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peace ornament on tree

peace ornament on tree

Jai-Dee Dancewear is a sustainable leotard company celebrating the beauty, wisdom and value of women who dance. Our blog serves to inform, inspire and connect our community of socially conscious women in ballet and beyond. All hearts are welcome here.

Peace and joy go hand and hand. We wish you both as you continue through this holiday season. Today on our blog, we offer the gift of perspective from an extraordinary and beloved leader in the dance world.

With heart,

Sustainable leotards empowering women through ecofriendly clothing.

The Other Side of Nutcracker

by Sarah Wroth

At the Jacobs School of Music, where I am in my third year as a chair, artistic coordinator and member of the artistic staff, we have just wrapped up our weekend-long Nutcracker season. I have always loved Nutcracker. It has been a huge part of my holiday life, every year, for thirty years now. There are so many elements to the practice, rehearsal, story and atmosphere of this ballet that give me warm feelings of gratitude for the glorious joy my art can create. Now positioned on the directing side of things, my eyes are also open to all kinds of nuances that enrich my appreciation for the magic of Nutcracker.

Nutcracker offers a growth chart to its dancers. This ballet visits annually for most, and with its unchanging shape, it allows artists to stand as tall as they can to see if they have grown since the previous years’ experience. In lives built from artistic opportunities, the “who does what” each year is significant. As a dancer, I constantly felt the weight of casting in my life. As a leader, I feel not only its weight, but also the importance balancing that weight throughout the group.

Leading with understanding

Here at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, it is not a dictatorship. Our faculty tends to cast by committee and our process aims to hear everyone’s voice. It is not a perfect system. There is no perfect system, and there will always be someone who feels shortchanged. In my work, I try at all times to remember my experiences as a dancer. When casting goes up, I keep my door open. Anyone seeking to better understand casting or its process has the opportunity to connect. Sometimes expressed feelings are warranted and a learning experience or application for a bigger push is granted. Sometimes, casting sparks a difficult conversation about how certain levels of studio work or personal dedication are being perceived. Casting is a giant web of learning that has huge potential for positive reinforcement of work well done.

Sharing with appreciation

My life as an artistic leader has also helped me understand the many layers of human resources involved in making the Nutcracker story a success. As a dancer, it is so challenging to lay your heart on the stage for an audience forty times in a row, but at least there is a bow at the end of each show. In these concluding moments, the performing artists are celebrated and receive joyful appreciation from the audience. As an artistic leader, I also get to FEEL these joyful reactions floating around the packed houses for Nutcracker. I get to swim in the sentiments being created. This opportunity grants me an even greater understanding of what ballet is capable of and shows me the magnificent reactions good dance can create.

But, there are so many silent heroes behind the magic and hard work visible onstage. From wardrobe staff to parent volunteers, there are countless people working on the inside of the Nutcracker machine, often working a good distance away from the joy they are creating first hand. Every successful Nutcracker performance is a collective, coordinated effort. There is certainly enough applause to go around; we simply have to remember to share appreciation with those working beyond the stage and wings.

Refueling with inspiration

Whether you are an artist or artistic staff, if you are ever in need of inspiration during the Nutcracker, you only have to lower your gaze a bit and clamp eyes with an excited child. Children – both performing and attending – are everywhere in this show, so thirsty for all the magic it brings. The children onstage are bubbling with the excitement born from the responsibility of performing and joy of interacting with their heroes – dancers older and wiser than they are. The children in the audience also bubble with excitement, ready to experience the enduring magic of Nutcracker.

Whether you are old or young, just starting your ballet career or well on the other side of physicality, this ballet creates lasting memories and sensational experiences for all involved. Long live Nutcracker and its ability to bring new ballet understanding to ALL of us.

two dancers holding hands at cheek

two dancers standing side by side holding hands at cheek

Credit: Brooke Trisolini for Cirio Collective

Jai-Dee Dancewear is a sustainable leotard company celebrating the beauty, wisdom and value of women who dance. Our blog serves to inform, inspire and connect our community of socially conscious women in ballet and beyond. All hearts are welcome here.

We love the spirit of Giving Tuesday but also know that deep work and real change require sustainable support. In turn, we are excited to launch our new GIVE and RECEIVE project. You are invited to join us in giving – and to also enjoy receiving – all season long. Together, let’s increase access to dance and support the making of a creative, kind and sustainable world.

GIVE and RECEIVE Project

DATES: 12/3/19 – 1/3/20.

GIVE PHASE: You give to a nonprofit.

Any nonprofit or organization that supports the arts, the environment or social causes you believe in counts. Choose your favorite or find a new one below!

Make a minimum donation of $10 to qualify for the program.

Forward us your donation receipt at hello@jaideedancewear.com with subject GIVE and RECEIVE*

RECEIVE PHASE: You receive a Jai-Dee Gift Card.

Once we receive and review your donation receipt, we will issue you a gift card via email.

Your gift card amount will MATCH your donation amount up to $50!

Use your gift card to shop jaideedancewear.com before our campaign ends 1/3/20.

*There are countless ways to give beyond money. This season, if you give with time, mentorship or any form of activism you find meaningful, share it with us at hello@jaideedancewear.com to qualify for this project. By giving other people access to your resources, we are giving more access to ours.

Below are just a few organizations serving art, earth and citizenry to consider supporting.

National Support

CTZNWELL: a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization creating content and community where wellness and justice meet.

American Civil Liberties Union: realizing the promise of the Bill of Rights for all and expanding the reach of its guarantees to new areas.

One Tree Planted:: a non-profit organization focused on global reforestation.

Farmer’s Footprint:: a coalition of farmers, educators, doctors, scientists, and business leaders offering a sustainable path forward through regenerative agriculture.

Americans for the Arts: the nation’s leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts and arts education.

The Actors Fund: a national human services organization serving artists and performers.

Project Plie: in partnership with Boys & Girls Club of America, Project Plie introduces ballet to a broad array of children across the United States.

Arts in the Armed Forces: uses the powerful shared experience of the arts to start conversations between military and civilian life.

Black Iris Project: a premier ballet collaborative that champions new Black-centric works and arts education.

Neighborhood Support

Cirio Collective

Abilities Dance Boston

Ballet Sun Valley

Seattle Dance Collective

Co-Lab Dance

…and so many more! Explore your own local and national causes that feel meaningful for YOU and join us in giving and receiving this season.

With heart,

Sustainable leotards empowering women through ecofriendly clothing.

close up of dancer holding scarf in hands

close up of dancer holding scarf in hands

Credit: Corina Gill photographed by Katie Salerno

Jai-Dee Dancewear is a sustainable leotard company celebrating the beauty, wisdom and value of women who dance. Our blog serves to inform, inspire and connect our community of socially conscious women in ballet and beyond. All hearts are welcome here.

Here we are, already moving into the 2019 holiday season. This year, my intention is to remember that we are the makers of these holidays. We create the rituals and traditions, the gifts and gatherings, the lists and expectations. We create all of it, and yet we forget we can recreate it all too.

Perhaps this year we let the spirit of the season honor our imperfect lives and hearts as they are in this moment. Maybe we bring more gentleness into the mix. Whether current life is cheerful, utterly challenging, or a tangled web of both, gentleness can help hold it. As you create your own version of the holidays this year, here are a few gentle gift ideas to consider along the way.

Fire Leaf Extracts

close up of pointe shoes and Fire Leaf Pile Cream

Credit: Skye Schmidt for Fire Leaf Extracts

I first heard about Fire Leaf Extracts on the Ballet to Business podcast. This dancer-founded company makes a thoughtful line of wellness products for active bodies seeking balance. I love the educational work they are doing around CBD, their 1% for the planet partnership and how they are supporting community with their ambassador program. Gifting the CBD Plie Relief Cream and CBD Restore Drops to yourself or other active people in your life is a wonderfully unique way to encourage ease throughout the season.

Coming up for Black Friday, Fire Leaf Extracts is offering our readers 25% off any purchase of $70 or more, plus free shipping. Use FIRE25 at checkout.

Ballerina Project Book

pages of Ballerina Book Project

Credit: Ballerina Project Book

The Ballerina Project Book is a stunning celebration of dance and dancers. It is a gentle, powerful reminder that there is so much beauty in the world. Gift this book to yourself, to other dancers or perhaps to someone who may not have access to live art or know much about dance at all. Gift one to a lobby or waiting room you frequent and witness the gentleness it inspires in that space.

We have TWO of these beautiful books to share with our community. Follow along with us on Instagram and reshare one of our posts on your own page for a chance to receive one of these lovely books.

Jai-Dee and Friends

three dancers smiling together

Credit: Katie Salerno for Jai-Dee Dancewear

Now through 12/2/19, you can purchase and gift Jai-Dee leotards with $50 off using shop code FALLACCESS. It’s a price that’s gentler on your wallet, and it’s dancewear that’s gentler on the earth. If you are looking to add a bit of fun to this gift, fellow ECONYL® brand Swedish Stockings has an amazing line of colored and patterned tights. Skip the holiday packaging all together and wrap your finds right into a Guppyfriend® bag (a perfect present on its own) for a holiday gift that is both gentle and generous.

For apparel gifts beyond leotards and tights, I am currently loving everything from Left Edit – a sustainable brand that proves we can be gentle with the earth AND bold with design. My favorite piece is The Vera and I adore the creative ways it can be styled and layered.

Sleep Support

Blanket and Eye Pillow

Credit: Bearaby and Collective Hand

Especially on performance nights, a sleep-friendly environment and quiet evening rituals are critical for transitioning towards regenerative sleep. To help downregulate energy, we love the weighted eye pillows and face masks from Collective Hand in our home. Everything at this textile design studio in Brooklyn is created consciously and their silky, naturally dyed fabrics are not only soothing on the face but also beautiful on the nightstand. The masks create a cozy cocoon of darkness and the gentle weight induces full body relaxation.

A weighted blanket is another essential companion for restless bodies and anxious minds. Many weighted blankets have plastic beads in them but Bearaby makes blankets and duvets with sustainable fabrics and no fillers. The chunky-knit blankets from Kanthae Bae are also lovely and offer some natural weight. These two companies offer beautiful options to gift oneself and loved ones.

Climate Credits

climate credits

Credit: Reformation

Make your holiday travels and to-dos gentler on the planet by purchasing climate credits with Reformation. Climate credit purchases at Reformation help invest in clean energy and support carbon-reducing projects in partnership with NativeEnergy. Purchasing climate credits are an easy way to soften our collective “holiday impact” on the environment. Also, they also make a thoughtful, meaningful gift for the conscious travelers in your life.

You can discover additional gentle gift ideas and guides HERE and at The Good Trade.

With heart,

Sustainable leotards empowering women through ecofriendly clothing.

back of dancer standing with wheelchair in front of mirror with one arm lifted gazed shift up

back of dancer standing with wheelchair in front of mirror with one arm lifted gazed shift up

Credit: Abilities Dance Boston

Jai-Dee Dancewear is a sustainable leotard company celebrating the beauty, wisdom and value of women who dance. Our blog serves to inform, inspire and connect our community of socially conscious women in ballet and beyond. All hearts are welcome here.

Through ballet, many of us find permission to be wholly ourselves. Yet we also discover expectations and barriers in ballet that deny that very wholeness. By striving to embody various artform “ideals” at all costs, I myself have been complicit in upholding these barriers. Such striving harmed my body and limited my dance career, yes, but it’s the wider impact of such conformity that matters. As a white, small, able-bodied, cisgendered female, I often failed to use points of privilege to help “disrupt antiquated ableist beliefs and disseminate the value of inclusion through dance.”

Each of us decide what dance is, who it is for and why it is beautiful. Collectively, I believe we can bring far more belonging into dance. Instead of simply striving to squeeze ourselves into the shape of a dancer, perhaps we strive to reshape dance itself.

Today’s guest, Ellice Patterson of Abilities Dance Boston, is doing just that. You can join the movement by supporting their work HERE.

With heart,

Sustainable leotards empowering women through ecofriendly clothing.

Perspective on…

by Ellice Patterson

harmful norms

Most don’t realize there are harmful aspects of this art form that narrowly define what it means to be a professional dancer. Once we start having conversations at the director level and widening that narrow range to allow for diverse talent to flow through the space, we will be well on our way to a more equitable industry.

body ownership

Dancers can take ownership of their bodies and their stories by first being true to their bodies’ range of motion through open communication with their choreographers. If a choreographer imposes some big movement that they might not be able to safely execute, they must let the choreographer know. It will look better to modify, keep the dancer safe and support a longer career.

empowering oneself

I believe to empower oneself in the dance world is to constantly take class and work on technique, strengthening and conditioning the body. Harmful body image, pressure to go beyond limits and the impulse to mask true identities all fade away when honing one’s craft and not just striving to be “the best.” We can empower ourselves by focusing on what really matters – technique, emotional connection to the piece and the audience, strengthening connection with your partner, and more.

creating inclusive community

I wish community members would ask, “Who do we think of when we think of disability? What does it mean to be a working dancer? Who does that look like? How can we value diverse identities without falling into stereotypes?”

We begin with dance educators welcoming diverse identities and bodies to grow in the studio. This means  making sure rehearsal spaces are accessible. We modify technique and expand the definition of certain movements. We teach both the traditional female and male form of ballet in class. By allowing the safe expression and development of dancers, the next generation of dancers (and next generation in general) feel better represented.

leadership

Dance leaders should think about who is dancing and choreographing in their companies. A strong company has different ethnicities, genders, disabilities and life experiences in their dancers and choreographers. Choreographers should be allowed to tell stories that are authentic to them and their experience. Same sex love stories, racism, current political events that resonate with their identities, and more, should be told (editor note here: one stunning example of this in action is James Whiteside’s New American Romance)

Within my company, there is a basic framework that choreographers follow for different access points within our show. Outside of that, my only requirement is strong story-telling and that dancers are dancing at their fullest capacity (which looks very different yet still beautiful dancer to dancer).

I think there is a small growing movement of small companies and independent choreographers working to express different racial, gender, and sexuality identities in their dancers and pieces they create. There are still not a lot of companies outside of ours working to train and promote professional disabled dancers within other companies. For that, there needs to be a new framework of entry into companies that takes into account the whole dancer instead of relying on a narrow set of audition protocols.

collective support

Having to constantly prove why my body matters on stage and in leadership has taken a toil. I’m just now starting to put myself first. I put on loud early ’00s R&B and dance around in my bedroom. I make sure my body is nourished with good food. Talking with my community helps me regain strength and keep fighting.

You can support our efforts by following the work we’re doing at our website and through social media @abilitiesdanceboston. We welcome any questions on what we do, how to be a respectful audience and ways to consume the work. We’re always happy to promote inclusion with our community!

two women dancers discussing access in art sitting against white curtain

two women dancers discussing access sitting together against a white curtain

Credit: Brooke Trisolini for Cirio Collective

Jai-Dee Dancewear is a sustainable leotard company celebrating the beauty, wisdom and value of women who dance. Our blog serves to inform, inspire and connect our community of socially conscious women in ballet and beyond. All hearts are welcome here.

While studying to become a yoga teacher back in 2006, I learned to organize ideas into themes. Using themes to pair postures and build sequences taught me to create structure and clarity while also encouraging creative inquiry. Today, themes continue to provide a backbone for conditioning classes I teach in Boston. Whether or not I explicitly announce these themes, they shape the direction and energy of every sequence I teach.

In all kinds of contexts, themes help us filter ideas, establish commitment and invite curiosity. At times, it makes sense to actively create themes to work with. Most of the time though, themes surface on their own. These themes appear in work, life and love, pushing us to engage with issues that matter to us and others.

Theme: Access

It feels natural – inevitable even – that themes emerge to guide the topics of choice on our blog. At the start of 2019, identity became one such theme. Over a stretch of months, we explored the ever-changing shape of identity with a retired dancer. We celebrated intersectional identity with a rising star.  Then, we challenged what creates ideal dance space with Luminous Architecture, and we reimagined the identity of dance itself with Fjord Review. Identity is a subject with permanent residency at Jai-Dee and now, identity has given rise to a companion theme  – access.

Who has access to the world of dance?

…to arts education?

…live performances?

…creative opportunities?

Who has access to the world of sustainability?

…to education about the environment?

…sustainable clothing?

…supportive communities?

Diving into themes awakens a sense of possibility. At the same time, staying present with such themes requires us to be disciplined with our attention. Less skimming. More digging. For the next several months, we will explore access as it relates to identity, dance and sustainability. As we move in this direction, we appreciate you moving with us.

Looking Ahead

Guest Post: Next week, Ellice Patterson of Abilities Dance Boston shares her wisdom and challenges each of us to help build more accessible, inclusive dance.

Beyond Black Friday: Also rolling out next week is an ethical, low stress version of a Black Friday Sale. This will be month long offer to increase your access to our sustainable dancewear. No Black Friday madness required!

Giving Tuesday  Season: We think generosity deserves more than one day. Therefore, we’ve created an exciting Give and Receive project that will run from 12/3/19 – 1/3/20. You give to a nonprofit. You receive Jai-Dee credit. More details coming soon! In the meantime, if you want us to promote your favorite arts organization or nonprofit in this upcoming campaign, just let us know.

Be sure to be on our email list to access these holiday updates and offerings.

With heart,

Sustainable leotards empowering women through ecofriendly clothing.

PS. Did you catch us featured on The Daily Good? If you don’t already subscribe to this goodness, this is truly the other email list you want to be on.

checking in on our community photoshoot

Credit: Katie Salerno Photography

Jai-Dee Dancewear is a sustainable leotard company celebrating the beauty, wisdom and value of women who dance. Our blog serves to inform, inspire and connect our community of socially conscious women in ballet and beyond. All hearts are welcome here.

Much more than the brief exchange of life updates between two people, checking in is a relational, holistic practice. Whether it is checking in on self’s body, self’s relationship with other/s, self’s work, or self with something else entirely, this process offers a medicinal alternative to being in a world that is constantly ‘checked out.’

An embodied check is directing awareness to the pulsing of your chest when engaged in challenging conversation. It is sensing your interior reactions as you scroll through social media. It is reclaiming beats throughout your day to simply feel your feet on the ground and metabolize residue from past moments and interactions. Most simply, checking in means pausing often to consult your intuition about various directions and choice points. Checking in is a wide-ranging, inclusive practice, meant to be creatively interpreted through and with our bodies. By bringing our bodies and minds presently into our spaces – even our digital spaces – we evoke a more generous form of being. We become better able to register our wholeness in each moment, while also better seeing the wholeness of others.

This then, is my summer self checking in with yours.

In our corner of happenings at Jai-Dee, we recently wrapped up a photoshoot for our e-commerce store launching this fall. This event gave us the perfect opportunity to check in with our company vision and explore how to visually express our sustainability and community values. The collaborative nature of the photoshoot required a flowing form of checking in, each of us offering and receiving contributions with openness and curiosity. The group relished in the slow process of making organic and authentic art together, and the moments captured are a lovely reflection of this co-creation. While most of the photography is in queue for our fall launch, you can join us on instagram for sneak peeks and to learn more about the beautiful artists who contributed.

While ongoing projects at Jai-Dee are feeling lively, my summer is also making room for stillness. Especially here in New England, this bright warmth feels so transient and worth savoring. Perhaps the energy of summer is also motivating you to create and explore, as well as encouraging you to simply be. Maybe these longer days have helped shine light on important holidays of the season, such as Juneteeth and PRIDE month and given you more time to lean into issues that matter to you. As you balance the work of both engaging and unplugging, perhaps your summer self is discovering space for restoration and renewal.

Regardless of where the energy of summer is leading you, my hope is that full embodiment practice is traveling with you, nourishing your relationship to self, others and all your creative pursuits. For me, this means spending a little less time online this summer, ready to back in with news on our launch next season.

With heart,

Sustainable leotards empowering women through ecofriendly clothing.

Sustainable leotards empowering women through ecofriendly clothing.

Join us backstage for community news & launch party offers.

 

close up black and white photograph of dancer Isabella Boylston resting on her right side smiling with her arms clasped overhead

Credit: Isabella Boylston photographed by Karolina Kuras for Fjord Review

Jai-Dee Dancewear is a sustainable leotard company celebrating the beauty, wisdom and value of women who dance. Our blog serves to inform, inspire and connect our community of socially conscious women in ballet and beyond. All hearts are welcome here.


Last January, our blog turned towards the sweeping topic of identity. Who we are, how we relate to others, how others relate to us and how we inhabit the world both as individuals and communities, these are inquiries still unfolding in this digital space. With guidance from our beloved guest writers this season, we are discovering a treasure chest of ideas, possibilities and insight.

The stunning dance publication, Fjord Review, creates space for the world of dance to collectively practice such existential contemplation. In Fjord’s first print edition, editor Penelope Ford calls on poet Paul Valery, “But what then is dance, and what can steps say?” The spirit of this inquiry weaves throughout the exquisite pages of Fjord; the magazine’s phenomenal contributors illuminate a world of possibility in response. This publication invites us to deeply appreciate, critique and expand the identity of dance together. You can pick up your own print edition of the beautiful Fjord Review #1 here.

So many thanks to editor Penelope Ford for sharing the story of Fjord Review with our readers.

With heart,

Sustainable leotards empowering women through ecofriendly clothing.

What’s in a name

Penelope Ford, editor of Fjord Review

“Fjord Review—fjord, like in Norway?” is sometimes the response I get when introducing the publication. Fair enough, too. Fjord doesn’t have an obvious connection to ballet and dance, our subject, but in part that was by design; when I dreamt up Fjord Review, it was to have an expansive take on dance as an art, and not necessarily subscribe to the tropes of how dance has been represented in the media up until now. The word fjord, which bears some connection to my name, is besides a strong structure in nature. I personally feel the connection between dance and our natural world is worth emphasizing, especially at this fragile time for our planet.

The Spark

Fjord Review was inspired in part by a particular moment, rather than a love of dance in general (although, this obviously I have). I think many balletomanes and dance fans can trace their obsession back to a single performance—a kind of dance epiphany. For me, it was seeing Tanja Liedtke’s “Slight,” a contemporary update on Romantic ballet, “La Sylphide” with a rebellious streak. Performed by perhaps a dozen dancers, it was mischievous, kinaesthetic and buzzing with ideas. It opened a new dimension in dance for me; and it was so powerful, I thought, it ought to be written about.

The tragic epilogue to this story is that Liedtke, on the eve of taking up one of Australia’s highest positions in dance as artistic director of Sydney Dance Company, was struck by a vehicle and killed. Dance is the ephemeral art, this we know. I think, what we hope to achieve with writing about dance is not to define, but rather to capture the human experience of seeing dance, the meaning and truth of it.

The Craft

In 2009, I left my native Australia for Toronto, Canada. I spent my time reading ‘the dance shelves’ at the library and seeing as much dance as possible. Simultaneously, traditional print media started to feel the pinch with the rise of online (free) news sources. The global financial crisis contributed to an ill economic climate. Newspapers started to lay off writers, and specialist dance critics were, alas, among the first to be cut. The writing was on the wall for dance criticism as we knew it. I reached out to a few critics, wondering if they would like to write for a new dance journal called Fjord Review, for a fee I could afford. These writers formed the basis for our online dance archive. I’m pleased to continue to have their vast knowledge and brilliant writing across our pages.

The first online iteration of Fjord was around 2012. We have since gone through a number of redesigns, mostly as my own digital skills came of age (as an independent publisher, I have had and continue to do a lot of ‘upskilling.’) At present we publish about twenty regular dance critics writing from London, Paris, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Boston, Melbourne, Sydney, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Toronto. Writing about dance is a demanding task, requiring not only talent and an understanding of the field, but an uncommon amount of sacrifice. It is a joy for me to publish the dance criticism I receive because frequently, it astounds me. The best criticism, I find, occupies the curious space between subjectivity and objectivity, it resonates, and it also must have something to say, meaning that it is civic as well as poetic in many instances.

The Evolution

Recently we published Fjord Review #1, a limited-edition print magazine, a collection of dance criticism, feature articles, and interviews, as well as creative photoshoots with some major names in dance. Dance photographer Karolina Kuras has been instrumental in the production of the print magazine. Not only a gifted artist, she’s dedicated and intrepid, as well as generous and kind. The dancers love working with her. The other key to producing the print edition was finding the right editorial designer. Enter Lorenzo Spatocco, who translates ideas across pages in spite of working an ocean and a language apart. Lorenzo, who works in Rome, Italy, also designed our logo. I am so grateful to all our supporters, and thanks especially to Jai-Dee Dancewear for inviting me to contribute to this blog and who is a lead sponsor of the print edition.

Sustainable leotards empowering women through ecofriendly clothing.

Join us backstage for community news & launch party offers.

 

elephants eating leaves under a thatched roof


Jai-Dee Dancewear is a sustainable leotard company celebrating the beauty, wisdom and value of women who dance. Our blog serves to inform, inspire and connect our community of socially conscious women in ballet and beyond. All hearts are welcome here.


On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans participated in the first Earth Day. This massive turnout stimulated the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and passages of Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts that same year. It was a hopeful start.

Unfortunately, our mistreatment towards the earth has only increased since that time. Especially with the past thirty years, we have rapidly, persistently and even knowingly marched ourselves into climate catastrophe.

Earth Day is now a global event, and a glance at the ‘gram today certainly suggests worldwide concern for the planet. Social media manipulation and green sheen aside, our hearts may be in the right place. Our behaviors though, those remain in cycles and systems antithetical to the values we are hashtagging. It’s our lack of action that nullifies our well-intentioned hearts.

The earth doesn’t need us to be perfect, but it definitely needs us to be so much better –and being better depends on doing better. Here are a few things I have found worth doing.

Give up the illusion of good

When we insist on engineering a “good” image, we lose touch with the whole picture. We develop blind spots around our failures. Letting our humanity come into vision (in life, work, companies, digital spaces and beyond) is essential to our progress.

Slow the f* down

When I slow down, I am less reflexive. I buy less and consume less. I access discernment and become more intentional in my actions. I am less defensive – more congruent with life around me. If we want to change our behaviors, we have to slow down enough to work with them. I start every morning by reminding myself to slow the f* down.

Listen to The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming by David Wallace-Wells.

Brace yourself for a whole lot of truth-telling. This book is a clear, organized “kaleidoscopic accounting of the human costs” associated with the climate crisis we have authored. It is an important, weighty and poetic piece of work.

Cancel Carbon with Reformation

In our greenwashed world, Reformation (carbon neutral since 2015) stands out for taking meaningful action and influencing others to do the same. Their recent “Carbon is Canceled” campaign invites us all to offset carbon by switching to wind energy and by shopping the climate credits available on their site. These are simple, affordable and impactful actions (linked directly on their website) well worth exploring.

Join Earth Day 2019 to Protect our Species

Bees, coral reefs, elephants, giraffes, plants, whales and other endangered and threatened species are the focus of Earth Day 2019 (remember eliminating single use plastic was the 2018 focus? This is a good time to recheck our habits there too!) Visit the Earth Day 2019 Protect our Species campaign to get involved.

Wash laundry with a GuppyFriend® bag

The GuppyFriend® was featured in our post on microplastics last year and it is still the product we recommend for washing leotards and other activewear in. Hopefully, you already own one (sold at Patagonia) but don’t forget to use it! For me, this is a regular habit that reminds me of the daily choices I can make to reduce my harm.

Rewild your heart

We have engineered our landscapes and lives in a way that distances us from the natural world. We forget just how intimately and inextricably connected we are to the web of life. By stepping regularly into nature, we remember all that is worth protecting. Need a little inspiration? Connect with Jessica McCarthy here.

An annual Earth – ish Day is definitely not going to save the planet. As the slogan goes, it’s going to take Earth Day every day. With ongoing, civic participation (that’s us!), we have the power to bring our behaviors, politics and systems into alignment with our values. Our reality is being shaped by the steps we do or do not take. It’s urgent that we take the next step.

With heart,

Sustainable leotards empowering women through ecofriendly clothing.

Sustainable leotards empowering women through ecofriendly clothing.

Join us backstage for community news & launch party offers.

 

feet standing in nature

Photography Credit: Kitfox Valentín

Jai-Dee Dancewear is a sustainable leotard company celebrating the beauty, wisdom and value of women who dance. Our blog serves to inform, inspire and connect our community of socially conscious women in ballet and beyond. All hearts are welcome here.


To dance is to converse with both freedom and restraint. For most of us, it’s the freedom that speaks to us first. It’s the freedom that calls us to the path. Too soon though, our bodies, minds and the ecological framework in which dance is nested introduce restriction. Walls are erected, constructing an intricate maze where freedom is still possible, but more obstructed.

Finding freedom within restraint is undeniably part of the art – perhaps even the heart of it. But when we spiral so deeply into the maze that we can’t feel the ground, see the sky or access the field where we first felt free, we know we have given too much up.

Today on our blog, Jessica McCarthy guides us out of the maze and into alchemy.

With heart,

Sustainable leotards empowering women through ecofriendly clothing.

Change is Constant: An Ode to the Evolution as a Dancer

Jessica McCarthy

“A village, a center, a space within the landscape for artists and curious seekers of something more than what this modern cultural construct has to offer. A place where people come to learn, explore, heal, and grow into themselves then take that back out into the world – a ripple effect, led by example. Vibrant, full of wilderness and wildlife. I see expansive lands. A center for gathering. Minimal, dynamic, flexible spaces made out of the earth. Spaces for artistic residencies and performances – where dancers can connect back to the roots of the body they came from; the elements. A large bonfire space where we dance awake the dream that lays dormant in our spirits as a domesticated version of the wild human lineage we are descended from. To move as a part of the land – to feed and be fed. Shifting the paradigm through movement.”

The excerpt of writing above comes from a letter I wrote to myself at the beginning of a composition and improvisation class during the summer of 2017. The prompt was something along the lines of, “If you could do anything, what would you do?” While I’ve tweaked the answer a bit since the original draft almost 2 years ago, the essence of this vision remains true.

I felt my relationship to dance shifting long before the moment I laid pencil to paper that July. But in that moment, when surrounded by fellow artists seeking the same path as professional dancers, I still chose to string that selection of words together. To veer away from desiring the “traditional” path of a professional dancer – the one I yearned for, for so very long. There are times when I question my desires, when I feel the slippery seductress of all that I had ever (thought) I wanted from my dance career begin to sing sweet siren songs and lead me astray. But this questioning happens less and less as I become more grounded in my purpose as a dancer, and beyond that identity, as a human being.

I’m in a process of alchemizing my relationship with dance – an ongoing process that will continue to be a thread throughout my life.

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The Alchemizing of a Relationship

No.1 – Extract the elements of the relationship that are the essence of why I chose to dance long ago, and throughout all of the trials and tribulations, still choose to dance today. Imbibe their spirit. Hold them dear to my heart.

No.2 – Compost the residual muck that is no longer serving a beneficial purpose in the relationship. Do not dispel the lingering negative notions, but rather, allow them to decay. Be patient with their death. As the life slips away, reflect on what I’ve learned from their teachings. Invest in the act of gratitude as the organic matter of my relationship transmutes.

No.3 – Fertilize the elemental essences with the rich, organic matter of my past experiences. Allow for the alchemy to take root in the heart of the matter. See what new life takes form.

Repeat steps 1 through 3 as often as is necessary. May be used for all kinds of relationships.

Results may vary

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Sometimes, I speak of dance as though it is a person, or a characterization of all that it is. This is simply for expression’s sake and written creativity. When in truth, dance – the way I have grown to see it, to know it, to experience it – is much more thematic in texture. A human motif. An innate wisdom of the body, experienced across all cultures throughout time, as we know it. The essence of dance, this truth, is what I’ve loved all along. It’s what has kept me invested; what has carried me through countless periods of struggle and pain, enduring the inflicted wounds of rejection and confusion that accompany the path of a professional dancer. All, for the love of dance.

When I was 3, I wanted to dance. I don’t know why, but I did. I insisted on it. I would only wear dresses, mind you, that twirled when I danced around…no matter what the weather was like outside. Simple and pure, movement was life. Fast forward many years and somewhere along the way, I got a little lost. A little caught up in the concerns of “making it” and being a successful professional dancer. Thinking I knew what I wanted out of a professional dance career and that ultimately, I would be happy once this career goal was reached. Until then, being content in my career was always a stone’s throw away. Setting the bar higher. Wanting more out of life. Never stop, never settle. Just a few of the guiding mantras I followed.

My ideas as to what it means for me to be in touch with my human self have shifted as I’ve been walking down a rewilding path. It’s a very hard pill to swallow when it dawns on you that the very thing you love to do has become captive to the domesticated systems that we mostly operate within. When it dawns on you that the very thing you’ve grown up loving and devoting yourself to, has manifested itself into a career paradigm that holds direct conflict with how you actually envision your life unfolding.

The dance studio feels like a cage at times. Surrounded by mirrors, marley, and artificial lighting when I crave woodland paths, giant old-growth Doug firs, the reflection from rushing rivers, and natural light sourced from the sun’s rays, even when that means the direct light is blocked by a thick blanket of clouds on an overcast day here in the PNW. To me, a little natural light is better than lots of artificial light – quality vs. quantity.

Outside of the dance studio, I have weaved an interconnected web of wellness, honoring the wisdom of the natural world and the cycles we find within it as guidance for how I structure my own life, and facilitate my offerings to others. I am a wellness guide to those seeking to cultivate a deeper connection to themselves and the world around them through movement practices that bridge ancient wisdoms with modern methodologies. Luminous Architecture, my body of work, allows me to serve others through my favorite medium: movement. Merging healing movement with holistic lifestyle design, my spirit soars when helping people move through the world, both literally and figuratively, with more awareness and pleasure…similar to how I feel when I’m performing.

I love performing – always have, always will. But to solely be a great performer, that is not where I find purpose. It is not where I feel most useful. To have a profound impact on the way people choose to live their lives while here on this earth, to empower others through the medium of movement, to bring dance back to its roots – dance not just for entertainment, but as a form of ritual, holding ceremony, celebration, mourning, processing the unwavering human experience of emotions. The raw, primal, transcendent aspects of dance that allow us to connect with the human spirit. Shifting the paradigm of human existence through movement. This is where I find purpose.

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Deciding to move away from NYC and relocate to the Pacific Northwest was a big step towards bringing these visions to life. How could I ever connect to the body of the land, the blood of my work, the call to come home as a human while living in the city that never sleeps? Quite honestly, I was getting exhausted.

I have found myself dancing, rehearsing, and performing with BodyVox here in Portland because my dreams seem to unfold in a non-linear way. When an opportunity comes a-knockin’ the least you can do is answer and give it a listen. Old habits die hard, true change takes time, and that siren song is strong enough to bring me back to the studio in the more conventional career path. Now I’m able to balance my rehearsal schedule with plenty of time outdoors, unlike when living in the concrete jungle. Seeking balance along the spectrum of this vision is serving me well, and for that, I am grateful.

My partner and I have begun to explore how to breathe life into our collective vision of merging artistry with humanity through the creation of GROUND + CENTER. A project, and furthermore, a lifestyle, that melds our art forms with our human forms. On the artistic side, combining site specific dance performance and fine art photography. On the human side, combining our need to feed and be fed by the natural world of which we are a part. A project where we, as artistic humans, can ground into the land we live on, the art forms we love, and build a center for people to gather, grow, and awaken the human spirit. Something like that letter I wrote back in 2017. The vision stays alive, is nourished, and it continues to manifest.

Feeling at home within my body, honoring the wisdom of my body, bringing greater awareness as to how my movement – how I choose to move, walk, dance in this world – affects lives, human and non-human alike, and truly has an impact on the bigger picture of this planet. Leading by example, physically moving to inspire others to move more, move more freely, more purposefully, more intentionally, with greater care and deeper connection to themselves and the wild world that cradles them. This is where my movement practice is leading me these days. To work within a landscape, dance among the elements, and create something that sheds light on the heart of the matter – our humanness, our nature; our human nature.

 

Photo Credit: Kitfox Valentín

Contributor Bio:

Jessica McCarthy is a dancer, teacher, and healer based in Portland, OR. A native of Virginia, she holds a BFA in Dance and a minor in Psychology from NYU. Throughout her dance career, she has performed contemporary, opera, and dance theater works by Jamey Hampton + Ashley Roland, Florian Bilbao, Reut Shemesh, Charlotte Boye-Christensen, and Zoe Scofield, among others. Training includes Gaga Intensive, Strictly Seattle, Richmond Ballet, The Ailey School, and Elbert Watson. Jessica is also a 300 hour licensed Mind Body Dancer yoga teacher. Her body of work, Luminous Architecture, weaves an integrative web of movement, healing, wellness practices, and holistic lifestyle design. After 7 years in NYC, Jessica happily calls the Pacific Northwest home, where she dances with BodyVox, serves as a wellness guide, and can be found exploring wild landscapes. She also teaches yoga classes at The Grinning Yogi in PDX and returns to NYC seasonally to offer workshops and women’s gatherings.

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The March equinox marks one of two times each year that day and night unfold to equal lengths. This ‘balancing act’ of darkness and light is a precarious collection of conditions. It is movement, rhythm, angles and relationship that together create this equality. Today, as I tune into the equinox, I marvel at how this simple balance can be expressed amidst the chaos in our universe.

As a society, we have a tendency to put ‘balance’ in a bucket for later. After I finish this performance run. After I secure a contract. After my baby learns to sleep. Certainly, taking refuge on the other side of a high-stress period is an important part of living sustainably. But what if balance doesn’t have to just wait? Could it possibly be found within the chaos? Perhaps balance could be less conditional, more creative, an infusing of real-life with oxygen and perspective. As I finish this performance run. As I secure a contract. As my baby learns to sleep.

In the Middle of it All, Somewhat Elevated

Alongside the early buds of spring here in the Northern Hemisphere, ballet companies unveil their upcoming seasons. International auditions wrap up and company contract renewals are distributed. Retirements, staff changes and promotions are announced. New dancers are hired and some dancers are given notice (been there!). In certain years, there’s room for expansion, opportunity and risk-taking. Other years call for cutting back and working with restraint. With a busy performance season still underway, the low rumble of the future inches closer. A tangled blend of emotions – from anticipation and excitement, to stress and disappointment – weave with notable imbalance through studio halls.

Whether experiencing or witnessing change, the ground beneath every dancer is shifting at least a little (or perhaps a lot) this spring. Some of the changes announced in the ballet world have signaled progress (though nowhere near equality) in our artform. As all forms of news, activity and emotion swirl through the air, balance may seem out of reach – even trivial. Yet balance is the very thing that allows us to be in the middle of our chaos, and also somewhat elevated.

Expanding the Repertoire for Balance

The commodified version of balance is sold to us in the form of face masks, vacations and wine. It’s advertised as the serene parenting professional who “has it all together” between her cross-training regimens, meal plans and supermom strategies. Such comedic, unrealistic representations distort what balance is and how it is cultivated. They trick our minds into believing that balance is something we either indulge in sometimes or achieve for always.

It’s freeing to remember balance is not something to master; it is something to tilt towards. The equinox arrives showing us it is an experience to move into, pass through and rhythmically move back towards again.

Balance, and the daily habits that sponsor it, look different for each of us. It’s an ongoing, personal process of inquiry and discovery to truly tailor the fit. But for all of us, it’s important to identify balance as something larger than ourselves. An artist’s healthy inner life is interdependent with a healthy arts community at large. Expanding outward in the name of balance is as equally important as turning inward. Rather than depleting us, engaging outwardly as an arts advocate broadens perspective, fuels inspiration and enriches passion with purpose. With small, everyday actions, balance becomes something we can access and experience together.

Three Action Steps:

  • JOIN Americans for the Arts
    The National Arts Action Summit and Arts Advocacy Day occured in Washington, DC earlier this March. This summit brought arts activists together in support of strong public policies and appropriating increased public funding for the arts. Hosted by Americans for the Arts, cultural and civic organizations partnered to advocate for issues like arts education policy, the charitable tax deduction and funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. You can JOIN Americans for the Arts to support this annual event and to engage with their tremendous efforts all year long.
  • EXPLORE The United States of Arts
    Since the beginning of 2015, the National Endowment for the Arts has been gathering stories from the general public and grantees, elected officials and agency directors, artists and art lovers across the country about the importance of art in their lives and their communities. EXPLORE these geographically organized stories to spark creative ideas and connect to your community as an arts advocate.
  • ENCOURAGE Creativity
    As dancers, you already know why #TheArtsMatter. This Encourage Creativity campaign (created by Americans for the Arts) is designed to reach your power-holding policymakers, business leaders, parents and teachers. These wonderful resources can be used by YOU to advocate for access to the arts in your community and to educate those around you. Start by SHARING this compelling (and adorable!) video. Supplement your efforts with Why the Arts Matter State Factsheets.

When we embody balance as a daily rhythm that bends us both inward and outward, we become better artists and also better citizens. However imperfect these practices are, they still seem to create the occasional magic of an equinox, right in the middle of our lives.

With heart,

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