somewhere upstate

After connecting with nature at the Pillow, M and I headed West towards Kinderhook to visit the sweetest Gma of them all. We were hoping the trip would only take 30(ish) minutes, but then the sun was shining, the tank was clean…IMG_5759IMG_5758IMG_5763IMG_5762…and field after field of wildflowers beckoned from the roadside! We had no choice but to pull over and dive in. So goes summer’s siren song, right? A bit of irony, you may notice, as my shirt claims that I am always on pointe, but if there is any place I would never like to be eeuuh-puueehn, it’s in a dense, damp, field of flowers somewhere upstate. Sure it may sound romantic (wait, does it?), but I assure you, muddy pointe shoes are no picnic. Fortunately I like to think this whole irony thing would be rather welcomed by the designer of this fun tee, Cloud & Victory. Do you guys follow them on instagram? Oh boy, you really should!IMG_5754IMG_5757IMG_5753IMG_5752Min’s endless stream of clever captioning brings this world the (actually funny) ballet humor it so desperately needs right now. Between her wise-cracking edits, C&V’s feed features the brand’s latest designs, yet another outlet for Min’s expert blend of ballet beauty and punny, dad-joke-eqsue humor (my favorite kind). The latest collection is modeled by San Fransisco cool-erina, Mathilde Froustey, and it’s seriously delicious.IMG_5751IMG_5764

Check the lookbook and let me know what you think! Which pieces would you wear?

 

 

 

all photos by Michael Collins for Setting The Barre.

shocking

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As you may recall, if you’ve been following along here for some time, at the end of last season I incurred a host of local injuries around my left bunion area. There was bursitis, sesamoiditis, tendonitis, a real -itis fest, if you will. ANYway, when that all happened, wearing flat technique shoes first thing in the morning became rather unbearable, so my physical therapist suggested I try warming up in socks. I began wearing socks for pliés and tendus, then expanded that to include dégagés, then rond de jambes, then fondus, until one day I was working through the entire barre “en sock”. And let me tell you, it was a magical discovery.

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I found I was able to warm up my feet more thoroughly, connecting down through the floor from the very start of the day. My bones were free to spread and contract as they took their morning breaths, inhaling marley up through their joints and exhaling sweet, strong energy. I was able to dance my entire season sans-itis. A miracle, friends! The only problem? In an attempt to give myself some form of padding, the socks I had on rotation were baggy, bulky, relatively uncomfortable and wholly unflattering.

Then I heard about Apolla Shocks.

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Let me first disclaim: This is not a sponsored post. Although I did receive the Apolla Shocks pictured here complimentary, I approached the brand myself to inquire about their products after being tipped off by the lovely Cirio Collective dancers. Socks specially designed for dancers! Look how pretty! How supportive! How strange! I had to learn more.

And boy am I ever glad I did. As seems to be the trend this days (thank goodness!), sports science, design, and dance have come together in the creation of these beauties. The pair I’m wearing here are the mid-level support and the ones that will likely become my go-to, The Performance Shocks. They feature a compressed weave for extra arch support and ankle stabilization, and a slim yet free toe fit to allow for articulation without suffocating your piggies.

In my shocks I am finally I am able to properly employ my feet at the barre again, shaping them with all of the grounded metatarsals, lifted arches, and lengthened toes I can muster! IMG_5223IMG_5221

All Apolla Shocks come in 3 different shades so you can (at least attempt) to find your shade and ergo, your perfect line, because it’s just that easy, right? These science socks are moisture-wicking (happy dancing- any fellow sweaty feet friends?!) and antimicrobial, meaning every day washing is not necessary (double happy dance).

One of the coolest things about these dance socks is the option for their revolutionary customizable traction. The thin rubber traction starts out rather sticky, but is meant to be worn in to your desired level of grip. Once my shocks start too feel a bit too slippery (I actually like how their feeling after just a few uses), I plan on rubbing some rosin into the soles (as suggested by Apolla) to keep them right where I want ’em.IMG_5222

What do you think? Do you dance in socks? Would you try Apolla? If you are interested, Apolla is offering Setting The Barre readers 10% their first purchase with the code STB-ApollaDiscount-1 at checkout. Valid through June 19th.

 

photos by Jenay Evans for Setting The Barre.

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.

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;)

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.