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!"
For decades the name Alicia Alonso has been virtually synonymous with Ballet Nacional de Cuba, the company she co-founded in Havana in 1948. Alonso died on October 17, just shy of what would have been her 99th birthday. In recent years, she had stepped back from day-to-day decision-making in the company. As if preparing for the future, in January, the company's leading ballerina, 42-year-old Viengsay Valdés, was named deputy director, a job that seems to encompass most of the responsibilities of a traditional director. Now, presumably, she will step into her new role as director of the company. Her debut as curator of the repertory comes in November, when the troupe will perform three mixed bills selected by her at the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso. The following has been translated from a conversation conducted in Spanish, Valdés' native tongue.
"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.
New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns wasn't sure she was strong enough. A ballerina who has danced many demanding full-length and contemporary roles, she was about to push herself physically more than she thought was possible.
"I said, 'I can't. My body won't,' " she says. "He told me, 'Yes, it will.' "
She wasn't working with a ballet coach, but with personal trainer Joel Prouty, who was asking her to do squats with a heavier barbell than she'd ever used.
Her Dying Swan was as fragile as her Juliet was rebellious; her Odile, scheming, her Swanilda, insouciant. Her Belle was joyous, and her Carmen, both brooding and full-blooded. But there was one role in particular that prompted dance critic Arnold Haskell to ask, "How do you interpret Giselle when you are Giselle?"
At eight, Alicia Alonso took her first ballet class on a stage in her native Cuba, wearing street clothes. Fifteen years later, put in for an ailing Alicia Markova in a performance of Giselle with Ballet Theatre, she staked her claim to that title role.
Alonso received recognition throughout the world for her flawless technique and her ability to become one with the characters she danced, even after she became nearly blind. After a career in New York, she and her then husband Fernando Alonso established the Cuban National Ballet and the Cuban National Ballet School, both of which grew into major international dance powerhouses and beloved institutions in their home country. On October 17, the company announced that, after leading the company for a remarkable 71 years, Alonso died from cardiovascular disease at the age of 98.