow act. Save yourself the challenges of swift and graceful movement and skip the high energy tracks. I’ve developed a fan dance act which is all about conceal and reveal.
Don’t worry that producers and audiences don’t want you on stage when you are bigger, many do! It is a rare occasion to see a pregnant person performing. I’ve had nothing but praise and appreciation from audiences and producers alike. The positive feedback has been significant.
However, there will always be times when a Producer doesn’t or can’t make space on their line up for you. While it can be disappointing, don’t dwell on it, instead move on to your next opportunity.
Dealing with the naysayers
There will likely be people in your life who will tell you that you shouldn’t perform while pregnant. Or perhaps you have family or loved ones asking you not too. Or perhaps you’ll have people telling you to ‘slow down’ (literally happened to me last month) assuming that you’re doing too much.
Firstly – listening to your body and resting when you can is definitely important. However if you have a higher level of fitness, or aren’t struggling with your energy (and illness and muscle/ body challenges), then continuing to perform should be perfectly fine. Just keep checking in on yourself so you’re not pushing yourself based on unrealistic expectations. Don’t be afraid to make plans and then change them based on your current needs.
Secondly – your autonomy is important, as long as you still have the medical and emotional support required for your pregnancy. Some people will try to stop you based on their expectations or experiences rather than your wants and needs.
The simplest suggestion I can make is to think ahead of some standard, polite responses to have in mind for any person who thinks they know you and your pregnancy better than you. Something simple like, “thank you for your concern. I’m feeling quite well and am making sure to be careful with my energy and body, however this is something I feel confident to do. I have a great medical/ support team that I continue to check in with as I progress, thanks.”
Enjoy the experience
If you can perform, do it to enjoy it. If you can’t perform, but can manage to go out and see shows (safely) go ahead and enjoy it.
If you’re having a difficult pregnancy, don’t beat yourself up, don’t feel like you’re letting people down, and don’t berate yourself. Instead indulge in the things that make you feel ok and enjoy that.
If you want to watch and celebrate your friends on social media, do it with joy. If you want to binge everything on the Disney channel, enjoy it!
Pregnancy and kids doesn’t mean your burlesque life is over
Your performance self and your parenting self can co-exist, if you want them too.
It’ll be hard, but I’ve seen multiple burlesque performers have children, and return to the stage. Some don’t, others come back for the occasional appearance, and some come back to something approximating their pre-kid performance schedule. Life will be different and your priorities may change – just be open to rolling with the changes.
Don’t push yourself to get back to performing quickly if you don’t feel it. But don’t assume it’s all over for you. Burlesque will always be there for you when you’re ready to get back to it. Even if that is after the kids are at school and you’re looking to reclaim your identity. We’ll be here, ready to cheer you on.
Photo by Stuart Bucknell Photography, taken at Hot n Fresh Burlesque Dec 2022.