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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.

Atlantic Dance Retail Show in Dallas

 Posted By: Aleksandra Efimova  In: About Russian Pointe

Atlantic Dance Retail Show Dallas 2014Atlantic Dance Retail Show Dallas 2014


Every year, Russian Pointe® makes an effort to attend the Atlantic Dance Retail Show in Dallas for a chance to catch up with our loyal dancewear retailers and meet new store owners and make new friends.

This year, we were once again delighted to attend the show, which took place from Jan. 25-26 at the Grapevine Convention Center in Grapevine, TX. On Sunday, the excitement was palpable as dance retailers visited various booths, looking for the latest styles in dance clothes, accessories and shoes.

At the Russian Pointe® booth, many retailers were eager to place orders for the new Russian Pointe® iPhone covers, which feature a beautiful watercolor drawing of a dancer on the back. Russian Pointe® Business Development Manager Megan Bentz said retailers couldn’t wait to start carrying the new iPhone covers in their stores, and thanks to feedback from customers, Russian Pointe® is now hoping to roll out new covers for Android phones in the near future, as well.

Retailers also placed orders for our new line of adult tights, which we officially launched in December 2013. “The first thing they said whenever they picked them up was how soft they are,” Bentz said, adding that retailers also liked the soft waistband, which provides maximum comfort.

In addition, several retailers had the opportunity to take a closer look at all of our models of pointe shoes and ask questions about the difference between the styles. One retailer, for example, was trying to decide between carrying our Lumina and Brava models, and we were able to show her how the box and the amount of taper in the heel vary in the two models and match the right shoe for her based on the type of feet she typically sees.

On Monday, Aleksandra Efimova answered more questions about the differences between our various makes and models at the Russian Pointe® pointe shoe fitting seminar, and many retailers seemed to appreciate our commitment to educating retailers on proper pointe shoe fitting technique.

One of the highlights of the Dallas trade show was meeting one of our newest retailers, On Pointe Dance N’ Fitness Wear in Norman, OK, whose owner was a former Russian ballerina and ballet teacher, and Aleksandra treated the owner to dinner so they could catch up about life back in Russia.

We hope you can join us at one of the upcoming Atlantic Dance Retail Shows taking place in February. We will be at the Marriot Oak Brook in Oak Brook, IL from Feb. 9-10, and at the Hunt Valley Inn Wyndham in Hunt Valley, MD, from Feb. 23-24. We look forward to seeing you there!

January 27, 2014

Trunk Show at The Dance Store in Los Angeles

 Posted By: Aleksandra Efimova  In: About Russian Pointe

The Dance Store Trunk Show

The Dance Store Trunk Show

A dancer named Chloe tries on a pair of Entrada Pros

The Dance Store Trunk Show

When Russian Pointe® held a trunk show at The Dance Store in Los Angeles on Saturday, Jan. 11, so many dancers signed up for pointe shoe fittings that every time slot was full.

Two Russian Pointe® fitters – Megan Bentz and Sofia Konstance Uralsky – fit dancers throughout the day, analyzing their feet to determine the best shoe for each dancer.

The Dance Store is a proud Russian Pointe® retailer that carries every make and model that Russian Pointe sells, so its customers are already avid Russian Pointe® fans. Many of the dancers who came in for fittings wanted to have the experience of being fit by Russian Pointe®’s expert fitters and to find out if there were any other models that would be good for their feet.

In fact, two dancers came to the trunk show to confirm they were in the best shoe possible before they took part in the upcoming Youth America Grand Prix competition.

However, a few customers were trying on Russian Pointe® for the very first time, including one girl who did not know about the trunk show and just happened to be coming in for a pointe shoe fitting. Happily, she ended up buying a pair of Russian Pointe®s!

Another young dancer from Japan came into the store with her mother looking for shoes small enough to fit her tiny feet. At only 9 years old, she has found it hard to find pointe shoes in her size, but luckily Megan Bentz, business development manager for Russian Pointe®, was able to fit her in some Russian Pointe® children’s sizes.

“I think it was really well received,” Jenny Roman, owner of the Dance Store, said of the trunk show. “The girls loved the experience of watching the expert pointe shoe fitters from Russian Pointe®.”

Roman said she loves carrying Russian Pointe® because of their quality, consistency of fit, and variety of options. “It’s really the hundreds of choices you have,” she said. “It’s just a good product.”

Atlantic Dance Retail Show in Los Angeles

 Posted By: Aleksandra Efimova  In: About Russian Pointe
Atlantic Dance Retail Show

A retailer poses with Russian Pointe team members Megan Bentz and Sofia Konstance Uralsky

Russian Pointe® headed to the sunny West Coast recently to attend the Atlantic Dance Retail Show, which took place at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel in Los Angeles Jan. 12-13.

This was the first time that the show was held in Los Angeles, and it was exciting to be able to get acquainted with many California-area retailers that we’d never met before, as well as meet with retailers from as far away as Colorado, Arizona, New York, Florida, Texas, Mexico, the United Kingdom and Japan.

Many people flocked to the Russian Pointe® booth, eager to see our complete line-up of pointe shoe models, and many retailers who don’t currently carry all of our styles placed orders for additional models after seeing them in person.

Retailers also had a lot of interest in our newest model, the Entrada Pro, which are ideal for dancers with medium-length, slightly tapered toes and a fuller foot.

In addition, we also showcased our new collection of convertible ballet tights, which come in a light pink that matches our pointe shoes and ribbons, giving dancers a smooth, continuous look all the way up the leg. The tights are available in small-medium and medium-large adult sizes.

One of the most popular items we debuted at the trade show were our new Russian Pointe® iPhone covers, which are available for pre-order now with scheduled delivery in March. The covers have three different designs, each with a gorgeous fashion illustration of dancers: one with the Black Swan from Swan Lake, one of Clara from the Nutcracker and one with a Spanish dancer from Don Quixote.

“The iPhone covers received a great response,” said Megan Bentz, business development manager for Russian Pointe. “The retailers all wanted one for themselves.”

One of the highlights of the trade show was also hosting a pointe shoe seminar on Sunday, where Bentz and Sofia Konstance Uralsky, Russian Pointe® sales representative for the eastern region, gave an hour-long talk about how to choose the correct model for each dancer’s foot, prevent injury, deal with pointe shoe problems and the Russian Pointe® brand philosophy.

Attending trade shows is always a wonderful way to get out and have a chance to connect with so many of our dedicated retailers and thank them for their continued support. We’re looking forward to returning to Los Angeles again next year!

January 20, 2014

Old New Year’s at the Russian Embassy

Russian-born singer Fantine

Laura Yergesheva, Prince and Princess Galitzine, Aleksandra Efimova


Old New Year

Aleksandra Efimova and Laura Yergesheva at the Russian Embassy

Old New Year

Laura Yergesheva, His Excellency Ambassador Sergey Ivanovich Kislyak, Mrs. Natalia Mikhaylovna Kislyak, Aleksandra Efimova

Old New Year

Laura Yergesheva, Igor Butman and Aleksandra Efimova


On Monday, Jan. 13, Aleksandra Efimova and Prince Piotr Galitzine, chairs of the Moscow Committee of Chicago Sister Cities International, as well as committee member Laura Yergesheva, were invited by the Russian Ambassador to the United States to celebrate “Old New Year” at the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C.

Old New Year is a distinctly Russian holiday that celebrates New Year’s Day according to the old Julian calendar, which was still in use in Russia until 1918. For Russians, Old New Year marks the end of the holiday season, which begins with the current New Year’s Day, followed by Russian Orthodox Christmas on Jan. 7, and then Old New Year’s.

“As a Russian-American, I love the chance to celebrate so many different holidays, from Thanksgiving and Christmas to the traditional Russian holidays,” said Ms. Efimova. “It is a wonderful time to be able to reconnect with friends and look forward to the coming year.”

To celebrate the holiday, Sergey I. Kislyak, the Ambassador of Russia to the United States, invited more than 400 of the most prominent members of the Russian community in the United States to attend a lavish cocktail reception and concert at the embassy.

The event also provided an opportunity for Russian business leaders to discuss ideas for the Fourth Annual Russia Day gala and business forum, which will be held in Chicago again in 2014.

During the cocktail reception, guests were invited to tour the embassy’s spectacular rooms, which were decorated for the holidays with thousands of twinkling lights, and see the amazing collection of mosaics, crystal chandeliers and valuable works of art housed at the embassy.

Russian vodka was served, along with traditional Russian hors d’oeuvres, such as caviar, blintzes, stuffed eggplant, smoked fish and olivie salad.

Following the cocktail reception, guests were invited to attend a performance by Igor Butman, the most famous Russian jazz musician alive today. Butman, a jazz saxophonist who has played with American jazz greats such as Wynton Marsalis, Dave Brubek and Chick Corea, performed several American jazz standards, as well as his own compositions. In addition, the concert featured Russian-born indie-pop singer Fantine, who has had several hit singles in Australia.

Ms. Yergesheva called Butman’s performance “captivating.”

“When he started doing jazz riffs, it was like being at a jazz club,” she said. “It kind of breaks up the stereotypes of what we think of as Russian culture. It’s amazing to me to see that a Russian-born musician could play jazz like that.”

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