Alia Montijo

Chicago IL

aliasimonmontijo@gmail.com

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Alia Simon Montijo on living passionately and finding balance as a professional dancer and mother.

written by Melissa Aguilar

December, 2017

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Fiery and unapologetic Midwest made professional dancing mother, Alia Simon Montijo has found that finding the balance to pursue your passion is essential to setting a positive example for your family. Being a well rounded human goes hand in hand with not only your personal fulfillment but helps to sustain a family dynamic in which parents are more than just parents.

 

The 32 year old mother of three is the first to admit this constant pursuit of balance is challenging. There’s a lot of sacrifice, and there’s guilt, but those feelings and experiences are part of the pursuit. “Sometimes I’m in a theatre for 12 hours a day, concerned if my youngest child is taking the bottle well and if my older children are behaving. Other times, I am missing classes and late to rehearsals because I’ve chosen to prioritize my responsibilities as a mother. When there’s struggle with balance between motherhood and career, I try to remind myself that the intention and effort is enough. I’m not going to give up one for the other; my kids, my career, my artistic pursuits, my home, my family, it's all of me. “In order to be the best mother that I can be I need to give my kids my full self and that means satisfying my creative pursuit. Yes, we’re mothers but our definition is so much more than that. We’re daughters, teachers, creators, leaders, artists, friends, and in our case dancers.”

 

Alia had her first child at 24 years old. “In retrospect I hope that {my daughter} sees a woman that was at the beginning of her professional dance career and continued the pursuit while simultaneously raising her and her brothers.” I hope to pursue my artistry without my children feeling compromised; the recognition of balance requires me to teach them the value of having a personal endeavour, following their path and seeing it through.”

 

In the dance world, it’s very common for women to stop performing while pregnant and after becoming a mother. For a dancer, their tool is their body.  At first it’s about physical capabilities and learning to navigate changes in the body and capability while pregnant. Then it’s about aesthetic. The dance industry is dominated by male artistic directors and choreographers, and whether intentional or not, pregnant women are often hidden from the stage.  Furthermore, pregnant professional dancers are often told by voices in the industry what they can and cannot do. This inflicted doubt cast shadow on our capability and as a result, once pregnant most dancers retire from performance. However, with the female perspective and first hand experience, “I think pregnancy is something to celebrate not something to hide, I will put you on stage pregnant and we will honor and praise your body because what we can do as women is unbelievable and it’s gorgeous and it takes so much strength and power”

 

Post-partum, it takes time to regain sense of self. You were a vessel for 10 months, providing every breath, calorie, ounce of energy to creating another life. Returning to the studio can provide relief and help to reaffirm the individual prior to motherhood. But, it can also be intimidating, stressful, and demoralizing and this is why sometimes women never make it back into the studio. “As professional dancers, we get so caught up with what we see in the mirror. What I try to reinforce to myself is the way you look in this leotard in this moment doesn’t define who you are. It’s about looking deeper. Let's look deeper at who we are as woman and celebrate our capabilities not just our appearance.”

 

It’s also not just about aesthetic. It goes back to guilt and sacrifice, “If I do this I cannot do that.” Women don't go back professionally because it means time away from their child, and especially with the first child you don't yet know the nuances of motherhood. There is hesitancy to step away from the child even for a small amount of time. You’re concerned, and that concern prohibits you from bringing your whole self into the studio.”

 

This is the barrier Alia is trying to break with Noumenon Dance.

 

“It is time to end the assumption that women have to pursue either career or motherhood and that by pursuing both one of them is compromised, because that is not the truth. When you become a mother you approach everything differently. You have more compassion. You have more patience. Sometimes you have more creativity because you're surrounding yourself at home with growth and vitality, and being surrounded by life and curiosity is inspiring.”

 

Alia inherited Noumenon Dance in 2015 when she became the artistic director. She shaped the group into an exclusively female professional ensemble comprised of  five company dancers and two performing apprentices. Currently three of the members are balancing their careers with motherhood.

 

The word Noumenon translates to feeling without the senses, or in other words passion.

 

The motivation behind the ensemble is about creating a platform for dancing mothers who want to perform and continue perfecting their craft. I want to create work that celebrates our womanliness and everything that it entails. No dancer or woman for that matter should ever feel inhibited by our anatomy.

 

As artistic director and principal choreographer, Alia’s female perspective provides the storyline behind the ensemble’s repertoire which is performed for the public. Alia’s choreographic inspiration lies in demonstrating strength and grace through moving artwork that requires a constant questioning of what is possible of the female body highlighting self-expression and reflection.

 

Noumenon holds performances three to four times a year at different main stage theaters in Chicago as well as local and national dance festivals. Alia is committed to elevating women and minorities in the arts  by employing lighting designers, stage managers, costume designers, videographers, photographers and technicians who are underrepresented in the industry.

 

In addition to Noumenon, Alia offers youth classes out of her studio Dance Avondale on Chicago’s Northwest side. Classes are offered for youth students ages 2-18 years and pre-professional and professional dancers. They are instructed by Alia, the women who make up Noumenon Dance Ensemble, and other expert dance instructors.

 

At the end of the day it’s about living life with balance, grace and gratitude. “I am so thankful for the opportunities I have been granted. Declare prosperity. If you declare it, it will come.”

 

For more information about Noumennon and Dance Avondale visit www.danceavondale.com