I am very happy to feature Irina Dvorovenko in the post today.
My heart is all warm with love and happiness for someone who I know in person, someone who we share birthplace and training with, someone who achieved so much in her carrier as a dancer and is now as a mother. I could not be happier for Irina and Maxim, and I hope you enjoy a peak into ABT life and some surroundings!
"By March, Irina Dvorovenko's arabesques were no longer exquisite, but her belly was. She and her husband, Maxim Beloserkovsky, both principal dancers with American Ballet Theater, were expecting their first child, and her belly formed a smooth, fantastic ball beneath the candy pink cashmere of her sweater.
Usually all taut muscles and bones, Dvorovenko had acquired a soft, even beatific glow, which could be attributed partly to the 40-plus pounds she had put on and partly to the hormonal mysteries of motherhood.
At 4:43 a.m. on Thursday, March 24, Dvorovenko gave birth to a 7-pound, 8-ounce, or 3.3-kilogram, girl named Emma Galina Beloserkovsky, bringing the number of mothers in her company to three. After Margaret Tracey and Helene Alexopoulos retired from New York City Ballet in 2002, that company was left with two dancing moms: Darci Kistler and Kyra Nichols. Boston Ballet currently has two, and San Francisco Ballet and Houston Ballet each have four. That may not be the stuff of a major population shift, but for the slim, austere world of professional ballet, it amounts to, in the words of Dance magazine, a "baby boom."
"The generation of divas before this generation was like, 'Only ballet,"' Beloserkovsky said. "Anna Pavlova - her mother told her, 'No babies. You'll ruin your figure."'
The couple, who emigrated from Kiev in 1994, worked a decade to establish themselves, securing principal roles, a nice apartment and American citizenship before starting a family. Dvorovenko, who turned 31 in August, got pregnant during the final weeks of the Metropolitan Opera House season, when she and her husband were dancing as Romeo and Juliet.
"My first concern was: Will I be able to dance a full 'Swan Lake' eight weeks pregnant?" she said. "The doctor said: 'Listen to your body. If you feel pain or start bleeding, stop immediately."'
She also felt exhausted. "I'm usually at, like, 200 percent," she said. "I was at, like, 30 percent."
She gained only 6 pounds during her first trimester and was able to hide the pregnancy. "My stomach didn't show," she said. "Just the body looks a little different." When she returned to work that fall, she brushed off her growing glow as the product of an indulgent summer. "I said we were on vacation in France. I had too many croissants."
Nonetheless, in a life of leotards, pregnancies eventually announce themselves. The first person she and her husband told was Kevin McKenzie, the artistic director of Ballet Theater. He had called the couple into his office to discuss casting for the season.
"He told us, 'Sit down,"' Beloserkovsky recalled. "I said: 'No, you sit down. We are pregnant.' Kevin put his head in his hands and tore the schedule in half." Once the scheduling drama was resolved, however, Dvorovenko said he was "very supportive."
irina and maxim performing
George Balanchine, the father of American ballet, sent a mixed message to mothers. Pregnancy may not have been taboo - Allegra Kent, Melissa Hayden and Karin von Aroldingen all had children while in his employ - but it was not widespread, either.
Patricia Wilde, who danced with his City Ballet from 1950 to 1965, recalls, "He did want you totally involved in what you were doing, but if you could do both things" - dance and raise a family - "he would never have said, 'Lose that child."' But, she added: "Mr. Balanchine wanted me really thin, and that wasn't easy for me. I did have to gain weight to get pregnant." She gave birth in 1968, at 40, after she had left the company.
When McKenzie took over Ballet Theater in 1992, there were no mothers in the company. But the next year, three dancers got pregnant within six weeks, including Lucette Katerndahl Besson, then a soloist.
Katerndahl Besson said she was nervous about sharing the news.
"Before the 1990s, you were given the message that it wasn't possible," she said. "If you had a baby, you would probably leave."
But over time, shifts in attitude - toward mothers in the workplace and exercise during pregnancy - began to filter into the ballet world. All three dancers who left the company to give birth that season returned and danced the next.
Today, dancing during pregnancy and after childbirth, once a privilege of only the grandest stars, is unexceptional. But for dancers who become pregnant, the body is an instrument of art as well as of motherhood, and those roles can sometimes clash.
On Oct. 26, Dvorovenko, four months pregnant, and Beloserkovsky performed the pas de deux from the second act of "Swan Lake." "I was thinking, doing this dance, that the baby would enjoy it as well," Dvorovenko said. Two days later, the company announced that she was on maternity leave.
irina performing at 4 months pregnant
Many dancers perform into their second trimesters and beyond.
Houston Ballet even keeps maternity tutus in its wardrobe department.
But unlike other performing arts, in which pregnancy can add to the drama - as it did in Jennifer Welch-Babidge's 2003 performance in City Opera's "Lucia di Lammermoor" - ballet has an appeal that is rooted in unforgiving, transcendent order. An arabesque is a thing of divine grace, at odds with the deeply corporeal state of pregnancy.
Even Beloserkovsky, who seems to love everything about his wife's body, acknowledges as much. "With a stomach, the line is not quite as exquisite as when Irina is 108 or 110 pounds," he said.
In 2001, Tristi Ann McMaster-Robinson, a principal with the Richmond Ballet, was benched against her will after she revealed that she was three months pregnant. "I debated even telling them," she said. "To this day, it's a decision I regret." The choreographer Kirk Peterson, who had created a role specifically for her, supported her desire to perform. But the company refused.
Even dancers who are spared that ordeal still face difficult choices. Before her pregnancy, Dvorovenko could not bear more than a couple of months away from the stage. "If you don't have a performance, you are like a tiger in a cage," she explained. Her maternity leave, however, has been a somewhat different story. "I'm focused on giving my energy to someone else, so I'm doing well," she said.
She plans to let her body heal for six weeks and then hopes to be in stage shape in time for Ballet Theater's July tour to Japan. That is an ambitious goal.
Many of those who do make it back - often with the help of nannies and supportive partners - say they return stronger, more emotionally sophisticated performers.
Three days after giving birth, Dvorovenko made her way to a ballet studio for a few gentle stretches and floor exercises. "It was really nice to feel my muscles in the position they are used to," she said.
But for perhaps the first time, pointe shoes are not the priority.
"Both Maxim and I are just ripping our hearts out from happiness," she said. "Nothing else is worth more than this."
irina, maxim and their beautiful daughter emma
Apart from being an exceptional dancer and a mother, Irina is also married to a ballet dancer - Maxim is with her every step of the way. I feel that ballet circle divides into 4 parts once ballerina is married :
dancer + dancer resulting in constant competition, dancer+non-dancer resulting in dancer retiring, dancer+non-dancer results in lots of flowers ( as you have at least one fan in the audience) , dancer+dancer resulting in exquisite partnership. I was always encouraged to not marry a non-dancer.
And I didn't - my husband does dance ( and performed in his yearly college days! who'd have known , right? ), and , though I am not blessed with a permanent partner, I almost think it's for much better - work is work, and home is home. i love coming home to someone who supports me and brings me flowers.
If you were a dancer, which way would you prefer to have?