Sara Joel is in Budapest, Hungary. She's also more than eight months pregnant and traveling with her 2-year-old son. But if she feels haggard or jetlagged, she doesn't let on.
"It's fun," she says. "You get to see the city from a kid's perspective."
It's this same lighthearted poise and high energy that Joel brings to her dance, making the most strenuous choreography look graceful.
When the 39-year-old Colorado College graduate takes the stage at CC's annual Gala Performance this Saturday, she'll be almost exactly nine months pregnant. Although she will — technically speaking — perform solos, Joel sees the pieces as duets.
"There are two people there," she says. "It becomes more of a duet farther along because in the beginning, the belly doesn't demand as much attention. Now the baby is very active. Now when I'm rehearsing, I feel little kicks."
For Joel, being pregnant is a source of inspiration rather than hardship. The pieces she'll perform at the Gala include metaphors for pregnancy: The first will be performed in a cloth hammock, the other in a bubble chair. The props support Joel the way a mother's uterus supports an unborn child.
Joel, who originally planned to be a psychology major, graduated from CC in 1993 with a B.A. in dance.
"It was because of calculus," she says with a laugh, adding that making the decision was tough at the time. "It's scary, it's not a dependable kind of job."
After moving to New York, Joel received a scholarship to attend the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance. Financial success remained elusive for years, but she found professional satisfaction in transitioning from performing others' choreography to her own. In 2003, Joel joined Cirque du Soleil's Zumanity in Las Vegas. She left the troupe after three years, when she became pregnant with her son.
That's when she choreographed the cloth hammock piece. This time around, she created the bubble chair routine with her daughter in mind.
"It's a gentler piece," she says.