Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Ballerina Goes Thrifting

Today I'd like to share with you an interview I conducted with dancer and thrifting-extrordinare Carolina Marques. Read what the Alabama Ballet member (and former New Yorker) has to say about navigating the city's immense retail industry, without sacrificing the ability to pay rent.

Photo by Melissa Dooley

When I first became acquainted with Marques, I was struck by two immediate observations; one, that she has a deep respect for and knowledge of the art formballetin which she excels, and two, that she has a wardrobe that could only be rivaled by the likes of Carrie Bradshaw. I suppose it should come as no surprise that someone so meticulous with her technique, so dedicated to the practice and performance of dance, would also harness that same creativity and care when compiling her closet.

Carolina has been dancing for eighteen years, and thrifting for seven. Shopping on a dancer's budget can be a daunting task (especially in NYC), but she approaches the challenge as she approaches her daily rehearsals: with great energy and thought.

1. You moved to NYC when you were 17 to join the Joffrey Ballet School. What was that first year like living and dancing in the city?
I just remember being really excited to be in the city. There's so much to do and to see, so much inspiration everywhere. I think every dancer wants to come to New York because it has two of the best dance companies in the world: American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet. It's unlike any other city in the worldif you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.

2. Have you always been interested in fashion?
As dancers, we are always aware of what we put on our bodies. We always want to look our best. I think that's how it all started. In school, we usually have to wear a uniform, but we still get to wear beautiful costumes for performances. It's different when you are in a company and you can pretty much wear what you want. We never just grab the first leotard we find and rush to class. We cautiously choose our outfits for class, depending on the day and our moods. 
3. How did living in NYC influence your style?
I found people watching, window shopping and going to museums to be inspiring. Plus you can pretty much wear anything you want in New York and no one will really judge you!

4. Let's talk thrifting. What's your strategy upon entering an eclectic, often chaotic thrift store?
You have to be patient and really look through thingsand it's always important to try things on. You can find some really awesome pieces for decent prices at thrift stores in New York that are most likely better quality than Forever 21. 

5. Top three thrift stores in NYC?
Beacon's Closet is definitely my favorite! Then Buffalo Exchange and Housing Works

6. Most important thing to keep in mind when thrifting?
Don't spend money on a piece that you don't really love, and probably aren't going to wear, just because it's Dolce and Gabbana or something. Don't worry too much about labels. Once I bought a pair of Miu Miu shoes that I loved but that were too small for me..I wore them once and hated myself! 
7. Besides shopping at thrift stores, what are some other ways you managed to enjoy the city on a dancer's budget? 
It's so easy to spend all of your money really quickly in the city. There are so many interesting restaurants and bars to explore that you never want to just stay home and cook dinner! Make a list of the restaurants that you really want to go to, and treat yourself to one of them every week or two. Many restaurants have lunch specials that are a much better deal than going out to dinner. Vanessa's Dumpling House has delicious dumplings that are super cheap. Georgetown Cupcake has a free cupcake flavor of the day, everyday. You can find out what the flavor is on their Twitter.

8. What made you decide to leave NYC? 
I learned so much at the Joffrey Ballet School and in the Joffrey Concert Group, but I wanted to have a full-time job as a ballet dancer. I was offered a contract with Alabama Ballet, so I moved to Birmingham. I do enjoy living in Alabamait's definitely a nice change. I miss the city though, and I plan to come and visit when I have some free time. 

9. Any words of wisdom for young dancer's thinking of moving to NYC?
This should be the best time of your life! There are so many museums, expositions, Broadway shows, venues with live music, dance performancesthere's always something exciting happening. Take advantage of being in a city that has so much to offer.

Photo by Melissa Dooley

From pirouettes to pumps, Carolina manifests a grace and sincerity that reveals itself both on and off the stage. The patience with which she shops is the same patience with which she works in the ballet studio, propelling herself into a future of classical and contemporary roles that we can all hope to witness. If you find yourself in Birmingham this month, look for Marques onstage in Roger Van Fleteren's "Romeo and Juliet". 

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