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.

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;)

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

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!

danseuse balletwear

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I firmly believe that ballet is for everyone.  Physically invigorating, emotionally empowering, and creatively freeing, ballet feeds every portion of a person.  From the proper management of bodily stress to the discipline of repetition, there is always something to be learned.  Regardless of age, body type, and experience, the benefits of a ballet class are universally attainable- the “ballerina body”, however, is not quite so easily acquired.  Enter Danseuse Balletwear.  Created by style blogger/recreational ballet dancer, Michelle Haswell, and her fashion designer friend, Aleksandra “Dust” Stojadinov of the label Disturbance, Danseuse is a collection of luxe warm-ups designed to flatter all body types, from the lithe young ballerina to the one-class-a-week mother of 3, and every dancer in between.  The line was born from Ms. Haswell’s struggles with the common insecurities that seem to spawn from most balletwear, and her unique vision of a truly beautiful,

“universal and luxurious collection, which is kind to all bodies and ages.”

Each piece reflects the graceful world from which it was inspired, incorporating sweet tulle hems, delicate wrapped fabrics, and soft feminine cuts to create elegant garments fit for a prima- and a pupil.

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I had the pleasure of testing out two pieces from the Danseuse collection, made to order in The Netherlands by the talented Miss Dust herself.  The darling Lana romper (pictured above) is the barre equivalent of your favorite onesie: soft, snuggly, effortless and a magnet for compliments.  Even FBP’s artistic director stopped me in the hallway to check out the romper and let me know just how much he liked it!  The coziest warmup in my arsenal, by far, and I’m loving this neutral pastel pallet- perfect for spring.

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Also fluttering their way into the FBP studios, the breezy Wendy shorts feature a loose fit and curved hem, with high cut sides that resemble a longer style of the infamously flattering “SAB skirt“.  These are perfect for keeping your hips warm without the restriction of any tight, clingy fabrics restricting your movement.  All of the perks of a skirt, in shorts form…kind of like the ballerina version of that beloved skort from your childhood…see, dreams do come true!  And with a name like Wendy, you know these are sure to be my new favorite shorts…

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Both pieces are made to have a looser fit and feature adjustable drawstring waists, so you can easily tailor the garment precisely to your preference- grand battements to the gods, who’s with me?!

PS- Check out this post from Danseuse Balletwear co-founder, Michelle Haswell’s “pointers” (heh heh) for preparing for your first pointe class.  I must admit, in my first pointe class I was guilty of that dreaded ribbon faux pas!

PPS- Leg warmers in the first photo by Rubiawear.

PPPS- Stay tuned for an exclusive chance to get your hands on some of my favorite brands, coming later this week!