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Stories from Seattle: Dance Artist Kaitlin McCarthy on Coping with Coronavirus while Pregnant

"Dancing my way through the crowd, a spontaneous clapping and stomping erupted on the beat. One perfect moment of togetherness that, it turns out, may have been our last for a long while."

By Kaitlin McCarthy March 18, 2020

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This is part of a series of personal essays we’re calling Stories from Seattle, contributed by our community and designed to show how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting the lives of Seattleites. Want to share your story, coping mechanisms, wildest ideas? We’d love to hear. Please email: chelsea.lin@tigeroak.com.

Just over two weeks ago I stood on the Velocity Dance Center stage, surrounded by a theater full of my community, and asked everyone to dance with me. It was the joyous conclusion to an intimate solo show I performed at eight months pregnant—a work born out of my fears surrounding a shifting body, uncertain futures, and isolation from my artist community inside a new identity. Through performance I was able to articulate those fears, and also manifest the kind of parent-artist hybrid I want to be. To acknowledge my current condition and also publically recommit my body to the medium I love—that of bodies, moving in space, together. Dancing my way through the crowd, a spontaneous clapping and stomping erupted on the beat. One perfect moment of togetherness that, it turns out, may have been our last for a long while.

A lot can change in two weeks. We knew about the virus of course, but at the time of my show, we were still living in the world of wash your hands and stay home if you’re sick. Then the event bans went into place and shows begin to topple like dominoes. I help manage a city-wide calendar of dance events; by Friday, March 13 there was nothing left for the foreseeable future, all those artists’ work (as well as their service and teaching jobs) gone in an instant. I’m simultaneously grateful my show was able to slip in just under the wire, and terrified that in that beautiful moment of togetherness, I inadvertently exposed everyone to COVID-19.

My partner and I are trying to do our civic duty, staying home as much as possible. We were not worried for ourselves until last week, when we read an article suggesting that babies may be isolated at birth from parents who show symptoms. In that moment, we made a call to go into quarantine, knowing we may be staring down months of isolation to make sure we’re healthy, and to protect the baby’s delicate immune system after birth. Knowing that the support we were planning on, from visiting family to eager friends, may not be possible. It’s just going to be the two of us, and a newborn.

But for now, we wait. Wait out the 14-day incubation period from when I hugged dozens in a crowded theater. Many people told me the show was exactly what they needed, and I can only desperately hope this moment of joy does not have an impending cost. And in the meantime, I’m trying to figure out how to hold on to what I found through my performance. How I’ll keep a connection with my community and with my instrument—my dancing body—in a time when I am isolated from both. Maybe I’ll turn up the music and move in the limited ways that I still can, and maybe in your living room, you’ll do the same. And at a time when the body is a source of fear, we’ll remember our body’s ability to ground us in communal joy. Dance with me?

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