Sunday, January 26, 2014

Atlantic Dance Retail Show

Robbie Downey - Ballet Freak and
Ballet Babbler
We headed up to Los Angeles from San Diego a couple of weeks ago to check out the Dance Retail Show. We were looking for new products to add to the Ballet Freak store which is getting a make over! You're going to love it. All of our favorite brands were there and we met some of the nicest people. What else would you expect from this industry?! Below is a recap written by me, with input from my mom, of some of our favorites 

The first booth we stopped at was ainsliewear . This brand provides the official bodysuit of Canada's National Ballet School. Ainslie Cyopik, a retired professional dancer, is the driving force behind this brand. This dancer gone designer saw a need for dance apparel that fit right. Dancewear needs to be functional and beautiful and we think she has accomplished this. We sat for some time with Ainslie and her business partner Terri Margo.

They let us touch the fabrics and took the time to show each piece. It is obvious that they are very proud of the ainsliewear line. The attention to detail from fabrics chosen to the design of each garment shows the care that went into developing the new line. These are high quality leotards!

I, being quite familiar with all brands and having worn mostly all of them, was in love with each and every piece. My favorite was a leotard with artwork on the back called the Valentina print. The story behind the art is as charming as the leotard. It was a piece of art created by Ainslie's father long before he could have known he would have a professional dancer for a daughter. The art was discovered by Ainslie and now graces the back of one of her perfectly shaped leotards.

To see the full line visit 

Next stop was to say hello to Mark Suffolk. He, of course, is the creator of Suffolk pointe shoes which I happen to wear at the moment. I'm in the Stellar model. It is lower profile and he has let me know there is an even more lower profile model coming out this summer (The Sovereign) . We attended a short seminar where Mark and Keri Suffolk discussed how the shoes are made and we were educated on the making of the shoes. They discussed lasts (if I understand correctly, are what the shoes are shaped on) and how each shoe is shaped 4 times. Each shoe has 2 lasts one for shaping it right side out and one for inside out. So if they have 9 styles of shoe and each shoe offers 9 widths and however many sizes that is about a gazillion lasts ( roughly). I think they need a lot of space just to store the lasts. The shoes must also dry on the last so it's not like they can have just one last per style. Like I said that is about a gazillion lasts. Also, the equipment needed to make the shoes is a whole other issue. Read about Mark's machine skills HERE. I can appreciate that all of this dictates what we pay for our shoes.

Me and my shoe guy, Mark Suffolk. 
Mark was even kind enough to take a look at my feet in my shoes and suggested I go even slightly more narrow than what I have now. I have already gone down one full X to XX after realizing I have a compressible foot. I will try XXN (which fits between X and XX) as soon as I can. Suffolk is the only brand that offers these variations of widths. I find it pretty useful. We all know looking for the right shoe is not fun! The shoes are made with care in England and unlike other brands they don't have "makers". Personally I find that this keeps each model more consistent and you know what to expect each time.

Suffolk is also expanding their apparel and accessories line which includes leotards to toe pads. They also now carry sewing tubes. Check it all out at 

Next stop... Jule Dancewear. In case you can't tell she's a dancer. A dancer against "granny prints" . She started her first business venture at 14 with a friend, also making skirts. At 16 Julia went off to train at Pacific Northwest Ballet's professional training program which made it difficult to maintain that partnership. So, at 19, with a desire to expand the line she founded Jule Dancewear. While Julia runs her business she is also currently in her 4th season as a professional dancer at Los Angeles Ballet. 

"I strive to design dancewear with stand out colors and prints with great quality, fit and functionality. The dance world can be quite competitive, so why not wear dancewear that will set you apart from the rest and give you the confidence you need to succeed!" Julia Cinquemani  

Her skirts are well made and the prints are definitely not "granny prints" . She sells leotards and leg warmers too. You can check them out at

Check out Covet Dance Clothing at 
Dance Passion Sacrifice Obsession! What dancer wouldn't wear that t-shirt!? We next stopped by to say hi to Sharene at Covet Dance Clothing. You have probably seen her tees around. I know I have! Great stuff. Sharene is a super creative and fun lady and her line reflects that. The apparel is quality apparel and the prints are well done. I will for sure be sporting some of her products this coming year. She even has t-shirts for your Mom! Keep an eye out for it in the Ballet Freak online store. 

Sharene is also working with artist Flaco Shalom to help raise funds for his 13th Peace project inspired by Misty Copeland. You can expect the t-shirt to be available soon! I'll keep you posted! 

Me and Aaron - Check out their website .
A portion of all proceeds benefits arts education. 

Nom Nom Nom! That is what we did at this booth. Barre is a real food bar developed by professional dancers (made with real ingredients for real athletes). Co-creator, Julia Erickson, is a Principal Dancer with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. CEO and co-creator, Aaron Ingley, also danced professionally with PBT for 9 seasons. I encourage you to read their bios on the website

The barre is a delish REAL FOOD bar. Most "energy" bars don't have real, whole food in their ingredients. These bars are VEGAN (that's cool), high in omega-3s, rich in antioxidants and are balanced energy. What else do you want from a barre? Perfect pirouettes? Me too. My favorite is Pirouette Cinnamon Pecan. YUM!

We also stopped at Wear Moi but there was just way too much fabulousness. It needs it's own post! Coming soon and coming soon to the Ballet Freak Store =) Join my newsletter to get  updates on EVERYTHING going on with me and Ballet Freak and the Ballet World. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Sylvie Guillem: Ballerina, Animal Conservationist and Environmental Campaigner

Sylvie Guillem in a Sea Shepherd sweatshirt. ©euronews

Sylvie Guillem is one of the most famous Ballerinas ever. A Ballerina celebrity and she has a lot to say. She inspires me in dance and in life. I love that she was given the nickname Madame Non (Miss No) and I love that she is particular and against anything mediocre. A true artist with real opinions. At 19, she became the youngest ├ętoile at the Paris Opera Ballet and only four years later she left to be free and dance her own way. 

I really took a special interest in her when I read of her involvement with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. They are against the slaughter of wildlife in the world's oceans. Sylvie became obsessed with the organization after seeing a TV show featuring them. The dancer who has never been on a diet changed her diet completely. She switched out meat and fish (which she loved) for vegetables, nuts and seeds. She even stopped eating cheese. It's amazing what happens when you make the connection between your food and where it actually comes from. "There's more protein in lentils than in meat" she said in an interview. 

When Sylvie performed at the Sydney Opera House she arranged for an information stand during each performance and before each show a flyer was put on every seat with more information about Sea Shepherd. I believe I read she did the same at Sadler's Wells in London and perhaps every show possible. Sylvie Guillem sits on the arts and media advisory board for Sea Shepherd with Sean Connery, Brigitte Bardot and Martin Sheen. 

I have two things I am really passionate about... ballet and animals. My Mom founded a non-profit when I was a toddler and I was always surrounded by rescued pets. I also helped my Mom campaign for Prop 2 in California when I was about 9. It was a proposition to make cages bigger on factory farms so animals can at least turn around or spread their wings. I wasn't old enough to gather signatures but I helped set up tables and hold the clip boards and supported my Mom. Right now we are following the Cove Guardian reports on the dolphin slaughter in Taiji, Japan. The Cove Guardians  are a part of Sea Shepherd. 

If you are not familiar with Taiji it is a cove in Japan where fishermen "drive hunt" dolphin pods into the cove and trap them there. They slaughter them for meat which is highly toxic in mercury. They steal the pretty ones from the sea and sell them for sea parks for about $150,000 USD each. Recently a rare juvenile albino dolphin was taken from her mother and pod to be sold. Her family was slaughtered and it is reported that the mother drowned herself in dispair. If hunting is a tradition (as claimed) what is stealing them to sell? I can't tell you how much it enrages me that this is happening right now. Please learn more about it and LIKE the Cove Guardians page on facebook so you can follow what is going on. 

Quotes from Sylvie below and links to interviews. Thank you to my Mom who helped me write this. xoxo Robbie

What you can do... click here

You can also watch an award winning film The Cove. 

"'s a fight that has real value. If we keep on destroying fish, there won't be any left. If the oceans die, we all die. It's as simple as that. People ask, 'Why not worry about saving children?' But we make the mistake of thinking humans are at the centre of everything, when we're only part of the whole. We're doing terrible damage. This is a fight against money and power, but also against people's ignorance." Sylvie Guillem in an interview for The Guardian 2/10/13

"We are deciding they are slaves, that we are superior beings ... and fur is part of it" she adds pointing to my fox-fur-lined raincoat." I do not go to supermarkets ... this horsemeat thing in England is just the tip of the iceberg. People should know that the meat they eat is created from such terrible suffering. If you don't care about the issue, at least care about that!"

Ah, so is this a regret?

"Oui, je regrette ... unfortunately, I opened my eyes too late or I would have become a vegetarian much, much earlier." Sylvie Guillem in an interview for The Australian 2/23/13


Sylvie Guillem: The most exciting dancer in the world is back at Sadler’s Wells – and she’s got scores to settle

Q&A Special: Ballerina Sylvie Guillem
Sylvie Guillem: 'I need to scare myself'
At 47, Sylvie Guillem continues to defy the rules of ballet – and gravity. She talks to Judith Mackrell about her new work, losing her temper – and her fight to save the world's fish

Sylvie Guillem is a ballerina barre none