Emma Love Suddarth with her newborn son Milo

Courtesy Pacific Northwest Ballet

For This PNB Dancer, Being Pregnant in a Pandemic Meant Rethinking Her Routine

For Pacific Northwest Ballet corps dancer Emma Love Suddarth, the Seattle shutdown had a special twist: During her time at home, she was in her third trimester of pregnancy and, in May, gave birth to her son Milo, with husband and PNB soloist Price Suddarth.

Dance Magazine checked in with her via email about becoming a mom during a pandemic.


Pre-pandemic plans

"We decided to tackle a large home renovation at the same time as the birth of our first child," she writes. "Multiple people asked if we were crazy," but being efficient and organized is her go-to mode.

When the pandemic hit and PNB canceled in-person classes and rehearsals, the extra free time felt like a boon. "We had grand plans of the epic home clean out that everyone dreams of—both in preparation for Milo and for the house project. I thought, This is our chance! After all, it would only take a few days, right?"

"When everything closed, everything changed."

Prior to the shutdown, Suddarth had been able to continue her regular morning routine for much of her pregnancy. She'd go to the gym, have coffee and breakfast with her husband, and then take ballet class, or as much of it she could. "When everything closed, everything changed. No gym, no class, no need for coffee at light speed." She described the forced routine change as a "crash course for motherhood."

But it also allowed her to take a breath. "Because our schedule as dancers always felt so tight, I relied on routine to make everything happen efficiently within the free moments we had."

Before Milo's arrival, the couple settled into a different, much slower routine: "Price and I took morning jogs together (he willingly adopted a more leisurely pace with a very pregnant me). We savored our morning coffee rather than solely depending on it to jolt us into action, and we took long walks with our dogs in parts of our neighborhood we'd never discovered."

The waiting game

Many mothers-to-be would use the extra time to prep the baby's room, but Suddarth, naturally, had already checked that off. "We were ready for Milo's arrival before the shutdown even started. That hospital bag was packed and sitting by the door a good month and a half in advance. The crib sheets were washed, the drawers of onesies were filled, and the diaper bag was stocked."

With everything in order, there was nothing to do but wait, but the hopes of cleaning her closet quickly faded. "We couldn't quite shift our heads from baby to anything else, so being 'productive' in other ways went out the window." Sure, it was nice to slow down, she says, but "the waiting game was only magnified by the shutdown." And then it was magnified again: Her due date came and went. Ten days later, Milo was finally born.

While she says they enjoyed the unanticipated bonus weeks at home together, "the impatience was overwhelming."

Unexpectedly at home

Though the coronavirus unfortunately meant that PNB had to cancel its last planned program of the season and a June tour to New York City, there was a silver lining for the Suddarths. "Price was going to be heading back to work almost immediately after Milo's birth," she writes. Instead, he got to stay at home with the baby. "I can't imagine a better way to spend this afternoon than typing with Milo sleeping on my chest and Price Googling jogging strollers next to me."

Suddarth's routine has understandably shifted again, so much so to the point of disappearing. " 'Routine' is a foreign concept now—and this creature of habit wouldn't have it any other way."

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Courtesy Harlequin

What Does It Take to Make a Safe Outdoor Stage for Dance?

Warmer weather is just around the corner, and with it comes a light at the end of a hibernation tunnel for many dance organizations: a chance to perform again. While social distancing and mask-wearing remain essential to gathering safely, the great outdoors has become an often-preferred performance venue.

But, of course, nature likes to throw its curveballs. What does it take to successfully pull off an alfresco show?

Marisa Grywalski and Alejandro Diaz in Dwight Rhodens "Ave Maria," part of PBT's Open Air Series last fall.

Kelly Perkovich, Courtesy Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

Keeping dancers safe outside requires the same intentional flooring as you have in the studio—but it also needs to be hearty enough to withstand the weather. With so many factors to consider, two ballet companies consulted with Harlequin Floors to find the perfect floor for their unique circumstances.

Last fall, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre invested in a mobile stage that allowed the dancers to perform live for socially distanced audiences. "But we didn't have an outdoor resilient floor, so we quickly realized that if we had any rain, we were going to be in big trouble—it would have rotted," says artistic director Susan Jaffe.

The company purchased the lightweight, waterproof Harlequin's AeroDeck® sprung floor panels and the heavy-duty Harlequin Cascade™ vinyl, which is manufactured with BioCote® Antimicrobial Protection to help with the prevention of bacteria and mold. After an indoor test run while filming Nutcracker ("It felt exactly like our regular floor," says Jaffe), the company will debut the new setup this May in Pittsburgh's Schenley Park during a two-week series of performances shared with other local arts organizations.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's Open Air Series last fall. The company plans to roll out their new Harlequin AeroDeck® sprung floor panels and Harlequin Cascade™ vinyl floor for more outdoor performances this spring.

Harris Ferris, Courtesy Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

In addition to the possibility of rain, a range of temperatures also has to be taken into account. When the State Ballet of Rhode Island received a grant from the state to upgrade its 15-year-old stage, executive director Ana Fox chose the Harlequin Cascade vinyl floor in the lighter gray color "so that it would be cooler if it's reflecting sunlight during daytime performances," she says.

However, for the civic ballet company's first performance on its new 24-by-48–foot stage on November 22, heat was less of a concern than the Northeastern cold. Fortunately, Fox says the surface never got icy or too stiff. "It felt warm to the feel," she says. "You could see the dancers didn't hesitate to run or step into arabesque." (The Harlequin Cascade floor is known for providing a good grip.)

"To have a safe floor for dancers not to worry about shin splints or something of that nature, that's everything," she says. "The dancers have to feel secure."

State Ballet of Rhode Island first rolled out their new Harlequin Cascade™ flooring for an outdoor performance last November.

Courtesy of Harlequin

Of course, the elements need to be considered even when dancers aren't actively performing. Although Harlequin's AeroDeck is waterproof, both PBT and SBRI have tarps to cover their stages to keep any water out. SBRI also does damp mopping before performances to get pollen off the surface. Additionally, the company is building a shed to safely store the floor long-term when it's not in use. "Of course, it's heavy, but laying down the floor and putting it away was not an issue at all," says Fox, adding that both were easy to accomplish with a crew of four people.

Since the Harlequin Cascade surface is versatile enough to support a wide range of dance styles—and even opera and theater sets—both PBT and SBRI are partnering with other local arts organizations to put their outdoor stages to use as much as possible. Because audiences are hungry for art right now.

"In September, I made our outdoor performance shorter so we wouldn't have to worry about intermission or bathrooms, but when it was over, they just sat there," says Jaffe, with a laugh. "People were so grateful and so happy to see us perform. We just got an overwhelming response of love and gratitude."

Marisa Grywalski and Alejandro Diaz in Susan Jaffes "Carmina Terra," part of PBT's Open Air Series last fall.

Kelly Perkovich, courtesy Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

February 2021