CYMA CHATS: with Tatiana Keegan, international ballroom dancer
Q: You married in 2006, at 35 years of age, and had your daughter at 36, both more common ages for women to do so, but old for redesigning a life singularly focused on ballroom dancing. How was that transition for you?
A: It was very different. I always wanted to have a child. When I had her, it was great, but then it felt like something else was missing again. I realized that I had to have both things. I had to use my body again; have that physical exercise. I realized that I had a lot left in me, that I wasn’t done yet performing and competing. I had never stopped dancing, I just stopped competing. Just dancing was not enough. I need to be in a high level of competition.
Q: What were the responses of other competitive dancers regarding your pregnancy?
A: People bow in front of me, now (laughs). People say, “At this age, and having a child, you are going back in age! You look younger and have much more energy. You are really giving this your all!”
Q: How do you combine being a mother with being a professional dancer?
A: It’s very hard. I knew it was going to be hard. It’s not just physically hard, it’s emotionally hard. You don’t want to give less than 100% to your child; you don’t want to give your dancing less than 100%. Especially when my daughter was going through the ‘Terrible Two’s,’ I would get on the train (to class) and think, how can I dance now? But once I started dancing, I would forget about it all. I find that one thing helps the other. Having a child changes everything. Children teach you how to be different — you have to be very patient with them. I’m training (inside) myself and that helps my dancing get better. I don’t get upset like I used to. I used to have much less patience. Now, I have more patience to just try things until I get it.
Q: Do you intend to have more children?
A: I would love to. If I did, I would still like to dance, but not compete anymore.
Q: What lessons do you hope to give your daughter, in going back to a job/work that you truly love?
A: Showing her that nothing comes easy in this life; everything requires repetition. I think that people think that everything comes instantly, I just want to show her that it takes years and years of trying. Nothing comes from luck; it’s a lot of hard work. Just keep processing, keep trying, keep failing and you’ll get a good result.
Q:Do you see yourself as a role mother for other mothers?
A: Sure. I didn’t set out to be one. I hear a lot of people tell me that, esp. my friends who thought they needed to give up dancing after having children.
Q: What do you think about the trend of new older motherhood?
A: I think it’s so great that you can pursue your career, or whatever you want, and have children. When you are in your 20’s, you still don’t know who you are. In your 30’s, you are establishing yourself. I think it’s a good time to have kids. If you stay young and take care of yourself, you can give something more to your kids.
Q: How do you view your life, now?
A: Maybe there is something in the stars — it’s not yet my time yet to retire. But, if I lose a competition after all that hard work, it won’t devastate me like it used to because I have a family to come home to. I have much more balance in my life – I can really enjoy it now.
Tatiana Keegan is a 12-time International Latin ballroom champion who placed among the top dancers in the world at the Blackpool Dance Festival in England and won the 2000 U.S. Ballroom Championship with Tony Dovolani of “Dancing With The Stars.” In 2003, she retired to focus on her personal life, married three years later, and gave birth to her daughter, Anastasia, in 2007 at the age of 36. In January, she began an inspiring comeback on the international circuit with Werner Figar, a 27-year-old Austrian amateur national champion. In May, Tatiana & Werner won the American Star Ball outside of Philadelphia and placed 2nd at the Austrian national championship, qualifying them for the World Championship in Germany later this year. She is also the ballroom blogger for The Faster Times online newspaper. Visit http://www.tatianawerner.com/.