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!"
What happens during a performance is the product of the painstaking process of realizing an artistic vision. Whether held beforehand, afterward, offsite or online, audience discussions tend not to be so preordained, easily thrown off track without a skilled moderator at the helm.
"I'm someone who dreaded talkbacks and Q&As," admits Bill Bragin, former director of public programming at Lincoln Center. "While I was in New York, a lot of the time it was just audience members trying to show off how smart they were."
These events present a pile of difficult questions: How much do you reveal about a piece before it's shown? How can a conversation designed to hit key points feel casual and spontaneous? How do you cater to the needs of diverse attendees, from novice dancegoers to lifelong fans to scholars and critics? And how do you avoid smothering dance with language, flattening all its complexity?
If you think becoming a trainee or apprentice is the only path to gaining experience in a dance company environment, think again.
The University of Arizona, located in the heart of Tucson, acclimates dancers to the pace and rigor of company life while offering all the academic opportunities of a globally-ranked university. If you're looking to get a head-start on your professional dance career—or to just have a college experience that balances company-level training and repertory with rigorous academics—the University of Arizona's undergraduate and graduate programs have myriad opportunites to offer:
Yes, we realize it's only August. But we can't help but to already be musing about all the incredible dance happenings of 2019.
We're getting ready for our annual Readers' Choice feature, and we want to hear from you about the shows you can't stop thinking about, the dance videos that blew your mind and the artists you discovered this year who everyone should know about.
I dance to encourage others. The longer I dance, the more I see that much of my real work is to speak life-giving words to my fellow artists. This is a multidimensionally grueling profession. I count it a privilege to remind my colleagues of how they are bringing beauty into the world through their craft. I recently noticed significant artistic growth in a fellow dancer, and when I verbalized what I saw, he beamed. The impact of positive feedback is deeper than we realize.