Stories & photos by Alexandra Pullen & Kayleigh Likens.
Alexandra Pullen is a Studio Company dancer at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at American Ballet Theatre and the recipient of the Shoot for Change Scholarship, which was created by fashiontographer’s Editor-in-Chief, Walter Grio. Kayleigh Likens is a Level 7 dancer at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at American Ballet Theatre.
For more information on how you can support the JKO School at American Ballet Theatre, please email MajorGifts@abt.org.
If you would have told me twelve months ago that I would be invited as a spectator to see Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York, I would’ve told you that you were crazy. And not to mention the fact that I’m fulfilling my dream of living in New York and pursuing my ballet career. The best word that I can use to describe this experience is “surreal.” I am so fortunate that my sponsor from ABT, Walter Grio, not only enables me to live my dream, but he also gave me and my roommate, Kayleigh, an unforgettable experience at Fashion Week.
As I approached the monstrous Fashion Week tent at Lincoln Center, street photographers were taking pictures of the attendees. I recognized some of the poses made by these chic and elite fashionistas from fashion blogs and websites like Pinterest. Unsurprisingly, not a single photographer approached me to snap a picture of my lackluster outfit. I tried my best to avoid being in the photographers’ frames at the horrifying mental picture of seeing myself in my boring clothes next to these trendsetters on fashion blogs. Don’t get me wrong — I love fashion; I read Vogue and watch “Fashion Police.” I just don’t have the time or cash to fund my interest in Fashion, especially because I’m in ballet clothes 99% of the time. Feeling out of place was definitely worth it for the thrill and excitement of being a part of a select group of people invited by designers to go to their shows.
The first show I went to was Rafael Cennamo. It was like a museum because the models stood in a room and the viewers walked around and ogled at the designs. The Baroque inspired line reminded me of the Alexander McQueen exhibit at the Met. At one point I was standing a foot away from the designer, which was really thrilling. I felt like a celebrity being offered complimentary champagne (not that I can drink it), kale juice (believe it or not, it sounds better than it tastes), and mini hand sanitizers to my heart’s content.
The other shows that we went to were runway shows. My favorite was the Venexiana show. I distinctly remember the lady next to me at the first show ignoring the performance and staring at her phone the whole time. While I was gawking at what was in front of me, she turned to me, sighed, and said, “Boring, no?” I was flabbergasted that someone could be so unimpressed by such a magnificent display!
Personally, the most intriguing part about the runway shows is not merely the clothes; it’s the whole show as a package. It’s a combination of the vibrations of the bass blaring through the sound system, the flashing lights of photographers’ cameras, the intricate lighting on the runway, and the meticulously calculated order of the pieces. That an audience member could be so nonchalant about the experience astonished me. The viewer isn’t just looking at clothes; he is treated to a sensory feast. As a performer, I can appreciate runway shows as an art form within the designers’ creations. Sometimes I didn’t even notice the pieces that the models were displaying because I was spellbound by the production. I have seen runway shows on television before, but I could never fully appreciate the art form until I experienced it. Not only are the clothes magnificent, the exhibition in its entirety is where the true excitement lies. Now I can understand why so much time and money goes into a 5-10 minute runway show.
I was so lucky to be in the midst of the vibrancy of Fashion Week and to be included in the event. Even if I never get an opportunity to go again, this amazing experience will stick with me for the rest of my life. THANK YOU WALTER!!!!!
My roommate, Alexandra, and I got invited to attend the New York fashion week by fashion photographer Walter Grio who is a sponsor of the JKO school of American Ballet Theatre. I was very excited to see what fashion week was like for the first time. It was a wonderful experience.
As my roommate and I approached Lincoln Center and the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week tent, the first thing I started to notice was the clothes. In New York – where I once saw a man walking in midtown in a canary yellow suit with matching shoes – standing out takes some effort. Suddenly in every direction there were eye-catching bright colors, faux fur, super high heeled shoes, huge sunglasses, and crazy dyed hair of every color. I felt incredibly out of place with my natural brown hair and snow boots as we entered the auditorium.
The DJ above was pumping out loud music, lights flashed and it felt a little like a cross between a club and a convention of extremely well dressed fashionable people. I found a photo booth with all kinds of beauty and hair product related props. There was even a Maybelline makeup counter that had its own touch screen vending machine where we had our choice of makeup products. There were also many snacks and souvenirs that were health and beauty related. I got several free small bottles of hand sanitizers that ballet dancers – who roll around on icky floors all day – kill for.
As we made our way into our first fashion show, I was surprised at the format. All the models stand on a display and you walk around them. This was one of my favorites because you could see the models up close and take pictures. Some people were taking pictures inches from their faces. You could even see blisters on the model’s feet – aha! They are not quite perfect!
In the evening we saw a more traditional runway show. It was so cool seeing how intense and focused the models looked. Each model would come out in one dress and less then 2 minutes later they were in a completely different dress! At the end of the show, the designer popped their head out while others took their walk down the runway.
I can really relate to the excitement, anticipation, and nervous tension just before the show started, as I feel the same way before every ballet performance. It then occurred to me that fashion shows and dance performances are so different yet they have similarities too. The designer worked so hard for so many hours on their masterpieces or creations and in just a few minutes, the show is over. Within a few minutes, many months’ or even a year’s work is done. Same with dance – whether from the perspective of the dancer or the choreographer – all of the tremendous effort is over quickly. Both dance and fashion also share the experience of playing to an audience, and the unknown of how the efforts will be received.
Although I have no ability to evaluate or compare the designers or shows from the perspective of fashion, it was one of the coolest events I’ve ever attended.