Why should I not dance through pregnancy : Aranyani Bhargav’s story

Aranyani Bhagav and Dancing through pregnancy

Aranyani Bhargav is a Bharatnatyam dancer, director of Vyuti Dance Company and was recently in limelight for bringing a piece to Bangalore audience where in her sixth month of pregnancy, she performed as a regular dancer. According to this artiste, pregnancy is a normal phase of life and it is important to address key issues and shatter myths.

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“My childhood was spent primarily in New Delhi. I was born there, later  I spent the first three years of my life in the UK because my father was finishing his PhD there,” she tells Mums And Stories. “And subsequently, we came back to Delhi. And I pretty much started and finished school and college there, and a large chunk of my Bharatanatyam training also took place in New Delhi.”

She adds, “Trying to find the best memories amongst the 18 years I spent in New Delhi is like asking me to find a needle in a haystack. There are just too many. What I can say with absolute conviction is that I had a happy, fulfilling and busy childhood!”

Both her parents were deeply interested in the arts, even though neither of them were artists. “But they’ve always been inclined towards theatre, music, dance, painting and literature. So from the time my sister and I were little children, we’ve spent countless hours at dance performances, music concerts, art exhibitions, street plays – you name it. But they never pushed me into anything – I think they could see that I was beginning to show an interest in dance, and encouraged it. They nourished that interest until it became a passion, and supported my decision to choose dance as a career when the time came. I’ve been practicing dance since I was five years old.”

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Aranyani shares there are huge challenges in choosing dance as a career. “ There are tremendous struggles, but also marvellous triumphs in choosing dance as a career. Being the founder and Artistic Director of Vyuti Dance Company has been one of the most trying and challenging, but also one of the most brilliant experiences of my life! I literally cannot describe in words or demonstrate in any way – how much immense joy and sheer satisfaction Vyuti’s very existence brings to my life. It’s my first baby, and I’m proud of it every minute and every second of my life.

I think dance should be a part of everybody’s life. In many ways, it already is! Human beings dance all the time. We dance (jump for joy!) when we succeed at something, we dance to celebrate – whether its at parties, or at a wedding; we dance in remembrance – in some sub-cultures in India and some cultures in the world, dance rituals exist at the time of someone’s death; there are dances that are attributed to combat and war – I think humans have found reasons to dance since time immemorial. Moreover, why shouldn’t kids dance? It releases endorphins that make you happy and less stressed, dance helps you stay fit, dance helps you express your feelings – where is there reason NOT to dance?”

( Aranyani on the left holding her baby bump. Photograph by Sonali Zohra).

Dancing through pregnancy is a touchy issue, particularly in India. I think that’s probably why it caught so much media attention as well.

But dancing through pregnancy is something that should be just normal. Pregnancy is not an illness, it is not a disease, it is not a crippling condition. Yet, when women become pregnant, there are so many restrictions imposed on them, many of which don’t have any medical basis for it. One of them is dancing. Of course, please understand that I am talking about low-risk pregnancies with no complications.

( Photograph by Avinash Pasricha.)

Not all pregnancies are the same, and it would be foolish for anyone to blindly disregard medical advice in favour of what I’m saying here. I am not a doctor. But having said that, for a lot of people, and it was certainly true for me – there was absolutely no medical reason for why I should not dance through my pregnancy. My pregnancy has been low-risk and I am a healthy and active woman. So it became clear that there were other factors that contributed to the reasons for why women were being discouraged from dancing – societal pressures, fear and superstition, the guilt instilled in the mothers-to-be by society about possibly harming the baby, the shame attributed to the public display of the pregnant form – whatever the reason, it wasn’t medical.

I didn’t want to be a victim of all those things.

So when the doctor said I could dance, I danced. It was as simple as that. I hoped that it would open a dialogue in the world of classical Indian dance about dancing during pregnancy, and open a dialogue in India about busting some myths surrounding physical activity of pregnant women in India.

To some extent, my project has done that, and I’m very thrilled that it has inspired at least some young women to question society’s restrictions on them during pregnancy – whether its with regard to dancing or climbing up and down stairs. I know that the fact that I danced in public – rigorously and unabashedly – with a visibly pregnant belly, has at least made room for some dialogue on this matter.

Regarding safety – yes, for the most part, it is safe to dance during pregnancy. But there isn’t really a straight forward universal yes or no answer to that question. And that’s simply because every pregnancy is different. What was safe for me, may not be safe for you. And vice versa. Ultimately, I based my decision to dance through my pregnancy on a combination of reading a lot about staying active during pregnancy, consulting with my doctor about my levels and degrees of physical activity during each stage of pregnancy, always listening to my body and ignoring all the guilt-tripping and fear-mongering around dancing through pregnancy.”

Talking on beginning with the first steps for dance in children, this would-be–mum and dancer shares, “ I think 5-6 years is a good age to start. Your motor skills are developed enough by then to grasp the basics of movement. Earlier than that is putting too much pressure on a child, I feel, but I don’t think there’s such a thing as “too old to start learning dance”.

Feature Image Credit : Sonali Zohra

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