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January 17, 2014

Moscow Committee of Chicago Sister Cities Holiday Party


Aleksandra Efimova, Prince Piotr Galitzine and Laura Yergesheva


Lyric Opera singers

Lyric Opera singers

Moscow Committee Holiday Party

William Lear and Alexander Tseitline


Drake Hotel

Russian caviar and vodka


Russian caviar and vodka

Moscow Committee Holiday Party

Aleksandra Efimova and Laura Yergesheva

Ian Maksin

Ian Maksin


Russians love any opportunity to get together with friends, and luckily, those who live in Chicago have twice as many chances to celebrate. In addition to participating in the American holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, Russian-Americans also celebrate Russian Orthodox Christmas and “Old New Year,” which is the beginning of the year according to the Julian calendar.

In honor of all the Russian and American holidays, The Moscow Committee of Chicago Sister Cities International, chaired by Aleksandra Efimova and Prince Piotr Galitzine, hosted its First Annual Holiday Party on Wednesday, Jan. 8.

Petrossian caviar and Real Russian Vodka both served as sponsors for the event, which took play at the Drake Hotel’s Palm Court. Petrossian provided an authentic display of black caviar, served with Russian blintzes, crackers and traditional condiments. Once again, Real Russian Vodka generously supported the event, donating a dramatic ice sculpture which was on display in the center of the room, and the company’s president and founder, Inna Feldman-Gerber, spoke to the guests and offered a toast to the crowd.

In addition, guests were treated to a concert performance featuring two talented Lyric Opera singers, Will Liverman and Richard Ollarsaba, who performed selections from Eugene Onegin and the Queen of Spades, both by Tchaikovsky. Guests were mesmerized by their amazing voices, which filled the opulent room and transported the listeners to the magical world of opera. St. Petersburg-born cellist Ian Maksin, who now lives in Chicago, also delighted the crowd with his charismatic style, soaring music and expert musicianship.

Laura Yergesheva, executive member of the Moscow Committee, called the committee’s first holiday party a tremendous success. “It was an exquisite evening that celebrated everything Russian culture has to offer,” she said. “We look forward to many more successful events that bring our people closer together.”

Marat Sedenkov, President of LaMarCo Systems in Northbrook, said the holiday party was a wonderful way for Russians and Russian-Americans to network with each other. “Aleksandra creates an environment where people can talk about their accomplishments,” he said. “We’re always curious and want to know what’s going on at home.”

William Lehr, a member of the board of the Harvard Business School Club of Chicago, said he was impressed by the event and enjoyed the small, intimate setting. “It was a wonderful, elegant event and a chance to extend the good relationships of the Moscow Committee to other members of the Chicago business community,” he said.

Niamh King, vice president of programs at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, said the holiday party allowed guests to connect with others who share in the vision of strengthening ties between the United States and Russia. “This year’s Moscow Committee holiday party was a lovely opportunity to connect with leading Chicagoans who recognize the ongoing importance of US-Russia relations, cultural exchanges, and partnership opportunities between our two great cities,” she said.

Chicago Sister Cities International coordinates programs and projects with Chicago’s 28 sister cities and is committed to promoting Chicago as a global city, developing international partnerships and networks, and sharing best practices on a city-to-city basis.

Since its inception in 1960, Chicago Sister Cities International has built bridges between the people of Chicago and its international neighbors to achieve greater mutual understanding and to strengthen civic, economic, and cultural ties. Chicago has been a sister city with Moscow since 1997.

January 2, 2014

My Dance Story | January 2014

 Posted By: Aleksandra Efimova  In: My Dance Story

Olivia Behrmann's Dance Story

Olivia Behrmann, Age 15

My dance story began when I was 7 years old. After trying soccer, cheerleading, and gymnastics, my mom enrolled me in a ballet/tap/jazz combination class, and from then on, I was hooked! My first ballet costume was a lavender and cream dress, and I wore it in my first performance — my studio’s end of year recital.

After my first year of ballet and jazz, I went on to do competition dance for 4 years until the age of 12, when I quit competition dance to pursue classical ballet. When I was young, I loved learning new steps and wearing pretty costumes. As I have gotten older, I find that I love the challenge of not only learning new steps, but trying to perfect them. I love that in ballet, there are always things to work on and improve, and that I can push myself to be better than I was yesterday and the day before.

Now I am 15 years old, and my dream is to become a professional ballerina. I currently do my school online because I spend 30+ hours a week at the studio, and I have spent the last 2 summers training in New York City (in 2012 at Valentina Kozlova’s Dance Conservatory of New York and in 2013 at The School of American Ballet). I have won numerous scholarships (for both cash and programs), and in 2012, I won 3rd place in the Junior Classical division of the YAGP Indianapolis regional and went on to compete in the YAGP New York City finals — all in my Russian Pointe Sapfirs!

December 30, 2013

Russian Pointe® Retailer: Brandywine Dance Shoppe

 Posted By: Aleksandra Efimova  In: About Russian Pointe, Retail Affiliate Profiles

Brandywine Dance Shoppe

Dance has always been the love of Diane Abrams’ life.

She began taking ballet at age 6, and continued dancing all throughout high school and college. But after graduating with a degree in business administration, Abrams left the world of dance and got a job in the computer science field, something she realized she quickly hated.

Then, in 1985, when she was 28, a tiny shop opened up in her hometown of Wilmington, DE. “I thought, ‘You know what? I need to buy that dance shop,” she says.

So she took out a loan and opened Brandywine Dance Shoppe. “Everyone thought I was crazy – my dad, my parents’ accountant,” she says. “I just kind of went with my gut feeling.”

Over the years, Brandywine has continued to grow, and Abrams has moved her store twice to expand to larger locations.

Today, Brandywine Dance Shoppe is a family affair, with her husband and two daughters – a freshman and a senior in high school – helping out during their busiest time of the year.

Abrams’ daughters – who both take ballet, tap, jazz and lyrical – help keep her merchandise on-trend by telling her about all of the latest styles dancers are wearing these days. Plus, one of Abrams employees also works at a gymnastics studio, giving Abrams an inside track on what the most popular looks are in gymnastics wear.

What the store is best known for, however, is their wide selection of pointe shoes, which includes models from six different brands of manufacturers. Of all the brands, Abrams says Russian Pointe® is their most popular.

“I like the variety that they offer,” Abrams says of Russian Pointe®. “I can change up a shank, I can change up a vamp. It’s just the huge variety of options available.”

Abrams says today’s customers expect pointe shoes to fit like a glove and be comfortable from the first time you put them on – very different from when she was a dancer in the 1970s when there were few pointe shoes to choose from and you assumed pointe shoes were going to be painful.

In fact, Abrams’ first pair of pointe shoes were Pavolwas from Capezio, a narrow, slender shoe that was not good for her wide feet with bunions. But Abrams didn’t know any differently.

“The dancers are so much savvier today,” she says.

Despite having danced herself for years, Abrams the process of learning how to fit someone properly in a pair or pointe shoes is an art that has taken her years to perfect.

“It didn’t happen overnight. It takes time,” she says. “I can’t imagine anyone selling pointe shoes or having a dance shop who didn’t have experience.”

December 13, 2013

Russian Pointe® Retailer: Assemblé Dancewear

 Posted By: Aleksandra Efimova  In: About Russian Pointe, Retail Affiliate Profiles

Ginger and Noel Amend, a husband and wife team who own Assemblé Dancewear in Colorado Springs and Castle Rock, CO, have been in the dance retail world for more than 30 years, so together they’ve seen just about every type of dance shoe that’s ever been made.

And when it comes to pointe shoes, both say they like Russian Pointe® the best.

“We’re just really frustrated with Capezio and Bloch. We call those the Fords and Chevys of the shoe world. We call (Russian Pointe) the Mercedes,” says Noel Amend.

About 80 percent of the pointe shoes the Amends sell are Russian Pointe®, and both Ginger and Noel say that the Russian Pointe® shoes stand out for their quality as well as their design.

Both are partial to Russian Pointe®’s Jewel series. “We like the cut of the box… we like the flat profile, we like the amount of the taper,” Ginger says. “It’s just a very aquiline, elegant looking shoe.”

“The Rubin is probably my favorite shoe right now,” Noel says. “We’re getting really good feedback from the shoes. It seems to have a long service life.”

The Amends’ story goes back to 1979, when Ginger owned a dance studio in a small town in Wyoming. At the time, there were no dancewear stores close by, so Noel and Ginger decided to open their own. After 15 years, the couple moved to Colorado, where Ginger had gotten a job as an attorney, and they opened a new store in their new state. After a few years, Ginger gave up practicing law, and now the couple runs two stores about 45 minutes apart.

Part of the Amends’ success has been Noel’s reputation as an expert pointe shoe fitter.

“People always raise an eyebrow and say, ‘And how do you know how to fit pointe shoes?’” Ginger says.

Although Noel was never a dancer, he saw what dancing did to his wife’s feet because she was never professionally fit in pointe shoes, so he has taken every training seminar available to learn all he can about how to fit dancers’ feet properly. He spends 90 minutes in each initial pointe shoe fitting, examining the dancer’s foot and providing education about how she can care for her feet, shoes and even toenails to prevent injury.

“It’s so gratifying to know that I’m saving feet,” he says.

The ability to specialize in pointe shoes is something that has helped Assemblé Dancewear stay profitable in the Internet age, when so many customers can find products online for cheaper. Unlike dancewear clothing or ballet slippers, which can be ordered through catalogues, pointe shoes are one item that must be fitted in person.

But Ginger says retailers who are considering adding pointe shoes as a category need to weigh their decision carefully. Since pointe shoes are more expensive than many other items, retailers can make a larger profit on each sale. But on the other hand, you need to have a lot of different styles and widths on hand to be able to fit each customer who comes in the door.

Ginger says they evolved from carrying many different brands to focusing only on a few that they like, but carrying more sizes and styles in those brands. “We found over the years it was better to fine tune our inventory,” she says. “We do it big and we try to do it right.”

November 29, 2013

Growing Through Arts® Retailer: Lori’s Dancewear

 Posted By: Aleksandra Efimova  In: About Growing Through Arts, Retail Affiliate Profiles

Lori's Dancewear

At Lori's Dancewear, The Growing Through Arts books are perched on top of a display area in the center of the store.

Lori Cain spent more than 20 years as a professional dancer and dance teacher before she opened Lori’s Dancewear in 2009. And even though she’s no longer teaching, she is still dedicated to inspiring young girls about dance.

“You want to instill in them some part of that passion you had for dance,” Cain says.

That’s one of the reasons that Cain carries Russian Pointe®’s Growing Through Arts® line of Ballet Series books and toys in her store in Beaumont, TX.

The Growing Through Arts® Ballet Series books tell the story of three famous ballets – The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella – and each book includes ballet-themed vocabulary words at the back to help educate children about the world of dance, something that many young children don’t learn about at school or at home.

“Some children learn about that, but I think a lot of little dancers don’t really get that [dance education],” Cain says. “The well-rounded dance experience is what you want to provide.”

When Cain took over Josephine’s Dancewear in 2009, which had been in business for more than 30 years, she gave the store a new name, a new look, and a new emphasis on pointe shoes. Today, the store offers a wide range of pointe shoe options and professional pointe shoe fittings, as well as the latest fashions in leotards, warm ups and gymnastics wear.

Despite the added emphasis on pointe shoes, young ballet dancers are still an important segment of Cain’s customers. “Every little
dancer who comes in here is important to us,” she says, adding that the books are a great add-on item for young dancers who come into store to get clothes and shoes. “It was an item they could play with and something they could take away that’s fun.”

Cain says the books have been extremely popular since she started carrying them, and she recently placed a new order of Nutcracker books and toys for the holiday season.

She’s even had dance teachers buy the books to read to their littlest ballet students in class. “I definitely would have used those if they’d had them back in my day,” Cain says.

Cain says she is careful about what ballet-themed gift items she brings into her store because she doesn’t want to carry junk, but she was impressed by the quality of the Growing Through Arts® books and toys.

“They’re unique,” Cain says of the books, which she has prominently displayed in the center of the store, just above a collection of dance bags. “You’re always searching for companies to provide something new in your store, and Russian Pointe® is the only company that provides that tool and does it in a professional way.”

November 27, 2013

My Dance Story|December 2013

 Posted By: Aleksandra Efimova  In: My Dance Story

Emma Kapper's Dance Story

Emma Kapper, 14

Dussich Dance Studio

Like any young girl, of course I wanted to grow up to be a ballerina. I was put in ballet classes at my local dance studio when I was 5 years old. My first teacher, Miss Jennifer, was a sweet, kind woman and she introduced me to my love for dance. I was later able to perform in my first annual recital Winter Wonderland in 2006. My combo class performed a Thanksgiving-themed number where we were dressed as turkeys. It definitely wasn’t my favorite number, but I now look back at the old recital tapes and laugh over how adorable the dance really was. I felt like a star on stage in the tacky orange and yellow costume, gold hat, and feather tap shoe ties. I felt like a true dancer and it made dancing a part of my life as it still is today. Unfortunately, Miss Jennifer died recently of cancer, but I’m still dancing with her in my prayers.



November 20, 2013

Grand Opening at Neverland Emporium

 Posted By: Aleksandra Efimova  In: About Growing Through Arts, About Russian Pointe
Russian Pointe and Neverland Emporium

Neverland Emporium owner Maria Thorpe and Megan Bentz from Russian Pointe

Growing Through Arts

Growing Through Arts toys on the wall

Neverland Emporium

Neverland Emporium

Steve Thorpe provides snacks to customers

Neverland Emporium

When Maria Thorpe was researching which brand of pointe shoes she should carry in her new dancewear store, Neverland Emporium in Kaysville, UT, she didn’t have tough decision.

“When I went to your website and saw your videos, I knew Russian Pointe® was what I wanted,” Thorpe said, adding that she was immediately impressed by the quality of the shoes and the overall professionalism of the company.

She was so enthusiastic, in fact, that she made an initial order for five Russian Pointe® styles – the Rubin, Almaz, Lumina, Muse and Entrada Pro – as well as for the Russian Pointe® canvas slippers and the entire line of Growing Through Arts® books and toys.

Thorpe’s path to becoming a dance store owner began about a year ago when she was tired of trying to find dance shoes and clothes for her daughter. With no dancewear stores close by, Thorpe said she often resorted to buying things online, only to have to send the items back multiple times because they didn’t fit correctly.

After talking with her husband, Steve, who has years of experience in the franchise and retail industries, Thorpe decided to open her own store. She named it after Neverland from Peter Pan, and decorated the entire store to look as it were the Darling’s home in the book.

As someone with no dance or pointe shoe training, Thorpe was nervous about fitting pointe shoes. “Not being a dancer I really had no idea what a dancer was looking for,” she said.

So Thorpe was thrilled when Russian Pointe® team member Megan Bentz offered to fly out to Thorpe’s new store on Nov. 14 to train her and her staff and then stay for the store’s Grand Opening on Nov. 16.

“Megan was wonderful. She went into incredible detail on each style, how you have to take into account the vamp, the width and the shank,” she said.

After walking the staff members through the subtle differences between each Russian Pointe® model, Bentz had the staff practice fitting shoes on each other. Then they practiced fitting Thorpe’s two daughters — Mary, 12, a dancer, and Jenny, 13, a soccer player – which helped them get experience fitting someone who wasn’t familiar with pointe shoes.

Thorpe said the training boosted her confidence. “Based on the training Megan gave me, I feel like anybody who comes in, I can fit them,” she said. “I really felt like after I left I knew what I was doing.”

In addition to training Thorpe on how to fit pointe shoes, Bentz also showed her how to merchandise them. Instead of displaying the shoes in alphabetical order, Bentz suggested the shoes be lined up from narrowest to widest to give the customers a visual representation of the differences of each shoe.

During the Grand Opening, Thorpe’s husband stood with a sign in front of a local dance studio, while Thorpe and Bentz did pointe shoe fittings at the store. They provided snacks for new customers, and Bentz gave away Russian Pointe® posters as well.

“I think they’re going to be really successful,” Bentz said.

November 15, 2013

Russian Pointe® Retailer: Dancewear Center

 Posted By: Aleksandra Efimova  In: About Russian Pointe, Retail Affiliate Profiles

If you ask dance store owners what the biggest obstacle is that they face today, most would say the same thing: the Internet.

Many dance store owners struggle to compete with discount online retailers where customers can get almost anything for a cheaper price. And when you own a dancewear store in the Seattle suburbs – near the epicenter of Google and Microsoft’s headquarters – the Internet looms even larger.

“The biggest problem in the industry is the Internet,” says Patrice Heston, who has owned Dancewear Center in Kirkland, WA, for 22 years. “Our customers are very tech savvy.”

Luckily, Heston provides something the online discount retailers can’t: personal evaluations and in-depth safety tips.

As a former dancer herself, Heston says she suffered many foot problems by being fit improperly in pointe shoes, so she strives to give her customers a thorough examination in every pointe shoe fitting. She begins by looking at a dancer’s bare feet, then reviews the dancer’s old shoes to see where they’ve worn and has the dancer perform basic exercises to view her bone structure and alignment.

“I’m really interested in educating them,” Heston says.

After evaluating the dancer’s unique foot structure, she recommends a pointe shoe that will best fit her needs. In some cases, Heston even suggests that dancers see a podiatrist in Seattle who makes special inserts for pointe shoes to ensure a proper fit. “I look for keeping their joints supported,” she says. “I’m a real stickler in having the entire metatarsal supported and not going over in the shoe,” she says.

As an Authorized Russian Pointe® retailer for more than 10 years, Heston says one of the best things about the brand is their wide variety of styles, shank strengths and width options, which help her fit every dancer with precision.

Plus, she loves their design. “Aesthetically they’re stunning, and the girls find them comfortable,” Heston says. “They’re just gorgeous.”

Currently Heston carries the Lumina and the Rubin, but she says she loves all of the Russian Pointe® shoes. “I would carry them all in a heartbeat if I had more room,” she says.

Heston gained lots of knowledge about how to fit pointe shoes correctly when she was operating a retail store that was associated with the Washington Academy of Performing Arts, a private performing arts school that offered classes in music, acting, dance and more.

“I could fit the shoes and then I could walk the halls and see the dancers in the studio. I got immediate feedback and could see what was going on with their feet,” she says.

Heston has even trained her husband, Marv, who is a dance photographer, in pointe shoe fitting as well so he can help out a customer when she gets too busy in the store.

In addition to providing quality pointe shoe fittings, Heston says the secret to staying in business for so long has been not relying too much on trends. “I’m real conservative,” she says. “I don’t have a lot of super high fashion in the store. We try to have enough of what we do have so if [a customer] has driven here, they get what they need.”

On Your Toes Anniversary Celebration

 Posted By: Aleksandra Efimova  In: About Russian Pointe

At Russian Pointe®, we are thrilled whenever our retailers expand their businesses and take steps towards the future. We try to do everything we can to ensure that our retailers’ continue to prosper and thrive.

That’s why we were excited to celebrate the success of On Your Toes Dancewear in Peabody, MA, which recently moved to a new, larger store.

“It was quite a journey,” owner Laynie Terban said of the move.

Terban opened On Your Toes in Revere, MA, in 1986, when she was 22 years old. She then moved the store to Peabody in 1995, and last Thanksgiving, moved the store again to a new, nearly 5,000 square foot location about four miles away. Terban said the increased space and heightened visibility of her new store has brought in droves of customers she hasn’t seen before, and profits have soared.

On Nov. 9, Terban hosted a lavish event to thank her customers and celebrate the one-year anniversary of the new store, and Aleksandra Efimova, president of Russian Pointe®, was proud to be able to attend. “We are honored and privileged to have been working with On Your Toes as a retailer for so many years,” Aleksandra said. “We wish them the very best in their endeavors.”

More than 360 dancers, parents, dance teachers and others attended the event, which featured a harpist playing as customers entered the store and ballet dancers dressed in Nutcracker tutus passing out purple cupcakes, non-alcoholic champagne and brownies decorated with tiny ballerinas.

In addition, customers received a special shopping discount and had a chance to win prizes, including Russian Pointe® water bottles, T-shirts and souvenirs.

During the event, Aleksandra gave personalized pointe shoe fittings and also signed autographs and took pictures with many young dancers.

Terban said having Aleksandra attend was like having a celebrity in the store. “It was very exciting and the children loved that,” she said, adding that dancers were lined up to receive a personalized fitting from Aleksandra. “She was busy the entire time.”

Lori Terban, Laynie’s sister and the store’s manager, agreed. “We were so thrilled to have Aleksandra here. It just made the event,” she said. “It was so great to have our customers have the opportunity to meet the person who makes the shoes.”

Laynie Terban said she loves carrying Russian Pointe® shoes because of their elegant styling. “It’s so precise in the break of the arch of the foot,” Terban said. “They’re so beautiful. When I go to any performances, I’m always looking at the dancers’ feet, and I can always tell when they’re in Russian Pointe®.”

November 6, 2013

My Dance Story | November 2013

 Posted By: Aleksandra Efimova  In: My Dance Story, Uncategorized

Connor Hamilton, age 11
Salt Creek Ballet

My dance story began when I was two years old.  My dad, who inspires me to work hard, had been a ballet dancer so he signed me up for my first class when I was two years old.

My favorite thing about dancing when I was little was entertaining everyone with dances I made up on the spot. I still like to choreograph my own dances but I really enjoy learning more challenging choreography from some of the amazing teachers I’ve had.

I remember my first tutu I had to wear in class when I was two – I didn’t like it at all!  After much crying and complaining, my teacher finally let me wear a skirt instead of that scratchy tutu and after that I loved my classes.

My first performance was in my school’s recital and I got to dance with my dad.  I am eleven years old now and I train six days a week and I love every minute.

This year, I won first place at Youth America Grande Prix in Indianapolis and I wore a beautiful tutu.  I’m going to YAGP again next year and can’t wait to get my new tutu and of course, a new pair of Russian Pointe Entradas.


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