By: Sarah Trested


Interview with Jessica Warchal-king


You may not know, but one of KYL/D's dance artists, Jessica Warchal-King, is on her way to becoming a mother! I sat down with Jessica to discuss how this change has affected her relationship to dance.

(SARAH): So what are some of the challenges you are facing or have faced as a pregnant dancer?

(JESSICA): Whew....!

-Letting go of expectations.

-Watching and feeling my body change.

-Not being in control of the way my body looks and is changing. I've experienced many pregnancy symptoms - nausea all day, headaches, abdominal cramping, carpal tunnel, extreme fatigue, sciatica, numbness in my legs and feet... I've needed to learn more about how my diet, activity, and environment effect my physicality. To combat the carpal tunnel, I've been doing exercises with a stress ball; I've done more pelvic floor, low back, glute, and hamstring exercises to stabilize my pelvis to reduce sciatica; lots of ankle circles, work with a resistance band, and tendues help elevate the numbness in my feet... just to be specific about a few of the changes I've made. I've also talked with other moms and physically active mom communities about how they've dealt with finding appropriate clothes to move in and self-talk out of negative body image.

-Learning new movement pathways to let the dance look the same but accommodating things I can't/ shouldn't do anymore. For example, its still possible to lengthen my line in a "back bend" or arabasque without actually extending my spine. But, it was easier to rely on strength and flexibility to extend my spine into these positions before I was pregnant. Now, I need to focus more on how I utilize my breath and energy to achieve the look without forcing the position.

-Allowing myself to be vulnerable, physically and artistically. I think one of the best things about being an artist is being able to be publicly vulnerable in the telling of the story, but remaining "safe" because there isn't (usually) a real, physical or emotional threat in the telling of the story. In life and in process, I'm a protective person - and now I've come to realize that I've become more protective of myself because I'm protecting another, very vulnerable, entity. Finding a way to negotiate the protection of this little one AND being vulnerable in the story telling has become a practice.

-Fearing the future and how this new adventure is going to effect my time to take class, cross-train, be in rehearsal, teach, choreograph, perform, advocate for dance...

-Being honest about being completely terrified about, during, and through this process.

(SARAH): What have been some of the greatest moments thus far with being a pregnant dancer?

(JESSICA): Kun-Yang often talks about the energetic body and that as dancers, we need to be aware of not only the physical body, but the energetic body. Developing this energetic awareness is, in part, foundational to his CHI Awareness Technique. One profound moment in rehearsal and reflection was realizing that I am not only aware of the energetic body of the dancers around me - a skill I've been honing for several years - but I am very much aware of a new presence and energetic body in the space of my physical body. I don't know this body in the way that I know Wally, Mo, Grace, Nikolai, and the other dancers that I've been moving along side for several months and years. This new presence has surprised me and it's fascinating to be aware of its existence even as its (he is) finding itself (himself) and its (his) own voice. I know I'll spend the rest of my life getting to know this little one, but I've been surprised that the conversation is so strong, right now.

(SARAH): What do non-dancers often say when they find out that you are still dancing professionally while pregnant?

(JESSICA): My doctor was more worried about me being able to fit into my costume than about hurting myself or the baby. I've been supported and encouraged to keep dancing and moving - to listen and respond to my body as she continues to develop and grow with this little one, but to not feel inhibited. In pregnancy (as in life) I've been told that I'm only limited by the boundaries that I place on myself. I've learned more about how incredible the female body is and more about what other women have accomplished during their journey into motherhood - continuing to perform professionally, work as professionals in business and in politics, continue to be sponsored as professional athletes (there are rock climbing harnesses for pregnant women - I haven't found a maternity leotard, although I've continued to wear tights and a leotard for class and rehearsals). I think in the current political climate there's a lot of fear (rightly so) that women's rights will change, but I'm also really emboldened by the amount of strength and support of women I've seen come from that fear (and potential real change).

(SARAH): What advice would you give to any professional dancer that is nervous about balancing professional dance and a pregnancy?

(JESSICA): This is a constant discussion that I have with myself. Particularly in Philadelphia, and in recent news, there are a lot of dancing moms and women who have danced through their pregnancy. Being pregnant is very much about the human experience - the living of it and the creating of it. I'm fascinated how that informs who I am as an artist. Every day is different; every body is different; and everyone's experience is different, emotionally, physically, and psychologically. I've found that no matter what I've read or researched, the most important knowledge I can bring to this in each moment and each day is to stay present, aware, and know that each moment is constantly changing. This is true before I was pregnant, but has become a stronger point to remember as I make this journey. As for advice, I encourage us - people - to talk more about the process, challenges, fears, and stereotypes of pregnancy (or any transitional juncture). It's impossible to separate who we are as artists from who we are as people; one informs the other.

I trust that the Universe has a plan and that I am a part of a greater story.

(SARAH): Do you have any other thoughts or comments you would like to share about your experience with your pregnancy thus far?

(JESSICA): I've experienced a deeper well of compassion and empathy toward myself and toward other people - thats been a surprise. I've become more aware of the reality of human rights issues that are facing our communities, country, and world. It's a scary place to be, but I also feel empowered to talk about them and face them from a more aware and sensitive place. I'm not just participating in social justice but actively bringing another person into this crazy mix. It's a huge responsibility. At our Pre-Show Studio Showing for "Deconstructing Santuario", one of the audience members reflected that watching the piece made her more aware that the people who were killed at Pulse, and the people who were effected - and the people who are effected by violence and injustice throughout the world, are real people. They are loved by someone and love someone. They're somebody's child. It might feel redundant to say, but actually feeling a little life emerging from my own makes the story of love and the fragility of the human experience so much more real to me. I can't help but wonder how/if that will read on stage.

I also feel like I've joined a club that's been around for thousands of years. Every woman who has given birth remembers the experience (at least, those who want to share their stories with me). Every woman has her own story of giving and sharing life to tell. I've been humbled by how welcomed into this motherhood club I've been. It's one of those things that's really hard to describe unless you've experienced it.

I'm so grateful for all of the honest talk I've received. My husband, Justin, has been incredibly patient and supportive of my fears and my dreams. My parents have been encouraging me to continue working and dancing, through my pregnancy and after the little one arrives. Ken, Kun-Yang, and the company have been protective of my needs and supportive in listening to what I want/ need as a mover, artist, friend, company member and being very open and honest in the challenges of working in a professional artistic field with expectations, stereotypes, and the reality of needing to produce  high quality work. The other dancer moms in Philadelphia have been an inspiration to me; constantly demonstrating that continuing to work in this community is totally possible!

Thanks Sarah for allowing this conversation to be possible!