she thinks therefore she thinx

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Everything is beautiful at the ballet…except when it’s not.

Let’s be real for a second, okay? Disclaimer: Male readers, you can excuse yourselves now. Ladies, let’s talk.

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Sometimes being a ballerina is all about tutus and pointe shoes and pink tights and tiaras and feeling like a beautiful princess, and sometimes it’s all about tutus and pink tights and period cramps. Being a professional ballet dancer revolves largely around the pursuit of seemingly effortless perfection, but in reality, most of this life is difficult, sweaty, and well, a bit icky.

Diving head first into that realness: attempting ballet with your period is not fun. Bloat, cramps, muscle soreness, it’s a cocktail of shitty. Not to mention the awkwardness of feminine care products. Pliés and pads? No, thank you. Has anyone else ever ruined a leotard a certain time of the month? Better yet- does anyone have a special “period leotard” (or 3?). Dark colors, looser styles, “boob friendlies” as I like to call them- these are a lady’s best friends. But what if there was a special leotard- designed by cool girls who get it- to help make your period a little easier? Well gird your loins!!! It’s here!

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The geniuses behind Thinx period underwear have created a line of leotards to make your period a bit less cringe-worthy. Now, if the sound of a leotard that absorbs your period sounds horrifying, please just stay with me for a minute here…

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While I wouldn’t want to go free as a bloody bird in the studio, an absorbent back up layer built into a leo might be one of the best ideas I’ve heard all year.

These leotards are designed with multiple layers of fabric in the nether regions. The outermost layer is antimicrobial and moisture wicking. All those lovely fluids absorb straight through to the inner layer, which locks them in like a magnet. That means guaranteed dryness (I mean, you know, not too dry, that would be weird- just the normal amount of dryness- then again, what is normal? we are all glorious, beautiful delicate flowers! but strong, too, right?! right!). Thinx somehow does all of this while still creating a not-too-thick, not-too-thin leo, perfect for light days as a backup for your tampon during those long rehearsals where you reeeealllly need to “take 5”.

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Best of all, these leotards are reusable! Just rinse with cold water and then toss it in with the rest of your clothes. Seriously! I was shocked, too, but it works like magic. Also, the Thinx leotard is pretty darn cute. Those mesh side panels are *v on trend* and the low criss-cross back is super flattering. The material is thick enough to feel held in but not squished- though I will say it’s a CHEEKY situation, if you know what I mean (wink). I also think this bad boy could be vastly improved with the addition of a shelf bra, as I am a big fan of support!

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SO are you breathing a sigh of relief? Does this sound insane to you? Let a sista know in the comments below!

Pssssst, they make unitards, too! Get yours here.

all photos by Jenay Evans for Setting The Barre. all opinions are my own :)

recover

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Ahhh, rest. Relaxation. Sitting still. It’s not something dancers think about all that often, but it’s just as essential to the dancer’s life cycle as rehearsal and performance time. With a few injuries under my belt (the infamous spinal fractures of 2013 and who could forget the season of itis?), I’ve taken on self-care with a pretty serious fervor. I meet regularly with our goddess of a physiotherapist, incorporate as many anti-inflammatory foods into my diet as I can without actually sticking my face into a bucket of turmeric, and let a (highly skilled) doctor stick needles into my body more often than I care to admit. I holistic heal like my dancing depends on it because, well, it does.

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But sometimes (ahem, Nutcracker season) there is just not enough time to run to the store when you’ve diced up the last of your ginger. You’re on the zillionth run of Flowers, the stage feels like concrete under your tired knees and you need more immediate relief for those sore calves. I feel you. So does Zarely.

Rounding out their tri-series collection of ballet tights, Zarely’s recover tights support the rehabilitation stage of a dancer’s life cycle. They are made with a graduated compression weave to gently squeeze the muscles, enhancing blood flood to achey stems.

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So let’s be real- these puppies are tight in every sense of the word. I grunted several times whilst putting them on. But once their constricting hug enveloped my legs completely, I could really feel the heal! Plus, the looser, flexible hip area allows for full range of motion, meaning once their on, you can slide around for some stretching, easy peasy.

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I can’t wait to wear these the next time I have a guesting that requires air travel. Have you ever felt like your ankles and feet have doubled in size from departure to arrival? The extended period of time spent sitting restricts blood flow to these areas, causing painful puffing. It’s really no fun landing in a host city to perform with swollen feet, so I’m looking forward to repairing in the air with Zarely. (double wink)

These compression tights also look beautiful, unlike most of their clinical counterparts, so they would be perfect for a post-performance gala or celebratory drink. Tingle while you mingle! Haha, sorry, I tried.

If you’d like to get your body restoration on, head over to Zarely and use the code KIRSTENZARELY at checkout for a 20% discount. See my previous posts on their rehearsal and performance tights for more reviews.

 

all photos by Jenay Evans for Setting The Barre.

perform

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I have spent the greater half of my life looking in the mirror. This is not the reflection (harhar) of a vain mentality, but the strange requirement of an artist seeking precision in physical lines. Yes, movement quality and emotional expression are absolutely essential, but intentional formation of the body churns in the heart of classical ballet.

This time spent studying my reflection, though not always easy on the ego (we can’t all look like Sylvie), has actually proven quite informative. Over the years I have learned a great deal about my body, how to command its strengths and how to deal with its weaknesses. I’ve also picked up a few really helpful tweaks for simulating a cleaner line. An incredible coach once told me,

“Ballet is an illusion. We must strive for the unattainable always and harmonize where we fall short.”

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Enter Zarely. Engineered with comfort and aesthetics in mind, Zarely tights aim to create a more visually stunning appearance for the wearer. Using the intricate art of optics inspired by illusionist Victor Vasarely (also the inspiration for the brand’s name), each piece features unique designs catered to a dancer’s highly distinct needs.

For example, the performance tights (pictured here) feature special light-reflecting fabric to create a slimming effect and a thicker weave at the toes and heel for traction inside pointe shoes. No more ripping up the heels to avoid shoe-slippage! Or was that just me?

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Personally, I like my performance tights to be thin enough that those hard-earned leg muscles aren’t hidden. Of course this exposure is usually only attained through sacrifice; a thinner knit compromises the fabric’s strength, making it more susceptible to tear. In other words, yes, I’ve ripped holes in tights straight out of the packaging before. Moments before a performance. No bueno. Zarely tights are thick but also sheer (sorcery), fusing durability with delicacy to create a truly stunning look.

Like the rehearsal tights, the waistband on these is not too tight (goodbye, muffin top), but also not saggy, perfect for dancers like moi who tend to pull our performance tights up Urkel-style to the top rib before hooking into that tutu (wink). They also have a super flattering- yet somehow tactically undetectable- seam up the back of the leg. Ooh la la…

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Perhaps my favorite feature, though, is the softness of these things. They are a special kind of, “Okay, okay, I’m slipping into these things at 8 am for a morning school show and I’ll be wearing them until the end of stage rehearsal at 10 o’clock tonight and I can do it all without itching my quads off” soft. Yeah.

But don’t just take my word for it, see (and feel!) for yourself; Setting The Barre readers receive an exclusive 20% discount by entering the code KIRSTENZARELY at checkout.

 

all photos by Jenay Evans for Setting The Barre.

rehearse

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Ballet is one of those things that spills itself into every bit of your life, seeping out from the studio and into places you’d least expect. An example? Okay, from Kindergarten to Grade 5, my rigorous training schedule “required” that I wear tights and a leotard underneath my regular clothes to school most days, so as to be on time for my dance classes that afternoon. Let me clarify- this was never actually imperative, but a cocktail of young bunheadity and an obsessive compulsion toward punctuality had me convinced wearing tights under my OshKosh B’gosh overalls was not only convenient but absolutely necessary. Plus, I felt a bit like a baby ballerina Clark Kent.

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Fast-forward fifteen years, my legs are so accustomed to that itchy tights feeling tht I actively avoid wearing them outside the studio. Too long I’ve suffered the awkward seam-up-the-back-of-the-leg-impression-long-after-you’ve-removed-them-for-the-day situation. Imprints often encircle my shins where convertible tights once lived, haunting far past their shift. But now all of that changes.

Introducing Zarely. Engineered with comfort and aesthetics in mind, the collection of ballet tights and athletic wear was the brainchild of a former San Fransisco Ballet soloist. Created by a team of dancers, designers, and physical therapists, Zarely’s uniquely engineered ballet tights follow a 3-stage system of rehearseperformrecover, specifically designed to support the strenuous schedule of a professional dancer. I’m not one for gimmicks, but with personal endorsements from dancers like Dores Andrés and Lauren Lovette, I couldn’t wait to see what these tights were all about…

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…and woah baby, are they nice. The first thing I must say is they are sooooft. And I mean buttery soft. The waistband is also somehow non-suffocating, which makes me wonder how/why we’ve been wearing glorified sausage casings around our waists all this time. The rehearsal tights (pictured here) feature a special smart compression technology to fight inflammation and swelling, with extra support in hard-working areas (think ankles and knees) and convertible edges are crafted with special attention to ensure flexible, run-free openings (hallelujah). All Zarely tights are fabricated with a special light-reflecting material for a slimming effect and a patterned weave to create a subtly hyperextended illusion. Dancers work incredibly hard every day to form a line worth watching. Twenty-first century technology that can help get the job done? Sign me up!

I’m obviously pretty excited about Zarely and will be featuring more of their designs later this week (stay tuned!), but if you’re interested in finding your best lines, Setting The Barre readers can enter the code KIRSTENZARELY at checkout for an exclusive 20% discount.

all photos by Jenay Evans for Setting The Barre.

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;)

ladies who l u n c h

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On Saturday M gave me my first taste of Olga’s Cup and Saucer.  I was blown away by the extensive menu and peaceful garden outside, but a warm May morning and a secret spot by the river beckoned (as they do).  So we ordered brown bag breakfasts and went dockside.  Of course this meant returning to experience the outdoor dining area as soon as possible was nonnegotiable…

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It was quite serendipitous, then, when Duck & Bunny‘s Monday hours (or rather, lack thereof) called for a quick change of location for the tea/bridal party duty date my mother and I had planned.  We scooted from Fox Point to Point Street in search of fresh salads and a quiet patio.  From one bunny to another!

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I’m happy to report that our food completely lived up to the expectations set by my wandering eyes a few days prior (I had the teriyaki salmon salad, my mom had the chicken caesar), and the sun drenched patio was every bit as serene as I had hoped it would be.  With vibrant basil and scallion plants thriving from banks all around us, I had to keep reminding myself we were still in downtown Providence.

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Bravo, Olga.  I raise my English breakfast-filled cup (+ saucer) to you.

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.