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March 4, 2014

Growing Through Arts® books donated to children in Haiti

 Posted By: Aleksandra Efimova  In: About Growing Through Arts

Growing Through Arts books in Haiti

Growing Through Arts books in Haiti

Helping children learn and expand their worlds is a passion of mine, and it is especially important for me to try to bring joy to all children, no matter what their circumstances.

That’s why when Dr. Anthony Kremer, a veterinarian in Chicago, told me that he was working to help children in the impoverished country of Haiti, I was moved to donate some of my Growing Through Arts® books to the children there.

Growing Through Arts® is a series of educational storybooks that teach children about ballet and music. The series includes three ballet books – The Cinderella Ballet by Aleksandra, The Sleeping Beauty Ballet by Aleksandra, and the Nutcracker Ballet by Aleksandra – as well as three music-themed books. Each book features an illustrated story, as well as vocabulary words about the arts.

Dr. Kremer is part of an organization called New Life for Haiti, a group based in Plainfield, IL, that is dedicated to helping the people in the Grande Anse River Valley in Haiti by building new schools and homes and providing food, clothing, vitamins, books and school supplies.

Recently, Dr. Kremer and other volunteers from New Life for Haiti visited the village of Moron, to construct a school for 300 children. During the visit, Dr. Kremer brought the Growing Through Arts® books to the children there, and he said they were mesmerized by the colorful illustrations and the magical stories of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker.

“Having your own book is a big deal,” Dr. Kremer says of the children in Haiti. “Even though they are just learning to read and write in some of these schools that we are building, they were fascinated by the pictures and were eager to have someone that spoke Creole tell them the stories.”

By introducing the children to books, Dr. Kremer said they become more inspired to study.

“In the most poverty stricken country on the planet, acts of giving like Aleksandra’s may be first time a child sees the reason that education has a purpose,” he says. “There is a big world with great opportunity out there and the children of Haiti are becoming aware that the only way out is to dedicate themselves to learning.”

In addition to donating the Growing Through Arts® storybooks, I also donated the Growing Through Arts® Stage Scene Play Sets, which feature bendable, re-stickable, pieces that children can play with to ignite their imaginations and re-tell the stores of the famous ballets. Dr. Kremer said the children were immediately drawn to the toys and enjoyed playing with the characters to make the stories come to life.

“These children were so thankful and excited to receive what in Haiti is nothing short of a luxury,” Dr. Kremer said. “The story of Cinderella may be a far-away dream for these girls, but thanks to Aleksandra, there are now a whole lot more princesses in Haiti trying to find their way through a tough world.”

March 3, 2014

Visiting Russian Pointe retailers in Maryland

 Posted By: Aleksandra Efimova  In: About Russian Pointe
Trunk Show at Footlights

Sofia Uralsky does a pointe shoe fitting at Footlights in Frederick, MD.

Trunk show at Footlights

The Russian Pointe trunk show at Footlights in Frederick, MD

Trunk show at Footlights

Sofia Uralsky and Megan Bentz of Russian Pointe pose with the staff from Footlights in Frederick, MD

Footlights in Frederick, MD
Russian Pointe® team members Megan Bentz and Sofia Konstance Uralsky recently made a trip to visit several different Authorized Retailers throughout Maryland.

The trip began on Friday, Feb. 21, when Bentz and Uralsky visited four different retailers throughout the Bay State: Artistic Costumes and Dance in Towson, MD; Dance Supplies Etc. in Severna Park, MD; Les Gals in Silver Spring, MD; and Footlights in Silver Spring, MD.

At each location, the retailers were excited to meet with Bentz and Uralsky and give them a tour of their retail space, stock room, fitting room and more.

Then on Saturday, Feb. 22, Bentz and Uralsky held a trunk show at a second Footlights location in Frederick, MD, which features a large, beautiful floor space and an entire room dedicated to pointe shoe fittings, with Russian Pointe® shoes displayed on each wall next to the mirror.

Russian Pointe® is one of the top two best-selling brands of pointe shoes that Footlights carries, so their customers were thrilled to have the chance to meet representatives of the brand in person and have the opportunity to be fitted by a Russian Pointe® expert.

The trunk show was held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and the entire event was booked with pointe shoe fittings, some for advanced dancers and others for those who were brand new to pointe shoes.

Luckily, Footlights has an impressive inventory of Russian Pointe® shoes in stock – they carry every model except for the newest one, Entrada Pro — making it easy for almost every single dancer who received a pointe shoe fitting to walk out of the door with a pair of shoes in hand.

During the trunk show, Uralsky and Bentz fit many dancers in the new shoe, giving the staff a chance to see how it would work on various feet, and by the afternoon, the store decided to add the Entrada Pro to their line-up. “When they saw that we were fitting it on everyone and how beautiful it looked, it was an easy decision,” Uralsky said.

YAGP Semi-Finals in Indianapolis

 Posted By: Aleksandra Efimova  In: About Russian Pointe
YAGP Indianapolis 2014

The Russian Pointe table at the YAGP semi-finals in Indianapolis

YAGP indianapolis 2014

A dancer poses in front of the Russian Pointe banner at the YAGP semi-finals

YAGP Indianapolis 2014
Every year, Russian Pointe® is proud to be a sponsor of the Youth America Grand Prix, the world’s largest student ballet scholarship competition, and this year, it was a special privilege to attend the Midwest regional semi-finals at Indiana University in Indianapolis on Feb. 15.

The dancers who took part in this year’s semi-finals were truly outstanding, with so many artistic and athletic dancers vying for the coveted spots at the national competition in New York City in April.

During the event, dancers visited the Russian Pointe® booth in the lobby of the auditorium, where they had the chance to try on samples of our entire collection of pointe shoes and get a glimpse of our newest model, the Entrada Pro, as well as our new collection of colorful, ballet-themed iPhone covers, which feature a watercolor drawing of a ballerina from the Nutcracker, Swan Lake or Don Quixote.

Dancers loved the opportunity to find out more about the brand, and several posed for pictures in front of our purple banner, thrilled with the opportunity to meet Russian Pointe team members face to face, while others begged their parents to place an order for the new iPhone covers.

For parents, the event was a wonderful way to learn more about the safety guidelines that we recommend for our shoes. We handed out free copies of our Parents’ Guide to Beginning Pointe, and also explained the differences between our models and answered questions from parents about how to find the perfect fit for their daughters.

Being at the YAGP semi-finals was a great reminder about how much hard work and dedication so many dancers put into ballet every day.

We loved interact with such accomplished dancers, many of whom are already loyal fans of Russian Pointe®, and being able to offer our encouragement and support to these dancers who have worked so long and hard to achieve their dreams.

Good luck to all of the semi-finalists on their final performances in New York!

Atlantic Dance Retail Show in Baltimore

 Posted By: Aleksandra Efimova  In: About Russian Pointe

Atlantic Dance Retail Show Baltimore

Atlantic Dance Retail Show Baltimore

Sofia Uralsky and Megan Bentz pose with a dance retailer at the Russian Pointe booth.

Recently, Russian Pointe® team members Megan Bentz and Sofia Konstance Uralsky headed to the Washington, D.C., area to meet with several retailers and also attend the final Atlantic Dance Retail Show of the season, which was held on Feb. 23-24 at the Hunt Valley Inn / Wyndham in Hunt Valley, MD.

The show was the busiest of the season, with twice the number of dance retailers attending as in any of the other trade shows in the past month. Bentz and Uralsky said they had a full line-up of appointments scheduled throughout the trade show, and other retailers stopped by the booth to take a look at our newest models – the Muse and the Entrada Pro.

“People are really starting to fall in love with it,” Uralsky said of the Entrada Pro, adding that it is an update of the classic Entrada model, with a lower profile, lower heel, and the opportunity to have it in six widths instead of four.

There was also a lot of buzz over the new Russian Pointe® iPhone covers, which feature pastel watercolor drawings of ballet dancers from the Nutcracker, Swan Lake and Don Quixote. Retailers snapped photos of the covers and posted them on their stores’ Facebook and Instagram pages, generating excitement from their customers.

Russian Pointe® Business Development Manager Megan Bentz held a pointe shoe fitting seminar on Sunday, and many existing customers attend for a chance to see our complete line of pointe shoes and find out about some of the models that they don’t currently carry.

During the question and answer portion of the seminar, retailers shared tips with each other about how to fit Russian Pointe® shoes on different types of feet. For example, a few retailers shared that they keep several pairs of the Rubin and Brava in stock that have a vamp 1, which is lower than a typical vamp and makes it easier for beginning dancers to get up onto pointe.

Throughout the show, Uralsky said several stores who are big supporters of Russian Pointe stopped by the booth to greet us, including Janice Caraballo, owner of DC Dancewear in Easton, PA, who said she wanted to tell everyone how wonderful our shoes are.

“It’s always nice to hear that our products are working for something and that they’re a loyal fan because it lets us know that what we’re doing back in the office is making a difference,” Uralsky said.

February 25, 2014

Russian Pointe® Retailer: Mark’s Dancewear

 Posted By: Aleksandra Efimova  In: About Russian Pointe, Retail Affiliate Profiles
Mark's Dancewear

Mark's Dancewear

Before Mark Chelsen opened Mark’s Dancewear in Johnston, IA, he hadn’t taken a ballet class in his life. As the manager at a trucking company and the father of two boys, he hadn’t even been around girls very much.

But all that changed when his wife, a lifelong dancer and owner of a nearby dance school, had to have multiple surgeries on her feet because of being improperly fit in pointe shoes.

Chelsen asked the surgeon what could be done to prevent injuries like his wife’s, and then and there, he decided to make it his life’s mission to make sure other girls wouldn’t suffer the same fate.

In 2002, Chelsen opened Mark’s Dancewear, a full-service dancewear store featuring shoes and accessories for jazz, tap, ballroom, show choir, and of course, a robust selection of pointe shoes. Chelsen devoted himself to learning everything he could about how to fit pointe shoes correctly, and through years of practice, today, he is considered an expert in his field.

Chelsen has a three-step pointe shoe fitting process that he’s hoping to turn into a training video. He starts by making sure the girls’ toes are straight in the box, then focuses on alignment, strength and flexibility. “If everything is in alignment, it’s pressure. If it’s out of alignment, it’s pain,” he says.

As someone who insists on providing the correct support for each dancer, Chelsen has become an avid fan of Russian Pointe® shoes. “They offer the widest selection of shanks, vamps and widths,” Chelsen says. “Russian Pointe® has the shoes that mold to the feet.”

Chelsen likes to start beginners in the Rubin model, which have a pre-arched construction and are good for girls who are accustomed to wearing flip flops and Ugg boots with little support. “They’re wide and square, so they’re like training wheels,” he explains.

Once the girls are able to stand up on their toes and gain confidence and strength, he moves them into other models. Chelsen, himself, says he’s partial to the Entradas. “I love the way the Entrada looks on the foot,” he says.

Chelsen says one of the secrets of his success has been his high volume of inventory. He carries almost every model that Russian Pointe® offers, and he says customers will call and ask if he has a lot of Russian Pointe® shoes in stock, and then drive up to five hours to find what they are looking for. “People will drive if they know you have inventory,” he says.

Chelsen has also learned that listening to your customers is key. He practices what he calls “bobblehead marketing,” which is saying yes to whatever customers ask for. “When they come in, you learn to listen and ask what else do you need?” he says.

“When they leave confident and happy, that’s what you want in a store,” he says. “You’ll see a lot of happy people come and go.”

February 14, 2014

Lyric Opera’s Fantasy of the Opera gala

 Posted By: Aleksandra Efimova  In: Aleksandra in the Community

Fantasy of the Opera

Fantasy of the Opera

One of my favorite events to attend each year is the annual Fantasy of the Opera gala, a fundraiser that supports the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

As a member of the Lyric’s Guild Board of Directors, which hosts the annual event, I am proud to do my part to raise money for the Lyric, one of the most important cultural institutions in Chicago.

From the food to the music to the décor, the Fantasy of the Opera is always a feast for the senses, and this year was no exception. Held on Jan. 31 at the Civic Opera House in Chicago, this year’s gala, themed “Petals and Pearls,” was inspired by the Lyric’s recent production of Madama Butterfly.

The Civic Opera House was transformed into a resplendent Japanese garden, complete with hanging paper lanterns, pretty pink fans, cherry blossoms and more. Guests enjoyed sushi and sake, as well as a performance by taiko drummers, an origami presentation, and an ikebana floral showcase.

The theme was also evident in the raffle prizes, which included roundtrip tickets to Tokyo, as well as Majorica pearls and an Oriental rug. To help out, I donated a complete autographed collection of my Growing Through Arts® children’s books to the silent auction, which also included prizes such as tickets to the Chicago Blackhawks and a Louis Vuitton handbag.

This year, I was thrilled to have been chosen as one of the Best Dressed at the event by Social Life Chicago for my short silver dress, bright red shoes and long string of pearls. What an honor!

The event featured a cocktail hour followed by a cabaret performance by some of the Lyric’s most renowned stars, including Christine Brewer, Ana Maria Martinez, Brandon Jovanovich, Eric Owens, Jill Grove and David Cangelosi, who performed selections from the great American songbook and Broadway classics.

Following the cabaret, guests sat down for an elegant dinner prepared by Limelight Catering and then danced the night away to music by the Rendezvous band.

Victoria Friedman, an attorney with McDermott Will & Emery who also was named to the Best Dressed List, called the evening “spectacular” and said she was proud to be able to support the Lyric Opera, one of Chicago’s most treasured gems. “The Lyric Opera offers an extraordinary repertoire and enriches the community,” she said. “I hope for it to be enjoyed and appreciated by many generations to come.”

I am so pleased with how the entire evening turned out and proud that we were able to raise more than $420,000 in a single night, which will not only go towards supporting the Lyric Opera but also help them continue to foster an awareness and appreciation of opera through education and community outreach programs.

February 13, 2014

Atlantic Dance Retail Show in Chicago

 Posted By: Aleksandra Efimova  In: About Russian Pointe

Chicago Atlantic Dance Retail Show

Sofia Konstance Uralsky of Russian Pointe and Magical World of Dance from Batavia, IL

Atlantic Dance Retail Show Chicago

Sofia Konstance Uralsky from Russian Pointe and Emily, a fitter at Diana’s Dancerwear in Ohio

Russian Pointe® continued its string of trade shows this month, attending the Atlantic Dance Retail Show at the Oak Brook Marriott in Oak Brook, IL, on Feb. 9 and 10.

The buzz about Russian Pointe® was evident at the trade show, where dozens of new retailers visited the Russian Pointe® to inquire about carrying our shoes.

“Stores that don’t carry (Russian Pointe® shoes) say there is a demand for the product,” says Megan Bentz, Business Development Manager for the brand. “People have been asking them to please, please carry Russian Pointe®.”

We were thrilled to have new stores from rural areas of Illinois, as well as cities throughout Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin all express interest in carrying our shoes, showing the expansion of the brand’s awareness throughout the Midwest.

On the second day of the trade show, Bentz held a pointe shoe fitting seminar where she explained the differences between Russian Pointe®’s various models and outlined the brand’s philosophy. Bentz said the room was full of new, prospective retailers who were eager to learn more about the brand.

At the end of the seminar, there was a lively question and answer session where retailers asked the Russian Pointe® experts what to do in unusual situations, such as when someone is knuckling in their shoes or a dancer is breaking in her shanks too quickly.

Many new retailers were especially interested in our Muse shoe, which is designed with a roomy toe box and was our third best-selling shoe in 2013. Nationally, more and more retailers are seeing dancers with large, wide feet, and many said they appreciated finding a shoe that would work with these type of dancers.

In addition, retailers placed a lot of orders for our new iPhone covers, which feature three different watercolor illustrations of dancers: Clara from the Nutcracker, the Black Swan from Swan Lake and a Spanish dancer from Don Quixote.

As always, we loved meeting with retailers from around the country and learning more about their stores and their businesses. We are looking forward to meeting even more retailers at the next Atlantic Dance Trade Show, taking place in Baltimore Feb. 23-24!

February 3, 2014

Russian Pointe® Retailer: Dancer’s Choice

 Posted By: Aleksandra Efimova  In: Uncategorized

Dancer's Choice
When you call Dancer’s Choice in Aliso Viejo, CA, owner Grace Lee will know you by the sound of your voice.

“When they call, I recognize their voice, I know their name and I know their pointe shoe size,” says Lee. “They just thank me and they don’t go anywhere else.”

Lee says it’s that kind of personal touch and exceptional customer service that has helped her build Dancer’s Choice from a small, fledgling shop to a successful dancewear business with two locations in Orange County.

Lee first opened her store in 2003 after she had spent about 10 years raising her three children. At the time, Lee’s daughter, Josephine, was involved in dance, and there was only one other dance store in the area. So Lee, who was looking for a new challenge, decided to open her own dancewear store.

Lee quickly discovered that the only way to compete with the existing store, which advertised deep discounts, was to offer superior customer service, so she made a point to get to know her customers on a personal level and have a huge amount of merchandise in stock so customers would always find what they were looking for.

She also decided to start carrying pointe shoes. “I researched it a lot. I went to all the seminars and shows and I really concentrated on pointe shoe fittings,” she says. “I think that was my starting point for being more successful.”

Lee began by carrying Russian Pointe® shoes, and today, Russian Pointe®s are one of her most popular brands.
“Russian Pointe® are my favorite pointe shoes,” Lee says. “The Jewel collection is the most flattering. It’s very versatile – you can fit most feet: wide, narrow, whatever.”

Lee says she sells the Rubin is her best seller and fits the widest range of feet, and she sells a lot of Sapfir for more tapered feet.

Today, Lee is known as an excellent pointe shoe fitter, and teachers throughout southern California send their students to Dancer’s Choice for fittings. “In our area there are two big Russian schools and they refer everyone to me,” she says.

Lee says developing a strong reputation with dance teachers is key to building your business. Whenever she finishes a pointe shoe fitting, she tells the customer to make sure to show the shoes to her teacher so the teacher knows who did the fitting, and whenever Lee gets new pointe shoes in the store, she calls all of the local dance teachers to let them know.

In 2011, Lee opened a second location in Irvine, CA, located near several dance schools, the University of California Irvine and the 405 freeway. Run by her daughter, Josephine, now 26, the store has already developed a loyal customer base and a strong following on Facebook with more than 1,000 fans.

Lee says, for her, part of the fun of running the business is getting to watch dancers go from little girls to grown women. “I fit them in their very first pair of ballet slippers when they are three years old,” she says. “When they graduate, I just cry when they go off. I supply them all their life, and I’m part of their success. It’s really good to see them grow and be successful.”

Lee makes an effort to go watch her customers’ performances, too. She attends multiple spring recitals, and goes to about six to eight different performances of the Nutcracker each year, going behind stage to greet her customers and see how they are doing in their pointe shoes.

After more than 10 years in business, Lee says she couldn’t imagine doing anything else. “I love this job. This is the best thing I ever did.”

Russian Pointe® Retailer Profile: Beam & Barre

 Posted By: Aleksandra Efimova  In: About Russian Pointe

Beam and Barre
These days, downtown Greenwich, CT, is more akin to Rodeo Drive than to a small, sleepy New England town. The street is lined with Mercedes, BMWs and Range Rovers, as people carry shopping bags from the nearby Hermes, Ralph Lauren and Apple stores.

But tucked in the middle of the main thoroughfare is a charming, 2,000-foot space called Beam & Barre, an independently-owned dancewear store that has been a staple of the community since the late 1970s.

Georgia Tretradis, who has owned the store since 1982, says families have been coming to her store for decades for everything from tap, jazz, hip hop, ballroom, and most importantly, 36 different varieties of pointe shoes.

“They come to me for my diversity and selection,” Tretadis says. “I have people come out of the Bronx and the city for my pointe shoes.”

In the more than 30 years that Tretradis has been in the dance business, she says she’s seen many fads come and go, and right now, Tretradis says Russian Pointe® shoes are one of the hottest styles. “The right foot in there looks so good and so perfect,” she says.

Tretradis says many of her customers also say Russian Pointe® is one of the most comfortable brands of pointe shoes on the market. “I think it’s a really fantastic brand and I know a lot of girls are really happy with it,” she says.

Tretradis says she is lucky that both she and her entire staff are very knowledgeable and experienced in pointe shoe fitting, so they are able to provide pointe shoe fittings on a first-come, first-serve basis, unlike most stores, which require customers to make a pointe shoe fitting appointment because they do not have enough experienced fitters on staff to accommodate walk-ins.

A long-time dancer, Tretradis says she got into the dance retail business when the former owner of the store, who was a friend of hers, decided she wanted to become a chiropractor. At the time, Tretradis had graduated from college and was working as a buyer for Saks 5th Avenue, so she thought that combining her love of fashion with her love of dance would be the perfect career for her.

Today, Tretradis attributes her store’s longevity to the initial passion she had for the business.

“I like action of being here. I like the camaraderie with my girls,” Tretradis says. “I love what I do. I’m happy doing what I’m doing.”

Trunk Show at Artful Dancewear

 Posted By: Aleksandra Efimova  In: About Russian Pointe

Artful Dancewear

Artful Dancewear

Artful Dancewear

Artful Dancewear

Artful Dancewear

As any pointe shoe fitter knows, the challenge of finding the perfect fit for every foot is part of the fun.

That was definitely the case at the recent Russian Pointe trunk show, held on Saturday, Jan. 25 at Artful Dancewear in Dallas. Despite the fact that many of the dancers who came in for pointe shoe fittings had unusually sized or shaped feet, the Russian Pointe experts were able to find the right shoe for each of them.

One girl, for example, had two different size feet and ended up wearing shoes in the same model but in different lengths on each foot. Another dancer had previously bought both a pair of Luminas and a pair of Bravas in different sizes and came in to be fitted to determine which shoe was actually the better cut.

Because owner Kay Dalziel already carries every model that Russian Pointe makes, except for the newest style, Entrada Pro, their wide variety of items in stock made it easy for the Russian Pointe fitters to find the right shoe for each customer, no matter how strange the situation.

Dalziel says it’s precisely the fact that Russian Pointe makes so many different options of widths, shanks, vamps and more that make them such a popular shoe. “They’re beautiful on the feet and I just like the variety you can get,” she says.

Unlike many stores, Artful Dance also carries several Russian Pointe models in both the U-shaped cut with a drawstring as well as in the V-cut without a drawstring. Although most Americans tend to wear the U-cut shoes, Dalziel says there is one local dance school in her area that requires that their students to wear V-cut only, and other dancers simply like the more elegant, refined look that comes without a drawstring.

One of the highlights of the trunk show was fitting a professional dancer who is a frequent customer in the store. The dancer was already wearing the Russian Pointe Rubin model, but Megan Bentz, Business Development Manager for Russian Pointe, suggested that she go with a shoe with a lower vamp for performances so she would show off more of her leg and slightly less shoe.

Dalziel said she thought the entire trunk show was very successful. “I thought it was a really good event,” she said. “All of the customers were really excited.”

Dalziel said having the chance to watch the Russian Pointe experts – Bentz and Sofia Konstance Urlasly, Russian Pointe sales manager Sofia Konstance Uralsky – performing pointe shoe fittings, especially on complicated feet, was an invaluable training tool. “As long as I’ve been doing this, and as long as my assistant’s been doing this, you’re never too old to pick up something new,” Dalziel said.

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