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.

Ballet to Business Logo

Ballet to Business Logo

Credit: Ballet to Business

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.

“What is one enduring gift or lesson from dance that has served your life beyond the stage?”

This beautiful question is one Jordan Nicoleh asks all her guests as the host of the Ballet to Business podcast. As a recent guest already familiar with her show, I was prepared for this inquiry to surface. When Jordan unfolded the question towards the end of our conversation though, it caused me an unexpected pause. It wasn’t the question itself that caught me off guard; it was the surprising flavor of gratitude that rolled in behind it. While my appreciation for dance is always within reach, it’s rare for that appreciation to be as unburdened and clear as it was in that moment. Reflecting on the flow of the interview, I now understand how that clarity was cultivated.

Space for wholeness

A history with ballet can be complex. Jordan’s podcast holds space to explore such complexity, allowing more complete stories of dance and of dancers to emerge. Personal stories about ballet and business explored on the show are collectively creating community stories. These stories touch on our shared strengths, our common forms of suffering and our ability to make meaning out of all kinds of experiences with dance. As both a listener and a guest of the show, this podcast feels honest, insightful and even therapeutic.

Timing the takeaways

By the time Jordan invited me to consider a positive takeaway from my time as a dancer, we had already given voice to some of my struggles in ballet (including anxiety, a harmful self-image, the fear of failure and an experience with layoff, among other things). The wonderful irony in bringing awareness to pain points is that acknowledgment can become its own form of healing. Honesty clears the path beyond the struggle where unobstructed perspective is more accessible.

While I could at any moment tick off a grand number of things dance has gifted me, it was a unique experience to make this inquiry with my body residing in the “rolled open” perspective that conversation with Jordan made possible. I offered what I felt most directly in that state – the awareness that dance taught me (eventually!) to keep opening my heart towards all the challenges with life, work, love and even self.

An invitation to listen

You can listen to the wonderful Ballet to Business podcast HERE and connect to the Ballet to Business community HERE. I urge you to follow Jordan’s lead and host honest conversations with yourself and with others about both the struggles and the gifts you credit to dance.

With heart,

Sustainable leotards empowering women through ecofriendly clothing.

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.

 

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.

+ + +

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

+ + +

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.

+ + +

 

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.

Sustainable leotards empowering women through ecofriendly clothing.

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woman wearing silk dress and holding a black break a leg scenery bag

Credit: scenerybags.com

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 sketched our first leotard designs for Jai-Dee Dancewear in March 2018. Exactly one year later, these designs have (at last!) fully come to life. As dancers test our production-ready size sets, we continue moving towards an official fall launch with gratitude and anticipation.

Followers of Jai-Dee may recall our leotards will feature ECONYL® regenerated nylon. This regenerative process transforms ocean and landfill waste into the fiber that gives rise to our fabric. We can’t wait for you to experience how this material looks, feels and performs.

Of course, a sustainable future needs more than ECONYL® fiber. A sustainable future needs more than Jai-Dee Dancewear. A sustainable future depends on all of us. When done with and for community, the possibilities for better are endless. Today, I introduce you to a fellow brand reducing waste and investing in the future in a unique and wonderful way!

Meet SCENERY: from backdrops to bags and beyond

In collaboration with designers, shows and theaters, SCENERY creates original, handmade bags out of retired theater backdrops. These drops were damaged, unusable, stuck in storage or en route to landfills. SCENERY collects this waste, transforming rejected curtains into an array of beautiful totes, clutches and bags. A portion of each bag sold is donated to the non-profit Theater Development Fund (TDF) to help “bring the power of the performing arts to everyone.”

Credit: scenerybags.com

Last Christmas, my sweet mum gifted me a Masking Leg Clutch from SCENERY’s Curtain Call Collection. This bag was crafted with retired black drops, known backstage as legs. Unlike one-show backdrops, these legs have lived in theaters and framed multiples stories of the stage. I simply adore my clutch and the piece of theater history it carries. The familiar feel of the black velour fabric transports me back to my own time onstage and in the wings, providing a personal, tactile link from past to present.

Tucked inside each SCENERY bag is a handwritten tag, a loopy sweep of a pen marking the artistic hands which gave these backdrops their fresh, new identity. My Masking Leg clutch has become a favorite accessory for evenings at the ballet. When I take a seat in the audience, my heart is bolstered even more by the knowledge that SCENERY has helped nearly 500 kids access theater through its nonprofit alliance with TDF.

Credit: scenerybags.com

I am struck by how fully SCENERY takes responsibility for its identity as brand. With collaboration at its core, SCENERY expands what is possible for waste, business, art and community. Their work serves a reminder that the world we inhabit is the one we choose to create. With wide open imaginations, we can see beyond the ordinary to co-create a vibrant, sustainable future together.

Join the Giveaway

In celebration of discovering this inspiring neighbor (and also with a small toast our leotards being ready for production), Jai-Dee is hosting a SCENERY bag giveaway. One winner will be selected to receive the beautiful Break A Leg bag – the perfect merde gift for yourself or a friend!

Simple Participation

To participate in the SCENERY giveaway, simply subscribe to our newsletter HERE (by the way – we like a clutter-free inbox too which is why you won’t get more than two hellos from us in a month) If you are already a subscriber, you will be automatically entered.

Extra Enthusiasm

For a second entry, SHARE this link directly with a friend via email or text. You can also spread the word on your preferred social media platform and even through good old-fashioned word-of-mouth. For this additional entry, you’ll have to LET US KNOW you took extra steps to support Jai-Dee Dancewear and SCENERY by talking about our brands. Just drop a line in our box telling us how you shared the post (honor code style!) and you’ll receive a second entry.

Timeline

Giveaway runs until April 1st(no joke!) and winner will be notified by email. We will also announce the winner to our community via the Jai-Dee newsletter and on our Instagram.

While giveaways are fun, this post is really about supporting one another in this creative community. Thanks for being here and supporting both Jai-Dee Dancewear and SCENERY! The next time you need a meaningful gift (how perfect is a Curtain Call bag for a retiring dancer?!), shop with SCENERY to reduce waste, save art and foster a future generation of theatergoers.

Credit: tdf.org

With heart,

Sustainable leotards empowering women through ecofriendly clothing.

*Jai-Dee Dancewear is not affiliated, associated, authorized, endorsed by, or in any way officially connected to SCENERY. We did not receive any compensation for this post or purchases – we simply wish to share this beautiful, impactful project with our community!

Sustainable leotards empowering women through ecofriendly clothing.

Join us backstage for community news & launch party offers.

 

black and white photo of a ballet dancer

Photographer Karolina Kuras, in collaboration with Louiza Babouryan (dress) and Fjord Review (sponsor)

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.


When I received my first contract as a professional dancer, the self-doubt lurking in my viscera took a short vacation. The possibility of making it gave me a blissful break from my own negative narrative. But stressors (some real, some imagined) soon ushered that insecurity right back into my body. It wasn’t until I turned towards the work waiting for me on the inside that I could loosen my anxious grip on goals, destinations and external validation. With practice (and plenty of setbacks), my life today centers far less around arriving and much more around becoming.

While our current culture still pulls us towards linear living with what feels like a forceful tug, there are many creative communities stepping off ladders and rewilding hearts. By developing a community with which we can each lean on and stumble with, it seems to be we, as a society, can embrace the concept of finding feet in liminal life*.

One artist helping light the way is the lovely Shelby Elsbree. Shelby is an artist, arts advocate, writer and former professional dancer whose beautiful work I got to know through our shared history with Boston Ballet. Her creative writing home, Tutus & Tea is a stunning display of living inquiry and art. You’ll want to bookmark her site and visit it often (bring a warm cup of tea and an urushed heart).

Today on our blog, Shelby explores how our past, present and future selves co-create our wholeness. She examines how insight and opportunity emerge when we walk boldly into the disorienting phases and transitions of life. She reminds us that what is most meaningful is often not instantly visible (nor instagrammable…)

This work originally posted on Tutus & Tea last July when we were all much (much) warmer. Enjoy words and photography that promise to slow you down and thaw you out.

With heart,

Sustainable leotards empowering women through ecofriendly clothing.


*Liminal, stemming from the latin root limen, means “threshold.” The liminal space is the crossing over space – a place where one has left something behind yet not fully into something else.


{Hello? It’s me.}

Longing for reasons good enough to return to this sweet space but weak in the face of every distraction to put it off…(is anyone else binging Suits because #MeghanMarkle? Shameless, I admit). Let’s face it, in this social world we live in, we feel the need to filter and fragment every waking moment before deeming it ‘like-worthy’ enough to share and I’m both a victim and a contributor towards the millennial trend. Anyways, I’ve been hiding in here…


…looking for followers. JK 😉

It’s 95˚outside and inspired by solo-museum ventures and reflective walks in the shade, I decided today was the day I’d treat myself to a ‘flash-chilled’ ice coffee to-stay thank you, and a thought-cleanse on this here *carefully-curated* corner of my internet legacy.

To be honest, much of my reservations to keep Tutus&Tea alive and well post-dance-career have centered around transitional doubts that I would have relevant things to say anymore — specifically to a dancer/family audience (hi momma) …but who am I kidding? I always have something to say and for every time that’s gotten me in trouble, it has gotten me twice the amount of opportunity. De rien mes amis.


So, I challenge you to take a seat and stay a while…let’s have a chat 🙂

Has anyone noticed that people’s Instagram captions have turned into mini-blog posts? I read an article that suggested this fit the needs of our dwindling attention spans* which made me sad & left me with two questions:

1. Does this mean people don’t have time for blogs anymore (not to mention articles/books for goodness sake)?! slash If I EVER get back to Tutus&Tea with inspiring content, will people even take the 5/10 minutes to read it…or are they just here for the breathtaking photography & poems ;)…?! (*disclaimer: this miiight have contributed to my procrastination, I place applicable blame here)

…and 2. If Instagram captions are all people have time for, WHAT NEXT? Will iGen be reading blurred news off sidewalk chalk whilst fighting automated-hoverboard traffic? I digress…

Yesterday after yoga, I put on some lipstick and took myself out to the Newseum here in Washington, D.C. If you haven’t been, you’re in for an emotional melting pot of American journalism history that will actually break your heart wide open. The ‘Picture Of the Year’ exhibit gathers 75 years of Pulitzer Prize winning photographs graphic and gripping enough to send you running for the “First Dogs: American Presidents and Their Pets” gallery 4 floors down (we miss you Bo & Sunny) — but not before you take a moment to fight back tears and ruminate over the ol’ “…a picture is worth a thousand words” adage that, in this case of surreal photo journalism, is more like “…a picture is worth our understanding of freedom & captivity, beauty & tragedy, happiness & despair, love & hate and virtually every other conceptual and emotional binary humans have the capacity to experience.” Byeee water weight.

This got me thinking back on that idea of our depreciating attention-spans and time for anything not immediately self-serving. It would be one thing if the content we consumed (inhaled more-like) came from award-winning photo journalists who have risked their lives to show us what reality looks like in a sadly “post-fact” world of news and global goings-on. In that case, we’d hardly need captions at all because words in the face of literal breath-taking captures are gross understatements…but this isn’t the case. Rather, we have the blessing (curse?) of catering our daily ‘feeds’ and followings to content that is relevant to our social circles, our passions, what we wear, write, tweet, re-post, etc…

This summer, I’m interning for a team of rockstars at GiveCampus— writing and familiarizing myself with WeWork perks and professional mentorship I could only have dreamed of before arriving here in person. Perhaps navigating a new work environment and spending a season in our Nation’s capital is rubbing off on me…I catch myself seeing things through a professional/political lens whether I want to or not—it can feel disconcerting… but on the off-hour, I recognize this as just another opportunity to embrace the foreign feelings of life transition.

On a recent morning commute, I tuned in to my fave Podcast by HRH Oprah and came across this gem of a thought to think: It seems that at nearly every point in our lives, we’re experiencing some form of a transition – whether personal, professional, physical, emotional, or spiritual…transitions don’t really come to an end, they shift into a different season or chapter of your life and manifest themselves in the people, places and things that make us who we are. Before we know it, we’re facing a new transition usually without clear resolution of the old one — perspectives shift, focus changes, thoughts reframe.

This idea #shook (forgive) me in a BIG way. Here I’ve been, spending the last two years (!!) “transitioning” from my life as a dancer to my life as a student/“retired dancer” (ugh), waiting for some obvious moment when I might feel officially “transitioned.” I’ve thought a lot about what this moment might look like as I hold fast to my calf muscles and stress dream about forgotten choreography: It usually vacillates somewhere between me graduating from Columbia, speaking publicly on behalf of my passions/experiences while holding audiences in rapt attention via clever, intellectual rhetoric (or a kick-a** Vinyasa Flow sequence) …..AND pinpointing my life’s purpose while writing a book, taking a global-trek, or getting swept off my feet by an eligible Royal on a blind-date (kidding (not kidding)).

{switches crossed legs, ahem ankles*}

Ironically whilst escaping the heat this afternoon, I came across a poignant blog post written by former Principal ballerina/current Artistic Director of Washington Ballet, Julie Kent.

“On the Labor and Reward of Becoming a Ballerina,” she wrote:

Working hard, being disciplined and focused, loving what you do—all these things that are a natural part of being a dancer—will equip you with the tools to make a contribution to the world and be successful. Do you want to dance? At the end of the day, that’s what it is. Get to the heart of what your work as a dancer means to you and then start pursuing it.”

Unsurprisingly, this struck all the cords as I sat there contemplating my life’s current, less-choreographed path…Pursuing something I’m passionate about, something impactful and fulfilling — these are all the reasons I gave my life to a sacrificial art-form like dance in the first place. All the reasons I wonder if I should go back and lace up my ballerina boots…

…the meaning of my work as a dancer… the reward of becoming a ballerina…

These now obvious concepts have nothing to do with what I gave (or could still give) to dance and everything to do with what dancing gave to me. While finding ‘meaning’ beyond the barre and world’s stages has proven to be quite the challenge, I’m now seeing my current transition to be more and more of a creative impetus into the next one.

Re-reading Julie’s post, I realized the harder I try to get to the heart of this meaning, to make a contribution to the world and be successful, the more I find my work has only just begun…and I can’t help but wonder if breezing by a filtered photo or a witty caption would have inspired this same level of reflection.

If you’ve made it down here to the bottom of this thought train, the light in me bows to the light in you 🙂

Stay tuned for recently discovered Trader Joe snacks, #InternshipMusings, and deep thoughts on family roots >> see what I did there.

Now, back to Suits.

xx, S
p.s. I welcome your thoughts with arms in 2nd position — dog days of summer are upon us and we need all the refreshing sips & shares we can get 😉

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ballerina backstage nutcracker

ballerina backstage nutracker

Photographed by Rosalie O’Connor Courtesy of Boston Ballet

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.


Sarah Wroth is the type of artist, colleague, leader and friend who reimagines what is possible in any given moment. I was lucky to dance beside this special person for many years while we worked together at Boston Ballet. The integrity Sarah brought to her work elevated our entire organization, where she challenged each of us to bring open minds, hearts and spirits to the studio each day.

After I left the company, and before Sarah herself retired, we made it a habit to meet for tea and exchange life updates. As we caught up at a cafe one afternoon, I extended sympathy to Sarah for the “dreaded” Nutcracker season soon underway for her. Sarah smiled back at me, the joy in her face proving the honesty in her reply.

I love Nutcracker, she said.

Sarah pointed out how Nutcracker is often the first, sometimes only ballet to bring someone to the theater. She expressed a sense of honor in being able to share dance with new, more diverse audience members. She went on to frame the yearly grind of Nutcracker as a tremendous opportunity for artistic and personal growth. As we spoke, it became clear that Nutcracker didn’t break her down – it lifted her up.

Plus, for a child, Sarah emphasized, Nutcracker is pure magic.

In all my years in the company with Sarah, I had assumed her unwavering devotion to Nutcracker each winter was some kind of survival strategy intersecting with her trademark work ethic. But in the café that day, I felt the glowing sincerity in her love towards something so many of us have taken for granted as dancers – resented even.

Sometimes optimism feels like bullshit. Sometimes though, the seemingly-optimistic perspective is actually the more complete view. Sarah didn’t deny that performing Nutcracker season can be mind-numbing, soul-draining and generally pretty painful. She didn’t sugarcoat reality or add artificial sweetener. She simply hadn’t forgotten there are other pieces to the Nutcracker story. Dancing Nutcracker IS an honor. It IS a responsibility. It IS… at least sometimes… pure magic.

With heart,

Sustainable leotards empowering women through ecofriendly clothing.

Sustainable leotards empowering women through ecofriendly clothing.

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black and white photo of two dancers holding one another in a ballet position

three drops of joy featured ballet dancers

Photograph by Karolina Kuras

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.


Earlier this fall, when I asked Boston Ballet dancer Chyrstyn Fentroy where she finds beauty in her life, she described beauty as something that exists all around us. With this simple reflection, she reminded us readers how we often have more access to joy than we might habitually notice.

This season, I’m finding it nourishing – crucial even – to look, listen and feel for moments of beauty and joy. These simple moments lift my heart and say to me that we can still be whole, even when our planet feels broken and there is work to be done. I’m learning joy is here for us even when suffering and injustice tramples through our world and over our hearts.

Here are three things of beauty that promise to provide a drop of JOY as you care for your spirit, show up for your world and intentionally give and gift this season:

Fjord Review


This stunning digital dance magazine is coming to life in print this December. It’s a limited edition run and an eco-friendly production. Whether you back their Kickstarter campaign as gesture of artistic support, gift the magazine to other dancers or purchase the creation as artwork for your own coffee table, your contribution will help the joy of dance become tangible.


Market45


Market45 is a beautiful online space for people looking to shop differently this season. This ethical fashion marketplace celebrates the joy of simplicity and embraces the value of sustainability. I personally love the featured Farbrook Studio lounge pants for legs that want to stretch, as well as all of the Regenerous Designs headbands. (I own and love the Big Braided Headband in Vintage Rose!) Dancers will simply adore the look and fit of these headbands. Shopping through Market45 not only provides you with ethical and sustainable shopping options – it also provides you 10% off your purchase!


Coloring Without Borders


Artists and citizens are coming together to help end family separation and support family reunification at our American border. This collaborative and beautiful coloring book helps children separated from their families at the border to “expand their imaginations beyond the walls that confine them” and helps encourage “empathy and compassion for families that live free of the struggles that migrant families are enduring.”

All proceeds go directly to Families Belong Together. This is my gift of choice for both the children and adults in my life this holiday season.

With an aching, yet joyful heart,

Sustainable leotards empowering women through ecofriendly clothing.

Sustainable leotards empowering women through ecofriendly clothing.

Join us backstage for community news & launch party offers.

 

photo of a ballerina dancing in a subway station

Image Credit: Justin Reid

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.


“Dance is a beautiful responsibility.”

Chyrstyn Mariah Fentroy

Chyrstyn Mariah Fentroy is a second soloist with Boston Ballet. She performed as a principal dancer with the Dance Theater of Harlem for five years before joining Boston Ballet in 2017. It has been a true delight for me to catch Chyrstyn onstage many times since her move to Boston. Her clean, expressive movement flows seamlessly into the high caliber lines the artists of Boston Ballet create together, but what I personally find most beautiful about her work is the open presence with which she shares it.

Sometimes there’s the assumption that the role of the dancer is to completely transcend humanity and give audiences a break from reality, but for me, it’s far more interesting to watch artists show up without any facade and help us not to ignore or turn away from our humanity but to instead explore it more deeply – to reimagine what is possible within it. This is the type of dancer I see in Chyrstyn – an artist using her whole self to carve her unique signature onto the stage with skillful intention and an unguarded heart. When I watch her dance, I see a person doing more than just “performing well.” She is sharing her work and love for dance – sharing well, working well, loving well. This generosity is also palpable in the perspective she contributes to this blog post, and I am grateful to share her artistry – in written form – with you here.


Perspective on…
by Chyrstyn Mariah Fentroy

on: befriending oneself

I am proud of the woman I am becoming. It may have taken a long time but I am finally finding comfort in my own skin. Loving me for me and not for someone else’s idea of what I should be. I’m beautiful – mixed girl, hair short, afro and all.

My mother is white, and my dad is black. I was primarily raised by my mother who was also my ballet teacher. For as long as I can remember, my mom worked very hard to make sure I loved the skin I was in and that I felt like I belonged. I’d go to auditions and she would tell me things like, “yes, your skin is a little bit darker than everyone else in the room, but it gives you a glow and draws eyes towards you.” She would remind me how unique I am and how many people would give anything to be “different.”

Inevitably, I had my insecurities anyway because I didn’t entirely belong to one clear category of people. I felt too ‘this’ to be ‘that’ and too ‘that’ to be ‘this.’ These feelings surfaced mostly in everyday life but because of the perspective my mom instilled in me as a dancer, I did feel at home in the studio. When I was in dance class, I was an equal, and if I worked as hard as the next person, then I deserved to be there just as much as they did.

However, when I began to dive into the professional world and moved to New York City, the security I had felt in dance began to change. In school and in my first years in a company, I not only learned so much about the history of racism in the ballet world but also learned of – and directly dealt with – racism and “colorism” within races. I overheard my peers suggesting, “she’s only getting those parts because she’s black.” I read articles come out about African-American companies favoring only “lighter skinned” dancers. I read comments saying, “you’re not even black – you don’t know what you’re talking about,” in response to a video of me sharing my experience with the Dance Theatre of Harlem- a predominantly African-American ballet company. I was again too ‘this’ to be ‘that’ and too ‘that’ to be ‘this’’- but now even as a dancer.

I’ve had to grow thick skin and remind myself often how to love the person that I am for the amazing qualities that I do have. I have had to learn to accept that not everyone is going to have the same or even a positive opinion of others but that we don’t need give power to unreasonably negative people.

When I joined Boston Ballet in 2017, I learned I was the first African-American woman to join the company in TEN YEARS! Tai Jimenez, also a former Dance Theatre of Harlem company member was the last. Female, African-American dancers went entirely unrepresented in the company for nearly a decade. This was a mind blowing realization for me but it reminded me that I am a part of something larger than myself. Now, every time I go on stage, I remember there could be a little girl of color in the audience who sees me and learns, “I can do that too”.

 

on: self-advocacy

My moment of personal triumph last season was when the company was performing the ballet “Chaconne” in the Balanchine program. When this ballet first premiered in 1976 with New York City Ballet, the company was, as many companies remain even today, predominantly Caucasian. The ballet opens with a large corps of women in long gowns with their hair flowing down portraying Balanchine’s image of pure, beautiful femininity. The women walk and dance around the stage as if floating and eventually bourre off into the wings.

I was cast as the center woman in the corps de ballet for “Chaconne.” This girl stands on center as the curtain rises and is the first person to move in the entire ballet. Now is when I should mention I do not have long flowing hair. I have a short, curly afro. The first couple performances, I was put in a wig in order to match the rest of the women on stage. I felt nothing but shame the entire time I wore it. Knowing that we were meant to represent beautiful, natural women and that I was the only person on stage who wasn’t beautiful enough to be just be herself was painful.

One day after being fed up with the gross feeling I was carrying around with me, I approached our ballet mistress and asked if she would let me try to perform with my own hair out. The next show, I did. As the curtain rose, me standing there as my real self, all of those feelings of insecurity I had carried with me since I was a little girl, all of the things people have said about me and all of my internal self-destructive voices stopped. I finally felt beautiful. I think it was in that moment that I really, truly began to love myself for who I am. Rather than trying to paint this idea of love onto myself, it was real and I felt free.

 

on: artistic inspiration

Oddly enough, I don’t have a specific artist that inspires my ambitions, but rather locate things in many people (often in the very people I share a studio with) that I find intriguing. My curiosity for how people do things encourages me to continue exploring my own movement. My mom is also always a part of my dancing. She had to give up so much of her own professional ballet career to support me growing up. I know how much she loves ballet, and in honor of her sacrifice, it is my responsibility to do the best I can. It helps that I also love it!

 

on: beauty

Beauty is all around us! It’s in the current fall breeze and in the smell of wet pavement. It’s in the music I get to listen to every day and the dialogue my body gets to have with it. It’s in my dog and his never ending happiness. It’s in the book I’m reading. It’s everywhere- and sometimes in the strangest places, like a sharing a good laugh with a stranger on a crowded long morning train commute.

 

on: the future of ballet

The future of ballet scares me quite a bit. With the always-growing internet and social media, I am afraid that people will lose interest in live art. I just want to remind everyone how special it is to experience live performances. It is a moment that both the artist and audience are sharing and it will never be re-lived or done the same exact way ever again.

However, ballet will also continue to adapt and take advantage of these technological advancements. My boyfriend, Jorge Villarini, was a part of a ballet by Melissa Barak this summer that used a full screen with choreographed projections and a video sequence that felt like watching a 3D movie! I also saw a performance by Company Wayne McGregor where the audience wore 3D glasses and the dancers danced beneath 3D televisions the entire show. I imagine this is just the beginning of what is to come!

 

on: representation and inclusivity

I think progress starts with not being afraid to ask questions that might make you feel slightly uncomfortable. Reach out to more diverse communities that have the arts, maybe on a lesser scale, and ask them what they think is important. From those answers, try to reach communities that don’t have the arts at all. This isn’t a job that can be done by one group of people – we all have to be involved. I think as a dancer it’s important to be willing to give back to the community in ways outside of performing. Be willing to meet with young dancers of color and encourage them to continue their pursuits. The more everyone feels welcomed in the arts community, the more their friends will be interested, and then the siblings of their friends and so on and so on.

 

on: growth and goals

It’s my goal not to be so hard on myself this year. To work physically harder than ever, but to give time to being a human. When I am happier, I dance better and so I want to experience life more. I think that will allow me to mature as a stronger, more confident artist.

 

on: kindness

Being kind-hearted means doing good things for others just to be good, not to be praised or noticed.


For me – and I suspect for you too – Chyrstyn’s perspective is powerful, important and inspiring. No matter where we are in our ballet training, ballet career or post-ballet life, we can all help create healthier, more inclusive communities. Let’s embrace Chyrstyn’s suggestions and start by asking more questions, turning towards discomfort and deliberately advocating for what we believe in.

With heart – and with much gratitude to Chyrstyn,

Sustainable leotards empowering women through ecofriendly clothing.

Sustainable leotards empowering women through ecofriendly clothing.

Join us backstage for community news & launch party offers.