How Cloud & Victory Used Social Media to Become One of the Coolest Brands in Ballet
Cloud & Victory gets dancers. The dancewear brand's social media drools over Roberto Bolle's abs, sets classical variations to Beyoncé and moans over Mondays and long adagios. And it all comes from the mind of founder Tan Li Min, the boss lady who takes on everything from designs to inventory to shipping orders.
Known simply (and affectionately) to the brand's 41K Instagram followers as Min, she's used her wry, winking sense of humor to give the Singapore-based C&V international cachet.
She recently spoke with Dance Magazine about building the brand, overcoming insecurity and using pizza as inspiration.
On why she started designing dancewear
"When I was in law school, recovering from depression, I decided to try ballet. But looking at ballet clothing, nothing out there was really for adults.
"I decided to design my own ballet tops. And then I thought, Maybe other people will like them too! I thought, Maybe I'll do this for six months while I find a full-time job…and it just kept going and going."
On embracing social media
"The ballet scene in Singapore is very small, so if I wanted Cloud & Victory to have a chance of succeeding, my clothing had to reach an international market.
"I didn't grow up as a dancer. I didn't know anything about running a business, or manufacturing clothing. The only thing I knew was the internet.
"Xander Parish posted a picture of himself and said it looked like he was reaching for pizza. And I was like, I'll run with it—I'll put pizza in your hand! I started to realize ballet doesn't have to be really proper. You can make jokes and laugh about it.
"At first, I was hesitant to put my personality into the social media. But not talking about the aspects of ballet that I love didn't feel authentic. So I started to put more of the things I find interesting or funny into it, and people started connecting with the brand."
On running the business
"Right now, the company is just me, a part-time assistant and an intern. I tell them, 'There's nothing you do that I haven't done or don't do myself.'
"Running a business is really scary. It's easy to worry about failing all the time. But if you reframe the trying as a learning experience, it's a more helpful way to look at it."
On connecting with pro dancers
"When I started out, there was this insecurity—and sometimes there's still remnants of this—because I'm not a professional dancer, so will people be able to relate? Am I accurately reflecting the experiences of dancers?
"The struggle is pretty universal. Dancers are human. Whether you're like me, with my horrible turnout and lack of coordination, or a principal dancer with ABT or The Royal, we all struggle with the same things. We're all trying to get better, and everything hurts!"
In the middle of one of New York City Center's cavernous studios, Misty Copeland takes a measured step backwards. The suggestion of a swan arm ripples before she turns downstage, chest and shoulders unfurling as her legs stretch into an open lunge. She piqués onto pointe, arms echoing the sinuous curve of her back attitude, then walks out of it, pausing to warily look over her shoulder. As the droning of Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto's mysterious "Attack/Transition" grows more insistent, her feet start to fly with a rapidity that seems to almost startle her.
And then she stops mid-phrase. Copeland's hands fall to her hips as she apologizes. Choreographer Kyle Abraham slides to the sound system to pause the music, giving Copeland a moment to remind herself of a recent change to the sequence.
"It's different when the sound's on!" he reassures her. "And it's a lot of changes."
The day before was the first time Abraham had seen Copeland dance the solo in its entirety, and the first moment they were in the studio together in a month. This is their last rehearsal, save for tech, before the premiere of Ash exactly one week later, as part of the opening night of City Center's Fall for Dance festival.
Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.
"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."
Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.
Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:
Dancers are understandably obsessed with food. In both an aesthetic and athletic profession, you know you're judged on your body shape, but you need proper fuel to perform your best. Meanwhile, you're inundated with questionable diet advice.
"My 'favorite' was the ABC diet," says registered dietitian nutritionist Kristin Koskinen, who trained in dance seriously but was convinced her body type wouldn't allow her to pursue it professionally. "On the first day you eat only foods starting with the letter A, on the second day only B, and so on."
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.