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;)

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.

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.

fade into night

DSC_9579DSC_9650The first time Chris and I met, we were on, in, and around the Rhode Island State House, passing through its archways and clambering up and down those majestic marble stairs.  This time, we moved away to admire the iconic building from a new perspective.Image-1
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Instead of a grey Saturday morning downtown, Chris and I decided to meet on a balmy Tuesday evening at the top of Congdon Street.   Lined with pretty little trees and historic old homes, Prospect Park perches high on the hill, where it overlooks the skyline through a wrought iron fence.  There’s an aura of peace in the tiny park, as couples huddle onto benches pressing their noses together, college students sketch their surroundings, a lone yogi sits in sukhasana.  Providence shows off to the beat of the setting sun.  This city wears amber well.

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The ombré design of this Intermezzo leotard could not have complimented the sky more perfectly that night.  It’s delicate grey dip-dye echoes our old marble friend as it reflects the sky’s twilight performance.
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Every dancer loves a good pinch in their leo, and this beauty has two: one in the front and one in the back.  Its sleek cut pulls in a bit at the waist, and the tightly knit lycra keeps a strong hold, creating an overall slimming effect.  I prefer my leotards snug this way (I felt totally supported by the full lining), but if you are into a looser feel, I would recommend sizing up.

In music, an intermezzo is a piece which fits between two other, more dramatic, entities.  Like the golden hour of sunset linking day to night, this leotard marries dark and light with its elegant subtle fade.

Intermezzo leotard, c/o firstposition.com

photos of me by Christopher Emerson, photo of the skyline by me.

dizzy stripes

IMG_2115 IMG_2117 IMG_2116 IMG_2119IMG_2120IMG_2118I fell in love with these playful little petal shorts the moment they hit Instagram.

Then they landed on the Danseuse blog, and my heart skipped yet another beat.

For weeks, my legs longed for their sheer stripe-y goodness from all the way across the pond.  Then one very lucky Tuesday they arrived in a pretty little package at my doorstep.  Naturally, I immediately put them on and twirled around the house.

The modern, yet feminine shape features a deep front slit on either thigh, allowing for a complete range of motion.  And boy, do they move beautifully.  I’ve been wearing mine rolled to the hips, but they look just lovely up on your waist as well.  The contrast between that polished base fabric with a casual jersey drawstring elevates this already wonderfully unusual design to a whole new level of unique charm.  They are the special kind of shorts that will attract copycats but never truly be replicated or replaced.  No dancewear will ever out-cool them, that is, of course, until the Danseuse team inevitably strikes again and I’m left longing once more.  Sheer genius, ladies and gents.

Danseuse Balletwear Petal Sheer Shorts in Blue Stripe, c/o (and psssst, they come in blanc and a longer length indigo, too!)

photos by Jenay Evans.

studio to street

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Sartorially, there are two things I will never pass up: a multifunctional piece and a challenge.

Inspired by creative director at Danseuse/one half of the ever-inspiring Kingdom of Style, Ms. Michelle Haswell, I decided to test the boundaries of my balletwear by taking it outside the studio.  This experiment resulted in the above outfit, best described as unapologetically playful grey on grey with a hint of punk-in-the-Michelle-Tanner-way.

Perhaps not the most sensible outfit choice for yesterday’s little monsoon, surprisingly this look carried me- with extreme comfort- from tea to shopping to more tea, writing, laundering, jazzercising, fig-eating and all of the other fun Tuesday activities I got up to (wake me up when August ends).  I also felt pretty badass knowing that I was secretly increasing the wearability of my wardrobe all day.  So there you have it- balletwear in the real world- it can be done!

For more studio to street looks, and specifically the ones that inspired this post, run along over here.

PS- stay tuned for a peek at a bit of new Danseuse I’m exxxxxtremely excited about…

{shortstee, vest, sneakers}

flying high in taglia basilica

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One of the most rewarding (and unexpected) results of sharing my inner monologue on this forum has without a doubt been the introduction to dance-loving people all over the world.  When Antonis Loupos, co-creater of the haute couture dancewear brand, Taglia Basilica (based in Greece, a place which I’ve always dreamed of visiting), reached out to me about sampling a few pieces from the line, I jumped at the opportunity.

Family owned and operated since 1999, Taglia Basilica was born from the Loupos Family’s multi-generational love of ballet: Anoints’ wife and mother are both active choreographers, instructors, and artists themselves.  With local dance shops lacking professional services, the Loupos decided to take matters into their own hands, creating a business to cater the needs of serious ballet students and professionals alike.  The Loupos family began providing pointe shoes fittings, basic dancewear and a multitude of shoes in their new, wildly popular shop, but noticed an interest in fashion-conscious leotards and decided to take their business one step further.  They dabbled in the supplying of big brand products, but soon realized many of these pieces were constructed using subpar materials and less-than-flattering cuts.  The Loupos family longed for dancewear that spoke the language of the dancer.  They understood the importance of a varied collection, one that allowed for the unbridled expression of an artist through their ever-evolving shades.  Mr. Loupos dreamed of a line of rehearsal ready dancewear “for dancers who want to wear something different every day, depending on their moods and needs”.  And so, Taglia Basilica Dancewear was born.

Each piece is designed and manufactured by the close-knit Basilica team, where uniqueness of style and excellence of fit are key.  I can attest to the softness and elegance of each article I had the pleasure of sampling, and their online store certainly exhibits that wide variety the Loupos’ so fervently sought after.  In a see of Yumikelevepezio’s, if you are looking for an affordable leotard that is completely your own or the softest onesie in the world, shop Taglia Basilica.

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Shout out to A for being my legs and always lifting me up, Jenay Evans for her enthusiasm and photography skills, to Evans Capacitor Company for the use of their lovely space and of course, Taglia Basilica for their beautiful products c/o.  To see other Taglia Basilia styles, follow @settingthebarre on Instagram, where more of their designs will be making surprise appearance in the next few weeks!