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General Interest

  • Talking to People

    by Madison Rayn Abeo

    The Fairy of Beauty

    The

    Yesterday was the last show of Pacific Northwest Ballet's Sleeping Beauty. I was fortunate to be able to volunteer to help as a greeter in the lobby before the show and during intermissions. The Pacific Northwest Ballet School gives dancers in the upper levels, the chance to wear one of the costumes from the ballet, and talk to patrons in the lobby, taking photos and talking to people about the ballet! All the dancers love to wear the beautiful costumes, but I also really love talking to people. The adults ask about my dancing and I am able to tell them about upcoming shows I am in (told a lot of people about Pinocchio!) and the little kids love touching the tutu & pointe shoes and taking photos. Sometimes just getting down on the little kids levels, asking their names and what their favorite part of the ballet has been so far - is enough to make their day! It helps make their experience even more magical than Pacific Northwest Ballet already makes it! I am very grateful to have the opportunity to do it!

    Madison is a student at Pacific Northwest Ballet.  For more information and to follow Madison's journey towards becoming a professional ballerina check out her Facebook page, Madison Rayn Abeo: Support and Update Page.
    Photos:  Mariangela Abeo

  • Sightings: The Ballerina Supremacy

    The Ballerina Supremacy, Madison in Seattle Washington

    The

    Class Act Tutu had lots of fun this summer!  We got to dance around the Seattle area with Day Kol (Photographer, The Ballerina Supremacy).  Day is looking for ballet dancers in the Seattle area.  Head on over to The Ballerina Supremacy 's Facebook page to message him if you are interested in collaborating.

    The Ballerina Supremacy, in Seattle Washington with Madison

    The

    The Ballerina Supremacy, Madison at The Evergreen State Fair

    The

    Model:  Madison Abeo, student at Pacific Northwest Ballet

    Styles shown:  "Pancake" Style Classical Tutu Skirt, White worn with (Top & Bottom Left Photos): Vala Dancewear's Cross-Back Corset Leotard in "Lipstick" (Style #22003 - New style coming 2014) and (Bottom Right) Photo "Siren" Leotard in Steel (Style #22001-New color coming 2014).

  • Amazing Costumes on a Budget: Savannah Arts Academy

    The Wizard of Oz, Savannah Arts Academy - Lollipop

    Lollipop

    To kick-off our "Amazing Costumes on a Budget" series, we'd like to take a moment and introduce you to the talented Christina Powell-Dance Department Chair of the Savannah Arts Academy in Georgia. Christina knows all about creating fabulous, professional-looking costumes--without breaking the bank! When we asked if she'd be interested in sharing some of her best "trade secrets" with our readers, she eagerly accepted. So, if your dance production is in the middle of a financial bind, you might want to take a few notes. So grab a pen (or bookmark this page), and get ready to be inspired!

    Class Act: So tell us, what initially prompted you and the Savannah Arts Academy to be "beautiful on a budget"? Was this something you've always done or did the current economy have something to do with it?

    Christina Powell: Working for a public school in a dance department that is fully supported by fundraising efforts and ticket sales to productions (we receive no funding from the local or state government), we must be extremely creative with our funds. We must work around [financial] issues to be beautiful on a budget. We ask for a lot of help from local seamstresses who donate their time and sometimes even the cost of materials to create costumes for us. For tutus, we order the skirts with basques from Class Act Tutu and the matching basque fabric for the bodices. We then have parent volunteers or local costumers make the bodices for each dancer to complete the look. In addition, we sometimes work with fashion students from our local art college, Savannah College of Art and Design.

    Class Act: Are there any specific actions that you take to do this? How does it all come together?

    Christina Powell: Well, at the beginning of the year, I take inventory of our costume closet and create a list of the most wanted items that I’d like to purchase for the year. Two years ago, we ordered an entire set of white romantic tutu skirts from Class Act Tutu. This was our first big tutu purchase! In order to save money, we had the bodices made to complete the look. We used those tutus for a Swan Lake excerpt and for the Fairy Corps in Cinderella. We used them again this year for the Emerald City Corps during our ballet, "The Wizard of Oz". Each time we use the white tutus, we change the decoration to fit the part. For the Emerald City Corps, a parent volunteer added emerald tulle overlays and a gold ribbon design on the bodice. The tulle was purchased in bulk from Class Act Tutu. Outside of ordering tutus, we also order other costumes that I feel like we’ll get a lot of use out of. For example, we ordered some Rockette-like white costumes that we wore in our Winter Dance Concert. We used them again for a local holiday event in downtown Savannah. The girls dressed up as snowflakes using these same costumes. Then in, "The Love of Broadway", our final show this year, we used these costumes again with added gold accents to perform “One” from A Chorus Line. So, my advice is that you prioritize your costumes needs, determine what costumes you can get the most out of, and take baby steps each year until you create a wonderful costume closet!

    Class Act: You know, I wonder how many other dance companies will read this and think, "Hmm. Why didn't we think of that?" Now, I also heard that you re-decorate your tutus. Would you share some examples of that with us?
    The Wizard of Oz, Savannah Arts Academy - Poppies

    Poppies

    Christina Powell: Yes, we do this a lot! For the lollipop tutus, I ordered that set of costumes at the beginning of the year. For our Winter Dance Concert, we used those tutus for a Sleeping Beauty excerpt. Then, we redecorated them for the Lollipop Corps for Wizard of Oz. We do this for all of our tutus. We always sew decorations onto the costumes so that we can easily take them off to change the look for the next performance. Never use glue! Also, skirt overlays are a great way to add color to costumes and to completely change the original look. The skirt overlays work best on white romantic tutus.

    Class Act: Do you have any final words of advice or any "Top Tips" that you'd like to share before we close?

    Christina Powell: It is so easy to get overwhelmed with costuming needs, especially if you are just starting to build a costume closet and you’re on a budget. When I took over as the chair of the Savannah Arts Academy Department of Dance, we didn’t even own a tutu! That was two years ago. Now, we own two complete sets of romantic length tutus (a white set and a pink set), a set of euro-tutus (red for the Poppy Corps for Wizard of Oz),  four romantic tutus for the Cinderella fairies (Summer, Spring, Winter, and Autumn),  and several pancake tutus (Fairy Godmother, Mazurka lead for Cinderella, Wizard for Wizard of Oz, etc). We have already used the white tutus in four shows, and the pink tutus in two shows. The red pancake tutu has been worn for the Mazurka lead in Cinderella, the Spanish variation for Nutcracker, the Don Quixote pas de deux, and the Poppy Lead in Cinderella!  Lots of use out of the red pancake tutu! Also, the winter fairy tutu was also re-worn by Glinda the Good Witch for Wizard of Oz. The best advice I can give someone wanting to build a costume closet, is to prioritize! Think about what kinds of costumes you need for your upcoming shows. Think about what you can get the most out of. Start basic (a set of white romantic tutus is a great place to start! They are so versatile and beautiful on stage!!!), and again--take baby steps! Breathe! And most of all, have fun!

    Thank you so much, Ms. Powell! Your creative ideas are going to come in handy for so many dancers out there. We wish you and the Savannah Arts Academy continued success! If you'd like to learn more about the programs available through the Savannah Arts Academy or attend future performances, please click here.

    Denise Opper ~ Media Relations

  • Fashion "Tulle’s" for the Fashion Forward

    By Mariangela Abeo

    Gone are the days of going shopping with your mom to the local department store for a prom dress, then hoping and praying that no other girls show up wearing the same thing.  Today’s teens are steeped in the rich fashion molasses that is served to them on everything, everywhere they turn.  From social media, to reality TV, they are on the new fads before even the hipsters have time to make them cool and before a teen celebrity can been seen in it on Instagram or on TMZ.

    The 80s look that so many in my generation loved and cherish, are back – everything from floral and lace, to vibrant colors, punk rock accents and yes, you guessed it – TULLE.  The fabric that every girl, and yes also boys – at some point in their life, secretly want an entire outfit made out of.

    Whether you shop at hip boutiques and consignment shops or mega trendy places like H&M or Forever 21 – pairing tulle tutus and skirts for every day looks, school dances and even Prom – is easy and simple.

    For Prom or Punk

    For example, a Prom show stopper will have flowing tulle, paired with tasteful corsets, lacy tops, tussled hair, and a pretty smokey eye.

    Romantic-Tutu-for-Fashion-with-Corset

    Model:

    The punk element is one of the reasons shops like Red Light or Trendy Wendy – which we are lucky enough to have in Seattle - are popular – you can find fabulous tops and funky tights to pair with one of Class Act’s 5-layer “Juicy” Bird of Paradise short tutus.  If you aren’t in the Seattle area, find a local vintage or consignment store and a trendy boutique to get necessary outfit pairings.  Big “diva” hair is a must, take your skirt colors to your local MAC counter to get your make-up done – and finish with some FIERCE heels or even grunge it out with some army boots from the Army surplus store!

    Tutu-Grunge-Funky-Punk

    Model:

    Who wore it better? (It won't happen!)

    The wonderful thing about tutus beside the fact that they are handmade, and that tulle personally makes me morph into a 5 year old that squeals with joy even at the sight of it – are that they are unique.  You will not feel like you are in People magazine’s “Who wore it better” because another girl is wearing the same dress.  If you pair it with your street wear, you will be SURE to turn heads, get compliments and be considered a trend setter with peers that may be waiting for someone to stand out before they add a little tulle into their daily wardrobe.

    It's good for the soul

    I asked a few “fashion forward” teens I know, to tell me 3 words that came to mind when they saw tulle in a store or in a magazine – and the theme was consistent: Playful, Fun, Delicate,  Feminine, Beauty, Classy, Diva.  All things all of us, at some point, want to portray with our outfits, right?  Even more reason for me to firmly believe that keeping a good amount of tulle in your closet, is good for the soul…

    Romantic-Tutu-Prom-Fashion

    Model:

    Special thanks to Kim and Adam Bamberg of LaVie Photography and Bamberg Fine Art Photography and Oliver Wevers for sharing his lovely home!

  • Valentine’s Day with Seth Orza & Sarah Ricard Orza

    Seth Orza, Soloist and Sarah Ricard Orza, Corps de Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet.  Shown here in "Petit Mort".

    Seth

    Ah, Valentine’s Day! It’s the time of year when we shower our true love with tokens of affection, whether they be in the form of a box of chocolates, a gushy card, or a dozen roses (or all of the above!).

    In the dance world, Valentine’s Day can be especially wonderful as couples not only live, but oftentimes work, together. We decided to get an inside look at the blessings of Valentine’s Day through the eyes of the dancers themselves. First up is Seth Orza and Sarah Ricard Orza of Pacific Northwest Ballet!

    Class Act: “How did you two meet?”
    Seth: “We met in New York at the School of American Ballet’s when we were both 13.”
    Sarah: “We met at the summer course. Then we got together and started dating seriously when we were both at the School of American Ballet for their year round program when we were 17. And we’ve been pretty much together ever since then. We’ve been together now for 12 years and married for 2 ½ years.”

    Seth Orza and Sarah Ricard Orza shown here at SAB Summer Course, 1995 (Age 14). Seth & Sarah met at age 13.
    Seth Orza and Sarah Ricard Orza shown here at SAB Summer Course, 1995 (Age 14). Seth & Sarah met at age 13.

    Class Act: “Congratulations, that’s wonderful! So what’s the best thing about being married to a fellow dancer?”
    Sarah: “Well, I think that the dance world is just so small and intimate; sometimes it’s hard to explain or even relate to people who aren’t in the world on a daily basis—what’s going on, or what the daily ups and downs are like. So, if I’m having a bad day, Seth already knows why and that’s good.”
    Seth: “We try to help each other out along the way through the pressures of ballet, performing, and all that.”
    Sarah: “Oh, and travelling. If we tour, it’s great. It’s really nice to have your loved one with you when you’re going to all those places.”

    Class Act: “How do you two plan to make this Valentine’s Day special?”
    Seth: “Well…” he says with a sly tone, “it’s kind of a surprise.”
    Class Act:(Laughing) “Oops! I don’t want to ruin anything!”
    Seth: “We try to do something special every Valentines day, but it’s hard after twelve years to do something different every time.”
    Sarah: “There was one year when I had the genius idea of getting chocolate covered strawberries from Godiva. So I got a dozen chocolate strawberries only to find that in the fridge at home, Seth had also gotten a dozen Godiva strawberries!” she laughs.
    Seth: “We had a lot of chocolate strawberries!” he chuckles.
    Class Act:“Great minds think alike! So, do you have any last words of advice for fellow dancers out there?”
    Seth: “It’s nice being in a relationship with a co-worker—or a dancer—and it does work out.”
    Sarah: “It’s definitely a balance, though. I mean, we’re together at work all the time and then at home all the time. So sometimes there’s days when one of us has to step back and take some space—be it at work or at home. You just find that balance with spending all of your time together.”

    Seth Orza and Sarah Ricard Orza on their Wedding Day

    Seth

    Class Act: “Do you ever have a day when you really don’t want to be with the other person but you still have to work with them?”
    Seth/Sarah: “Oh no, never!” they laugh in unison.
    Seth: “Of course, but I think that happens in any relationship.”
    Sarah: “We have partnered together a lot, and that has challenges…”
    Seth: “Yeah, working together professionally…I mean, if she’s just around it’s one thing, but if we’re working together, it’s kind of hard sometimes.”
    Class Act:“Well thank you both so very much! I really appreciate you taking the time to do this and I hope you have a wonderful Valentine’s Day!”
    Sarah: “Thank you! You have a happy Valentines Day, too!”

    by Denise Opper, Media Relations Class Act Tutu & Vala Dancewear

    This post first appeared for Valentine's Day, 2010.

  • The Romantic Tutu Skirt

    While ballet tutus can take on many forms, when most people hear the word “tutu” they envision the ethereal Romantic style tutu skirt.  In honor of its timeless beauty, we would like to take a moment and share a little bit about this classic tutu style.

    The Romantic Era of Ballet

    The Romantic Tutu made its debut during the early to mid-19th century, a time in which “romanticism” in art and literature held great influence over the creation of new ballets. By many historical accounts, the Romantic period is considered to have begun with the 1827 Paris debut of La Sylphide where the Romantic Tutu skirt was first worn by Marie Taglioni.

    Marie Taglioni, La Sylphide wearing the first Romantic Tutu

    Marie

    Many of these Romantic Ballet stories told tales of conflict between man and nature, society and the supernatural.  This era put the ballerina center stage “floating” on the tip of a toe in the forms of sylphs (La Sylphide), wilis (Giselle), and other ghostly spirits—who enslaved the hearts and senses of mortal men.

    Carlotta Grisi, 1841 as Giselle

    Carlotta

    The Romantic Tutu Skirt

    Due to this marked supernatural influence, the second act of these Romantic ballets (representing the spirit realm) began to be called the “white act” or “ballet-blanc”.  The corresponding costume was an elegant white skirt made of layers upon layers of tulle (fine netting). This other-worldy white skirt was what we’ve come to know as the Romantic Tutu Skirt.  This ghostly vision was enhanced with new developments in theater effects such as gas lighting (that could be dimmed), posing en pointe, and the use of wires to make dancers “fly”.

    What is a Romantic Tutu Skirt?

    Romantic Tutus are long, floating and ethereal.  They are usually 3-5 layers of soft tulle.  These soft layers can begin at the waist (Romantic Tutu) or fall from the high hip for a dropped waist look (Romantic Tutu with Basque).

    At Class Act Tutu, we LOVE romantic tutu skirts.  From the famous classic white to today’s vivid, colorful layers, we have the skill and ingenuity to create the tutu of your dreams!  We encourage you to put one on and get busy enslaving hearts!

    From Vail International Dance Festival, International Festival of Dance II, Giselle, August 4, 2012.

    From

  • Tutus for a Princess

    At Class Act Tutu, we have had a run of requests for tutus inspired by Disney characters.  From "Belle" (Beauty and the Beast) to The "Queen of Hearts" (Alice in Wonderland), we have come up with some simple and cost saving solutions for the perfect tutu for your Princess!  Here are just some of our ideas...

    Disney Princesses

    Tutus

    Use Colors

    Start with a basic bodice and add color blocking.  For our Queen of Hearts, we used a Black Sweetheart style Tutu Bodice with Red Center Front Panels and Red Cording.

    Queen of Hearts Tutu
    Queen of Hearts Tutu

    Add Some Options

    Add Arm Puffs and "Petals" (like our "Queen of Hearts" tutu above) or Sleeves (Yellow for our "Snow White" tutu below).

    We added a Lace-up Front and a Bow to our Scoop Neck Tutu Bodice , some lace trimming and an Apron to finish off that "Snow White" look.

    Snow White Tutu

    Snow

    Play with Color Layers in your Tutu Skirt

    All of these designs feature our Romantic Style Tutu Skirt.  You can get a "petticoat" look by using several layers of color (yellow for Snow White, blue for "Alice") on top of 2 layers of white.

    It's amazing what you can do a lot with a few options and some color, don't you agree?

    If you would like some design assistance for this or any of our other tutus, please do not hesitate to CONTACT US.

  • Coppelia - A Young Girl's Dream Come True

    Photo Credit: Denise Opper

    Photo

    Back in May 2010, Dean and I took Abby to see PNB's production of Coppelia. She was so excited that day and took special care to wear her best dress (white, mid-calf length, lots of sequins and a small sparkly tiara in her hair), and kept biting her nails in anticipation.

    As we watched the ballet, she would smile, laugh and gasp with delight every few moments. She was in her element! Then as the curtain rose on Act 3 and a beautiful row of girlies dressed in glittering pink and gold tutus appeared, my girl was speechless. Breathless even! ;)

    After a moment she leaned over in the dark and whispered with her eyes as big as saucers, "Mommy! How did those girls get to do that?" "They're from the PNB school, honey." I whispered back.

    Abby continued to watch, spellbound. Then at the end of the performance she asked, "Okay. So, how do I get in the school?" At that time, she was still dancing at her local ballet school, but already things were starting to look sketchy for the new year. I explained how she would have to audition, which she immediately asked, "When can I audition??" I told her we'd talk about it later. (Ahem)

    Later during the performance's Post Show Q&A, Abby walked right up and sat in the front row of chairs. (For the record, I never opt to sit in the front row...) After listening to a few adults ask their questions, she asked Olivier Wevers what he liked about playing the role of Dr. Coppelius (her other favorite part). He was very gracious and said he liked "playing with a character" and that was what made it fun for him. Then she asked the Artistic Director, Peter Boal how old the girls in Act 3 were. His response was, "Levels 3 and 4, maybe some 5's. So anywhere from about 10 to 13 or 14." Abby was 10 at the time and so you can imagine how much this pleased her.

    As we left McCaw Hall that day, I noticed Abby looked deep in thought. When questioned, she simply said, "I'm thinking about how happy I am that I wore my best dress today." And why's that? "So that when I come back and audition for PNB, Mr. Boal will know who I am!" {#itdoesntworkthatway}

    Fast forward to September 18th, 2010. She gets in to the school.

    She was placed in Level 3 but sadly, Coppelia was not scheduled to be performed again. At least not yet. So Abby continued to work hard and hoped (and prayed a whole lot) that one day soon, Coppelia would be done again and that she'd get a part.

    Last summer, it was announced that Coppelia would once again grace the stage during the company's 2011/12 Season.

    There was a lot of speculation as to who would be chosen, how tall or how short you had to be, etc. With every passing rumor, Abby grew more impatient waiting for the Cast letters to go out. Then two friends received a letter. Then three friends. And at long last, so did she....

    I'm pleased to announce that Abby received a letter in the mail announcing that she had been chosen to perform in this year's production of Coppelia...in Act 3...wearing the very pink and gold costume that ignited her determination to get into the school two years earlier!

    I'm so thankful to God for granting yet another exciting blessing in my daughter's life. To get the chance to perform in the very same production that catapulted her desire to attend the school into the stratosphere is nothing short of awesome! :)

    *Written by Denise Opper; originally published on the author's blog, Got Chai? *

    You can catch Pacific Northwest Ballet's Coppelia June 1st - 10th. Visit PNB.org for tickets.

  • Ballet Fans Can Feel the Moves

    Art by Chris Nash

    Art

    When it comes to watching ballet, some fans may actually feel as though they're right up there dancing, at least according to findings published in the current issue of the journal PLoS One.

    According to research, spectators showed muscle-specific responses in their brain as if they were expert dancers. Read all about it here.

    What do you think? Do you "feel" as though you're dancing from your seat? I have to admit, sometimes it sure seems that way. :)

  • Baryshnikov: Dancer, Actor and...Photographer?

    Baryshnikov PhotographyMikhail Baryshnikov will proudly unveil his photographic work in a solo exhibition scheduled to open tomorrow, February 24th in Miami.

    In "Dance This Way," Baryshnikov turns the camera on ethnic, hip-hop, ballet, modern and popular dances around the world. The show's title, Baryshnikov says, is meant to be both commanding and descriptive. He wants the dancers to move toward his camera, and he wants to show what he sees in their dances. "I'm interested in focusing on body parts, the movements which really one cannot notice in the audience," says Baryshnikov, 64.

    Interesting, wouldn't you say? You can read all it here.

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