The Real Dance Mom-Interview with Constance Stamatiou-Lopez
Being a dance mom can be a rewarding experience. I recently got the special opportunity to speak to Constance Stamatiou-Lopez, a professional dancer with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, wife, and mother of two. Read her bio here.
Well it is certainly a pleasure to speak with you today and thank you for taking this time to share your dance mom life with us. I want to say that I had the pleasure of meeting you last year during an Ailey Workshop at the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta. My daughter and a few of my students had the honor of taking the class you were teaching. It was a great experience for them, so thank you. Now I get the pleasure of interviewing you about your life as a dance mom. Tell me a little about what that looks like for you and your family.
I have two kids, Savannah (7) and Thanos (5) and they’re both students at The Ailey School. At the time when I had my first, I had stopped dancing at Ailey and wanted to take a break because we were always traveling. I wanted to spend some quality time with my husband and we’ve always talked about kids. So, once I had Savannah 19 months later, I had my son. I started working out, getting back into shape and I just missed dancing, you know. So I started doing gigs, I filmed a movie that I was dancing in called “Bolden” and I was dancing for smaller companies. It kind of lit a fire in me again and I was like, I miss being on stage, especially on stage with Ailey; because Mr. Ailey’s works are just so empowering and something that everyone can relate to. So it’s like my soul was calling for it. So I started getting back into shape and going back to Ailey as a student, you could say, going every day taking ballet and Horton technique.
My kids were starting to dance. Kids like to copy, they like to imitate what their parents are doing and what they see. At first, I didn’t think my son was really into it, he was always kind of causing chaos in class. But this year, let me tell you, this year he knows what he’s doing. He is so happy to show off his dance skills to anyone, anywhere.
My daughter, she’s taking ballet, and West African at the Ailey School. She adores it. What really warms my heart is that they’re seeing their mom doing something that she’s always loved to do since she was a child, since I was their age. Them seeing their mother doing something that I love as a career, I think is probably one of the biggest accomplishments I could have and validation for me knowing that I am doing something right as a parent. That is letting my kids know that whatever you aspire to be when you grow up, it is possible. My kids love Ailey, they always want to come to mommy’s job and hang out with all the dancers. The dancers are like their extended family, you know, the aunts and uncles. They like to dance around with them. Sometimes Savannah will get in there and do some of the girls’ makeup. So the kids are very involved at Ailey and they can recite all the words to the songs in Revelations and also imitate the dance as well.
So I get asked all the time if boys dance at my studio. I am always amazed by that question knowing the history of dance. How has it been for you with your son in dance?
Well, right now he’s in a class called Bounding Boys. It’s just a classroom full of boys, they are learning about creative movement, how to point and flex your feet, and walking on releve–very basic stuff. Probably in another two years (that’s if he still wants to dance) that’s when he’ll be in a class with girls and boys learning technique, standing at the barre, learning ballet. I am completely ok with it.
I know some folks, even my mom, didn’t allow my brothers to take a dance class because of the stereotypes. I grew up in the south with a strict Christian Baptist background as well. With me growing up in the arts, I believe in God but I also believe that love is love and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a boy doing ballet. I think, it doesn’t matter what you’re doing because you’re going to grow up and be who you are regardless. Right now all I know is my son is enjoying himself and that’s all that matters to me. He’s surrounded by so many great influential people; both women and men.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts about that. In my profession, new dance parents ask about that a lot because of the stigma attached to it. For me, dance is for everybody.
It’s a touchy subject. I think parents also worry about their kids growing up and if they are going to be bullied. I look at my son and of course, he’s just a beginner but I look at his facility and I’m jealous; I’m like this boy is so flexible. He might just be a dancer, and if not and he decides to do something else, that’s fine.
“We have to let our kids find their own way, being able to make some of their own decisions too.”
Do you prefer conservatory dance over recreational?
A little bit of both. Especially for a child, it’s important for them to have fun while they are learning. For instance, I always thought dance was fun and creative, it was an outlet for me. I didn’t really like to talk a lot. I think I used my voice more so in my dancing. As I got older, probably my senior year in high school, I actually started to take dance seriously and wanted to hone in my technique; perfect it. That’s when I started to realize ok, this could be a profession of mine, I think this is what I want to do.
So yes, I think it’s important for it to be a little bit of both. I grew up in a competition studio but then I started classical ballet around age 9 years old. I think it’s important to try as many various techniques so you can be a well-rounded dancer; a well-rounded artist.
In the commercial world sometimes they require classical dancers not always hip hop. For instance, the movie that I film “Bolden” we were trying to imitate something in the 1920’s so it was a lot of jitterbug type dancing, and jive.
How are commercial and concert dance different?
The commercial world is very different from the concert dance world. In concert dancing, you’re on stage for quite some time. Whereas in the commercial world if you’re doing a film, it’s very cut and go. Even if you’re performing for a singer, you’re still playing background to someone. So, it’s very different but it’s just as important. Even as an Ailey dancer, you have to be versatile, you can’t just do ballet. You have to do modern and theater style dancing, there have been moments where Ailey had pieces that were on pointe; there were some pieces that required tap shoes. Choreographers come in and they want you to do a little bit of acrobat or jazz and we even do some hip hop too. I’m sure you have seen us do Hip hop. We work a lot with Rennie Harris, and he’s known for street and break dancing. The more versatile you are the more you can pull from.
Switching gears a bit, what type of “dance mom” are you?
It’s so funny that when I posting on Instagram I post #dancemom or #therealdancemom. I am so not that dance mom who is stretching the legs and working on the feet. Because I’m always traveling, tired, and exhausted and trying to be there for them. It’s not so much about dance even though we share dance together. When I’m in town, I’m always going to class to observe, be there for support, and go to their performances of course. Once in a while I will peek into Savannah’s room and if I see her doing something like playing with her nails instead of looking at the teacher I will let her know ‘hey that’s actually not really respectful, you look like you’re bored instead of really paying attention, listening and learning’. I’m not telling them to point your feet or straighten your legs because I know that their teacher is making those corrections.
The great thing about being a dance family is having support. How is your husband, I mean “dance dad” doing in this lifestyle?
You know dance dad is doing really good. Teachers always compliment him when he’s there by himself saying things like “you’re doing really good with Savannah’s bun”. Some of the other moms end up asking him for help. He’s very good with getting them to class on time, which means earlier than required. After years of watching me dance, he knows a little something.
I bet he does. Thank you so much, Constance, for taking the time to share with the Momager Lifestyle. We look forward to seeing you on stage with Alvin Ailey. You are a true inspiration. We wish you much success and love to you and your beautiful family.
Thank you so much. I am happy to share with you. Hope to see you in Atlanta!
Photo by Paul Kolnik
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