Texas Tech University

A Mother in Dance

Eleanor Shaddix

September 26, 2022

Ali Duffy

Dr. Ali Duffy wears many hats.  In the School of Theatre & Dance, she is a professor, associate head of dance, and graduate advisor to students in the dance studies MA program. Off-campus, she is the founder and artistic director of Flatlands Dance Theatre in Lubbock, Texas. 

This past spring, Duffy took a sabbatical, her first in 13 years, to focus on the completion of her new book, Dancing Motherhood. Touching on an issue that is relevant to many in the performing arts, Dancing Motherhood offers guidance on how women can balance pregnancy and motherhood with careers in the field of dance.

Duffy explains, “Balancing a career in dance with motherhood is extremely difficult, and that's something that's really been overlooked in our area.”

Duffy says this narrative is not new. Many in the dance world work fulltime jobs during the day and perform at night, but this makes having a family complicated. She believes it is vital that we open space to have conversations about how work and life can coexist for everyone—parents and non-parents.

“Everyone deserves to have a personal life and a balanced life,” says Duffy.

For mothers in the performing arts, creating balance and advocating for themselves can be difficult. Duffy's advice is “to try to balance a sense of advocacy with a sense of holding others accountable for their responsibilities, as well and leaving space for them to be part of that conversation too.”

Duffy is no stranger to this balancing act. This past spring, she produced two shows with Flatlands Dance Theatre and took part in creating a devised project about being a mother during pandemic times called Pandemic Mama

She also wants to help her students achieve a work/life balance. The semester away from teaching gave Duffy time to alter her teaching philosophy and reflect on her pedagogy. This fall she's returning to the classroom with a renewed sense of “energy and excitement.” She sees the classroom as a collaboration between teacher and student, and wants to help students set boundaries, advocate for their needs, and take time for themselves.

“I'm modeling for my students that I am a whole person, that I deserve to be a whole person, and so do they,” says Duffy.  “I hope to be a more generous teacher and help students achieve balance in their lives, so they don't find themselves working all day and night.”       

Dancing Motherhood is currently in the peer review stage of the editing process and will be published by Routledge as a part of its new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Performing Arts book series. Duffy hopes to make at least one chapter of the book open access, because her work largely involves equity and inclusivity.

For more information on the Pandemic Mama Project, a devised project about pandemic motherhood in collaboration with Dr. Sarah Johnson and Prof. Hirshorn-Johnston, visit: www.pandemicmamaproject.com. For more information about Flatlands Dance Theatre, visit: www.flatlandsdance.org