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How the World Transforms When You Dance for a Living
03.22.19

In partnership with Dior

What moves you?

“Movement” can speak to what affects you emotionally or spiritually, what inspires you creatively; it can literally mean what your body does in physical space. It’s that last meaning that Dior has most recently drawn inspiration from: The brand’s latest ready-to-wear collection is a celebration of the body in motion.

Which is why, in partnership with the brand, I spoke to two women for whom “movement” figures prominently in their lives: Erica Lall and Isabella Boylston, both dancers for the American Ballet Theater. I wanted to find out how people whose bodies are nearly perpetually in motion felt wearing the dance-inspired designs of Maria Grazia Chiuri — would the lightness and modernity of the collection translate? And further, I wanted to find out what moves them — in all the broad conceptions of the word. Below, alongside an editorial of them styled in Dior, their as-told-to stories about just that. Read on — what moves them might not be what you expect.


Erica Lall

Erica Lall, 21, is from Cypress, Texas and has been dancing with ABT since 2015.

Our bodies do not just move. There is always a rhythm and feeling, and every part of the body knows this. My mom likes to talk about the reason that everyone can automatically dance to reggae music — it’s because the rhythm mimics the heartbeat we know from when we are in the womb. Wearing the Dior collection actually inspired some of my movements today. Everything was incredibly comfortable to wear, yet had structure and flattered my body so well. I felt so feminine and beautiful, and very regal in the pieces, which made me move with more focus on elegance. The lines of the designs gave me the elongated feel that dancers crave. After the shoot, I could not take off the mesh bodysuit because it felt like the serious sass that I feel on and off the stage!

I danced pretty much from the womb because my sister would teach me little steps. She is eight and a half years older than me, and I always had to do everything she did — she was a dancer, too. I grew up doing hip hop and tap and jazz, but when I was eight, I started to really focus on ballet. I always knew I wanted to be a dancer, but when I got my pointe shoes when I was ten years old is when I really knew. I loved how challenging it was.

Dior SS19 man repeller collaboration dancers how you move

When I was 15 I moved to New York by myself, away from Texas. It was totally fine for me, but when I think back on it now I’m like, What were my parents thinking? I wasn’t anywhere near home, I didn’t have any family here. But I fell in love with the city — I felt very comfortable living here even though I was in a shoebox apartment with bunk beds, no stove, no oven, just a mini microwave and a mini fridge. I joined the ABT school when I was 15, and then I joined the company when I was 17 — the American Ballet Theater. And now I’m in the corps de ballet. I’ve been there for almost four years.

We have different roles that we perform all the time, and I just love how you can kind of choose a character to be every day. You can be someone who’s kind of evil, you can be someone who’s peppy, someone who’s super happy, someone who’s falling in love, someone who’s really angry. And I love that we can portray all that without words. Some people come to the ballet to escape their daily lives; for two hours they can feel like they’re a part of something else. And I love being able to be a part of that something else, too.

How much passion I have for this art form keeps me going every day. Ballet is not easy at all! Physically and mentally. You’re staring at yourself in the mirror all day. You’re comparing yourself to people all day. We have to be so strong-headed, strong-minded to be able to make it in this career. And I think the only way you can make it is if you have a strong passion to move you forward.

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Creative inspiration comes from my family, actually. I’m a first generation American — my mom’s from Jamaica, my dad’s from Trinidad. They both were pretty much told they couldn’t do what they wanted to do. They weren’t allowed to pursue anything in the arts. My dad would’ve been a fantastic artist; my mom could’ve been an interior designer; but they weren’t allowed to pursue what they wanted to do when they were growing up. Now both of them have their own businesses — my mom has her own dental practice and my dad is an environmental engineer. Two paths they were told they would never make it in.

I also always get inspired by going to see other styles of dance, other companies. It’s nice to go out of my comfort zone. Or even take a class in a different style of dance.

Last summer I was on a train, heading to Connecticut to teach at a Summer Intensive. I was diagramming my choreography and staging for my class to perform a piece from Swan Lake. I was having difficulty creating the final formations when the man sitting beside me asked what I was sketching. When I explained the whole process of putting together the dancers, the movement, the music and the mood, the perfect way to pull the piece together for the conclusion unfolded.

Everyone has a different way of experiencing the world and others with all our senses. Creativity is our ability to express our thoughts and experiences in a unique way that others can relate to. I have the pleasure of being creative in a universal language by using my body as the canvas and the words. I don’t think I would be able to live my life without moving as much as I do every day; it brings me so much joy. It’s just become such a huge part of my life that I see myself as a 90-year-old woman that’s still dancing in some sort of way.

Dior SS19 man repeller collaboration dancers how you move

Isabella Boylston

Isabella Boylston, 32, is from Sun Valley, Idaho and has been dancing with ABT since 2007.

My mom signed me up for some ballet classes at the local rec center when I was three. You’re not even really doing ballet at that point — you’re just hopping around, playing different animals. I loved dancing and I loved the freedom and creativity of it, but it wasn’t until I was a little older that I became really serious about it. Probably when I was around 11 — that was a turning point for me.

My dad was actually a drummer, so I think that introduction to music and rhythm and dancing around the house was one of the first things that connected me with ballet. Moving your body to music is the most natural thing in the world, it’s so human, but ballet is so physically challenging. That’s definitely one thing that hooked me. It’s like you’re always striving for a level of perfection that’s just out of reach.

Ballets are passed down through the dancers — it’s only recently that we’ve had video footage to learn from. My coach is this 86-year-old Russian woman who grew up in the Soviet Union. In a way, it’s like there’s this almost ancestral connection with dancers from the past. It’s really cool to think about that heritage.

Music is always a huge creative inspiration for me. But I think sometimes it takes a certain amount of maturity to be open to inspiration. I went to a really hardcore ballet school and I got great training. It involved critique, which at times bottled my inspiration, but opened me up technically. I think over time, as I’ve matured in my professional and personal career, I’ve felt really free to express myself on stage and in life.

For many of the roles I’ll portray — like Juliet in Romeo and Juliet or Odette in Swan Lake — I always try to draw from my own personal experiences to make it more real for me and hopefully for the audience. A big part of transforming into character for the various roles I portray onstage is the costume, because of how physical our art form is. I think it’s the same thing in life. The way you dress is an opportunity to express yourself — if you so choose. I loved everything from Dior’s new collection, especially the white Grecian dress with beautiful, fluid lines. I felt like a divinity from antiquity wearing it.

I’m also such a nature girl from growing up in Idaho and spending a ton of time outdoors. The feeling I get from being out in nature in solitude is similar to the feeling I get having a really spiritual experience on stage. Like when I’m really in the moment and find the flow, which doesn’t always happen. But when it does, it’s pretty awesome.

I think creativity is a combination of that divine inspiration and hard work, honestly. There are so many different creative processes — for some people, it will just hit them, and they’ll make a masterpiece that day. And then for others, it might take years to create a masterpiece. And when you’re blocked, it’s important to try to keep going forward. To not focus too much on what happened yesterday, what went wrong. The path forward can be so curvy and unexpected, but just keep moving. Failure is a step on the way to success. It always is.


Photography: Tory Rust 
Art Direction/Production: Emily Zirimis
Photography Assistant: Alejandra Vzqz
Stylist: Harling Ross
Hair: Sergio Estrada
Makeup: Andrew Colvin using Dior Beauty
Models: Erica Lall and Isabella Boylston 

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