happiness is a warm back

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Way back in January, I made one big new year’s resolution and a smaller one: to learn how to knit.  One of my best friends shared the desire to learn, so together we made an adventure of it, rounded up supplies, filled a big bowl with popcorn, and started YouTubing tutorials.  I like to fancy myself a crafty lady, but my goodness!  Knitting is hard.  Several frustrating hours and unraveled skeins later, though, we were very slowly sort-of-kind-of-knitting.

Quite a few of the dancers at FBP are avid knitters, but none rival the ultimate knitting queen, Vilia Putrius.  With several decades of knitting experience, she has certainly earned that title…

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Vilia learned to knit when she was just 5 years old.  You could say a talent for crafting runs in the family.  Ms. Putrius grew up in a family of circus artists (how cool is that?) and some of her earliest memories are of her parents sewing costumes and knitting clothing for she and her brother.  By age 18, Vilia had become a professional ballet dancer, but that homespun tendency ran deep.  When she struggled to find warm ups to suit her distinctive style, Vilia took matters into her own needle-clad hands.  Her obvious talent turned the craft into a business, and a few years later Arleo Wear was born.

Being a professional ballerina herself, Vilia is able to design pieces that a dancer truly needs. The Arleo Wear-covered dancers of FBP are a clear indication of that specificity; In the studio we stay bundled  in her cozy overalls, signature sleek ankle warmers, and on-trend convertible shorts, but it seems everyone’s favorite design might be the brilliant back warmer.

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Perfect for class and rehearsals alike, the Arleo back warmer allows freedom of movement in the hips and shoulders while keeping the core toasty.  Finally a way to keep an eye on lines without sacrificing comfort and style, ah!  Her knitting expertise is also woven into every garment she designs, using only the finest yarns to create these essential pieces.

Now that I have my back warmer, I truly wonder how I ever got along without it.  It’s like a ballet-appropriate version of your favorite cozy sweater.  And really, isn’t that what we all want?

to shop.

also check out her accessories while you’re at it. (you might see a familiar face;)

plié this way

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I remember the first piece of Free People clothing I ever wore, because I still own it.  Decidedly outside my usual color scheme, the tangerine hoodie is embroidered in thick black thread with an intricate floral pattern.  It has been mine for nearly a decade, a most prized gift for accomplishing the awkward task of turning fifteen.  Since then I’ve moved from my parents’ home to my brother’s, to a shared apartment in Providence before finally my own, and a certain orange sweater has come with me every time.  Though admittedly not something I wear every day, that Free People hoodie gives me such fuzzy feelings.

These days my uniform has changed slightly, from tangerine sweatshirts to easy dresses, flowy tees and seamless intimates by the boho brand.  It would be no exaggeration to say my closet is chock full of freeps…and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So when Free People contacted me about styling a few pieces for their Movement is Free campaign, I yipped, squealed, and jumped on the idea.  Kelly did what she does best (with a side of cuteness and Christmas) and HERE WE ARE!  On the FREE PEOPLE WEBSITE!  Sorry for the shouting.  I’m a tad excited.

Go check it out, if you like.  Let me know what you think, should you feel so inclined. I’ll just be here, happy-dancing…

 

all photos by Kelly Louise Photography.

c l o u d & v i c t o r y

I first fell in love with Cloud & Victory via social media.  It was a classic tale of Instagram romance, if you will.  There were pizza emojis, hilarious narrations, and captions that spoke to my soul.  This one made me laugh especially hard…Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 12.23.39 PM.png

Cloud & Victory seems to speak the mind of today’s ballet dancer.  Aside from all that Instagram brilliance, the collection itself is spotted with fun pop culture references, snarky quotes, and of-the-moment affirmations.  The clothing (in design and manufacturing) is unusual, honest, and indisputably quirky.  My jeté en l’air like you don’t care tee always cheers up a long Saturday in the studio, its cheekiness matched only by the lightness of its fabric.

 When I saw this, I cracked up and just knew I had to reach out to Min, the genius behind the C&V brand.  We instantly connected (thanks social media and shared interests), and sweet Min sent over a tee from the Spring collection (Blood, Sweat & Pirouettes could not be a more accurate description of the Swan Lake preparation process- and yes, I do sweat glitter) as well as the Svetlana Zakharova/Carl Sagan mash-up inspired by the former’s Odette (because Carl Sagan as Odette would probably be more of a turtleneck situation).  I snuggled up with my super soft new duds and chatted with the lovely Min about the dancewear brand that bolstered her in the wake of very personal despair…about-cloudandvictory-min-with-miko

Hi Min!  Let’s get right to it.  Tell us how Cloud & Victory began.

I had become anorexic and clinically depressed when I was in law school from pushing myself too hard, and had taken a year off to recover. A new ballet school opened near my home, and I decided to take some ballet classes. Ballet was really helpful to my recovery, and when I returned to university to finish my degree I decided to design and sell some fun ballet tops to cope with the trauma of going back to school – clothes I would want to wear. After graduation, I was still too ill and weak to take a full time job, so I decided to focus on the clothing thing for a few months while I got better. Even though it was supposed to be temporary, I took it very seriously! I knew that I wanted to offer a socially-responsible product, with clothing that was high-quality and ethically made. I did a lot of research and put a lot of work into it. The word got out very gradually, but the response was very positive, both from professional dancers and students, so I kept going and going. And I haven’t stopped!

It’s hard work but I love C&V and am grateful to have the chance to do what I’m doing. I’m also very lucky to have my family’s support – even though they initially didn’t have a clue about ballet and were pretty skeptical of this funny online thing I was doing! Cloud & Victory is actually a combination of my parents’ Chinese names.e1c9c0b921fb433123340ef412f0d9a8 (1)

Your story is really quite beautiful.  What has been the most special moment for you in creating this brand?

Oh gosh, so many! Shooting with my friends, like Joy Womack, Keenan Kampa and Miko Fogarty. A forthcoming collaboration with Gaynor Minden. Going backstage after an ABT performance and realising that a bunch of dancers knew about C&V. Diana Vishneva contributing her pointe shoes to a fundraiser I organized for Nepal earthquake victims. A woman e-mailing me to tell me that an interview I did with Royal Danish Ballet’s Carling Talcott about our experiences with anorexia encouraged her to seek help for her eating disorder. All the people I’ve had the privilege of meeting, collaborating with and befriending through C&V – I treasure all these moments and relationships. They keep me going when I feel discouraged or burnt out.SS16-Lookbook-8

The biggest one that stands out for me right now was going to Russia to shoot with Joy – I had my photographer and backup photographer cancel on me just days before the trip, Russia had just invaded Ukraine so there was a lot of uncertainty, and I was one of the few crazy foreigners going into the country instead of trying to get out. This short Chinese person, wandering into Russia. But thankfully it all worked out.

“I had never imagined when I started C&V that I would ever end up in this place, this ballet mecca, and pull off this crazy, incredible experience.”

 

I got to collaborate with Joy again and watch her perform, which was such a treat. I met and took pictures of some lovely girls from Vaganova school, some of whom I’m still in touch with – I couldn’t believe that all the way in Russia, there were dancers who liked C&V and wanted to work with me! odette

On my last night I watched the Mariinsky perform. It was amazing – my first ever Ratmansky! After the show, I was waiting by the canal between the old and new Mariinsky buildings for my friend Xander. I remember looking up at the night sky and crying: it was so surreal. I had never imagined when I started C&V that I would ever end up in this place, this ballet mecca, and pull off this crazy, incredible experience. And then Xander popped up next to me and I had to hastily tidy myself up without him noticing. Luckily it was dark!

Most of the Russians I met were really nice and helpful as well, I’ve heard from my Russian friends that this isn’t always the case!

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Wow, squad goals is right!  You have had some pretty incredible experiences so far.  What’s your ultimate pipe dream?

Well, of course every business owner wishes for their brand to be successful. I suppose my biggest goal would be for C&V to be in a position where thorough it I can contribute consistently and meaningfully to the world we live in, and to foster a ballet community where we can help and empower each other. It sounds terribly cheesy, but it’s true! Oh, and to be less stressed. Less tired, more inspired – that’s the dream!

AMEN TO THAT.  

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Thank you so much Min, for generously sharing your humor, your story, and your glorious designs!  Head over here to shop and learn more about Cloud & Victory on their blog. xx

All photos via Cloud & Victory.

s n e a k peek: fp x fbp

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On Monday a few of the FBP ladies and I got together with girls of Free People Providence for an exciting collaborative photoshoot of the Free People Movement collection.  We headed over to the Hope Artiste Village in Pawtucket to fill up the bare industrial space with soft spandex, tulle, and floaty port de bras.  Here’s a little behind-the-scenes action, stay tuned for the official photos…

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follow @freepeopleprovidence and @festivalballetprovidence for the latest.

ms. rubia and her wonderful warmers

Last winter, somewhere in the midst of record-breaking snowfall, a friend introduced me to RubiaWear leg warmers.  Flattering silhouette, ultra thin fabric, soft knit, subtle stripes.  Always game for a little investigation, I decided to give them a go.11026053_1607928049427136_5997283873558158194_n

When my first pair arrived in the mail, immediately I was hooked.  For the remainder of the season, not one morning passed where I watched my reflection without the warm hug of my trusty Rubias.  Today Boston Ballet’s Ashley Ellis, the genius behind RubiaWear, sheds a bit of light on what life has been like since creating the collection of warmers worn ’round the world…

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So Ashley, how did you become inspired to start making leg warmers?

It should be noted that I am in Boston now, and well, winter here is notorious for being long with extreme conditions, so this was surely extra incentive for creating a line of ‘warm ups’!

Apart from this, I really enjoy making all sorts of things, am always busy with projects, I find it to be a nice outlet for me. Whether I’m sewing, fixing things around the house, painting, baking, or what ever else sparks my curiosity. Needless to say that when I sew I am often drawn to making things to wear in the studio because this is where I spend so much of my time.

In the months before I opened the line I had made some legwarmers for myself, simply because I had lost the ones I’d had before (by that mysterious fairy that steals dancewear left in the studio over night). I played a bit with different styles that I found to be most flattering. Then, a few friends started to ask me to make them some. As more people showed interest I thought it would be fun to make more and come up with a design to offer to my colleagues. I explored this idea step by step, and with each new detail I wanted to create a product that looked professional but maintained a unique quality.  In the end I thought I might as well make it an official line and how fun it would be to offer not just to my friends, but also to anyone who would be interested.

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Your tendency towards constantly finding little projects is so relatable.  So, what made you decide to turn it into a business?

It wasn’t really a predetermined plan of mine, it just sort of happened. Not to say it was easy- it took a lot time, work, and educating myself on how to get it all going, but I was having fun with it so I kept going.

I knew that my colleagues were fans of the warmers but I had no idea whether or not people outside of my direct contact would be interested in buying them so I just decided to give it a shot. I did feel that if I was going to offer RubiaWear to the dance world at large I wanted the product to be of a high quality and offer an attractive platform from which I was able to sell it. Essentially, something that I myself as a dancer would want to buy and wear everyday.

Since starting with the official line of RubiaWear things have been escalating nicely which has been a very exciting ride so far. It’s been difficult to keep up with at times, and I wish I could move faster and offer more growth sooner, but this will come with time. I plan to introduce new designs, premade products to get things to customers faster.

Being a dancer is still my passion and full time concentration, so at times there are moments when I have to step back and admit that there are things that still have to wait and feel fortunate that things have escalated at the pace that they have.

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I’ve always wondered, where does the name RubiaWear come from?

While dancing in Spain for three years with the Corella Ballet de España I picked up the nickname Rubia, which essentially means Blondie, and it kind of stuck. I wanted to have a part of myself in the name but didn’t really want to use my own name. So, RubiaWear has a sort of disguised part of me in it. I chose the logo and its colors because I thought suited the ‘blonde’ theme. I like that there is meaning behind it but it doesn’t have to be completely obvious.

I just love your children’s line, Rubita, and my goodness, the Rubita MINI series- don’t even get me started.  Cuteness overload!  Where did the inspiration to start making miniatures come from?

Well, besides the fact that the Rubita sizes are so adorable? Haha. I just thought that there are so many young dance students out there who should also keep their little legs warm in between classes and to and from the studio. These ballerinas in training should also have the option to wear dancewear that is unique and showcases their sense of style, even if they do have to wear a uniform for class. I plan to offer children’s sizes whenever I can with future products as well.

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What has been the most surprising/exciting/fulfilling aspect of running RubiaWear so far?

I’ve really enjoyed the learning aspect that starting RubiaWear has offered. I’ve had to learn a lot, not just about how to make warmers but how to run a business.

I’d say one of the most rewarding things has been seeing people all over the world getting excited about the product. I enjoy being in contact with the customers. I’ve received a lot of positive feedback and it gets me more excited and confident about moving forward into the future.

I have to mention that I’m grateful for how encouraging and supportive people, near and far, have been of this venture.

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THANK YOU to the inspiring and beautifully articulate Ms. Ashley Ellis for sharing her story!  To shop the collection (which I highly recommend), head right this way.  To catch Ashley on stage, head over here.

photos by Kenneth B. Edwards

spread the {dance} love

IMG_4478Tights, tutus, hairpins, legwarmers, leotards, lessons, shoes.  Oh, all the shoes…

Being a student of dance is expensive.  In fact, much of the elitist stipulation surrounding ballet stems from the steep price of entry.  The combined costs of attire, training, and transportation add up quickly, and for those who simply cannot not dance, this financial struggle creates an impermeable wall.  The inextinguishable desire to dance rattles both bodies and bank accounts, forcing those who must move (and their families) to make huge sacrifices in pursuit of a dance education.  Sadly, sometimes even the most extreme sacrifices are not enough.  That’s where Jordana Jands and her new startup dancewear brand, dancelove, come in.

“Once a dancer, always a dancer.”  We’ve all heard and Amen, honey!-ed this before, right? Well Ms. Jands, dance educator in Alberta, Canada, wants to harness the strong familial nature of the dance community.  Our world is universal, but small; exclusive, but shared.  Once you’re a part of the dance family, you’re in for life.  Dancelove celebrates that relationship. IMG_4507 The brand new apparel line features scripted dance lingo on each piece, providing a nod to the shared culture, while dancelove’s mission honors the unwavering support system that makes the dance world so special:  $1 of each purchase will be donated to the student scholarship fund of a local studio in need.  If that doesn’t warm your heart, twinkle your toes and make you want to sauté wildly on your bed first thing in the morning…well, merde.
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pirouette sweater by dance love c/o, all photos by Jenay Evans for STB.

local cavalry

IMG_4137If you recently read my, um, lengthy 24-hour guide to Providence, then you already know I’m a huge fan of all things Rhode Island.  I know, I know, it’s a major nerd alert.  But there is just so much to explore in our coastal little corner of America, it’s hard to resist the occasional ocean-state-flavored mush fest.  Judging by the number of vehicles I’ve seen sporting this sticker, safe to say I’m not alone there.

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The only thing better than Rhody’s multitude of beautiful destinations (none further than a mere 30 minute drive, mind you) are its exceptionally talented and welcoming inhabitants.  The sweet spirit of RI runs especially deep in the bunch I’ve recently befriended, a pack of hungry creatives that seem to contain an undraining supply of warmth and love.  In a manifestation of this unique energy, I’m incredibly proud to represent RI’s newest lifestyle brand, Local Cavalry, a line of American-made apparel focused on adventure and experience.

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 What I love about this brand (besides the softness of their inaugural tee) is their mission to share in the journey of each wanderer.  It’s a wearable realization of Rhode Island’s penchant for creating a community of individual explorers, and we firmly believe everyone deserves a spot in the cavalry.  So whether you’re surfing the North Shore or treading the concrete jungle, scoop up your LC gear and get out there.  Bring them to your favorite spot or head out into the great unknown, snap a photo and tag local cavalry to share your adventure.  Play on.