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Pregnancy and performance art: professors to explore childbirth through dance

ASU dance professors Eileen Standley and Melissa Britt will use performance art to share a woman's pregnancy journey

Dance professor Melissa Britt rehearses for the upcoming 'Jai Ma' performing art event at the ASU Art Museum on Sept. 11, 2016.

Dance professor Melissa Britt rehearses for the upcoming 'Jai Ma' performing art event at the ASU Art Museum on Sept. 11, 2016.

Two dance professors from ASU’s School of Film, Dance and Theatre seek to inspire and enlighten audiences with their rhythmical dance performance "Jai Ma" on Thursday. Unlike most dance productions, "Jai Ma" features a mother in her final week of pregnancy and explores the concepts of life, the limitations of pregnancy and birth through movement.

Eileen Standley, a professor of dance and the choreographer of "Jai Ma," said the meaning of the performance is centered around how motherhood is victorious.

“‘Jai Ma’ comes from the Sanskrit, which was the primary sacred land language in Hinduism,” Standley said. “It means ‘victory to the mother’ or it means ‘victory to anything that manifests in the world.’ … The inspiration for the work came from (our) interest in the body being our first environment.”

Not only will the audience get to see the dance, but they will also experience art in other forms, Standley said.

“We work with movement,” she said. “We work not only with dance; we’ve been working with other mediums, too. We’ve been working with paint, some imprinting and certainly with video.”


Motherhood and giving birth are topics that greatly impact women all over the world. "Jai Ma" is a way to bring these concepts to life and prove that women are not limited by pregnancy, but empowered.

Melissa Britt, a dance professor and performer of "Jai Ma," said she was eager for the opportunity to explore dance during her pregnancy.

“We started in the 34th week of my pregnancy,” Britt said. “Right as school started back, Eileen approached me about the collaboration and I was really excited for the opportunity.”

"Jai Ma" is in conjunction with “Energy Charge: Connecting to Ana Mendieta”, which is an exhibition at the ASU Art Museum

Angelica Fox, a curatorial assistant at the ASU Art Museum, urged members of the ASU community to attend the performance and experience the exhibition coming to life.

“'Jai Mai' symbolizes a mother's relationship with her child before birth," Fox said. "This performance establishes a shared landscape of the two, giving form to the intimate bond between mother and child."

With the event occurring so close to her due date, Melissa Britt may not be able to give a live performance of "Jai Ma." However, if her due date conflicts, the event will still occur. The live aspect of the show will be replaced by videos.

"Jai Ma" is free and takes place on Sept. 29 at 6:30 p.m. at the ASU Art Museum on the Tempe campus. For more information, contact the ASU Art Museum.

Correction: due to a reporting error, a quote in this story did not match what the source said. The story has been updated to reflect the change.

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