The Start of Something New
The Start of Something New
Soloist at The Royal Ballet
Isabella Gasparini was born in Sao Paulo and trained at her mum’s school, then at Canada’s National Ballet School. She joined Northern Ballet in 2007, where she danced for nearly six years, going on to perform with English National Ballet and New English Ballet Theatre before joining The Royal Ballet in 2014.
I never gave it much thought as to where my leotards came from, what materials had been used, or what would happen to them once they were old and no longer suitable to wear. Everything changed when, I spotted Mayara’s post on Instagram announcing that she was the inaugural ambassador of Imperfect Pointes. I met Mayara at The Royal Ballet when I joined seven years ago and had long admired her dancing. Her caring, helpful ways made me feel welcome and settled into the ballet company. Since then we have become good friends, supporting each other and sharing nostalgic moments of missing our beloved home country of Brazil.
Isabella Gasparini (left) and Mayara Magri at a Royal Ballet event.
I thought there must be something very unique about Mayara’s new partnership with Imperfect Pointes besides wearing their stylish leotards. She loves taking on new projects, but won’t invest her time and energy on something unless she feels very passionate about it. I soon realised that Imperfect Pointes was much more than just another fashionable ballet wear brand; their aim is 'to create diverse, stylish, future friendly balletwear for all genders, accessible to all abilities with minimum impact on the planet'. It was clear to me that both shared very strong values about inclusion in dance and sustainability. Mayara's good-hearted nature was now reaching out not only to those around her, but the dance community and our planet. My admiration for her continues to grow as a fellow ballet dancer and friend.
What first caught my attention was its name: 'Imperfect Pointes'. It immediately resonated with me, as someone who has always felt challenged by the concept of "perfection" in dance. Why are we dancers forever exerting ourselves to be so perfect? In an effort to achieve our high standards, we often forget what ballet truly is about: movement, expression, sharing feelings and emotions. Striving for greater technique and a certain aesthetic is a just fragment of it, one that requires a lot of discipline and hard work. However, there is something very soothing and humble in admitting that we are not - and never will be - perfect dancers (we are only human) and we can achieve much more in dance - and in LIFE - if we quit trying to be so flawless.
Imperfect Pointes commitment to diversity and representation within the dance community - regardless of ability, size, gender or skin colour - reflects the feelings I have always had that dancing is for everyone, whether it is a form of exercise, promoting well-being or a way of living. Amongst other benefits, it inspires creativity and develops emotional resilience, giving us the skills to succeed not only in the studio but in other aspects of our lives, be it personal or professional.
Ballet has enriched my life in so many ways since I started dancing at four years-old. My ‘ballet friends’ are now all grown up, have families and have pursued other interests, but although most of them don’t dance anymore, I can see how ballet is still a part of them. It has taught us how to fight for our dreams, how to live with our differences and be supportive of each other. Needless to say, it had a profound impact on me and changed the course of my life.
Ballet wear plays a big part in helping us build a positive image and feel confident with our dancing. It even becomes a part of one’s identity and style. Professional dancers like having their leotards, skirts and tights in different designs and colours (we spend a lot of time in them after all). I pick a different leotard every morning, one that best suits my mood. I always go for dark colours when feeling vulnerable, pink or pastel when I’m calm, and save the bright leotards for bold, cheerful days. Whether it is for practical reasons, (like keeping our muscles warm and ready to go) or creating a fashionable look (there is such thing as fashion and style in ballet), we keep a big collection of dance wear and grow very attached to it, but the problem is: we do end up hoarding a lot of things we don't actually need or wear, and worst of all, most things end up being chucked away.
Piles of discarded leotards, clothes and shoes in the changing rooms.
Walking into the female changing room, you will often see an ever-growing mess of unwanted leotards and tights lying next to an overflowing pile of dead pointe shoes. What becomes of them? I believe we are quite good at exchanging and borrowing things off each other from time to time, but having been introduced to a future-friendly brand opened my eyes to the possibility that we could be doing a lot more to help reduce waste. It made me aware of my own habits and the changes I could make towards improving my lifestyle in general.
Imperfect Pointes is the very first sustainable dance wear brand in the UK and thanks to founder Helen, her team and the partnerships she has created, it’s raising awareness to the scary fact that, in a multi-million-dollar dance wear industry, very few brands are being proactive about sustainability. The fashion industry is believed to be the second biggest polluter in the world, so it’s crucial that we change our approach to waste. By being a leading example, the brand is encouraging dancers, like Mayara and myself, to shop ethically, spread the word and share our love for dance and the planet.
Isabella wearing our Tuscany Zip Leotard in Cupcake Pink.
I was delighted to discover that no matter how long you've had your Imperfect Pointes leotard, you can send it back for free repairs and prolong its life cycle. All of their leotards and tights are made of ECONYL® yarn, a form of textile that looks and performs the same as ordinary nylon, but made using regenerated plastics recovered from the oceans - such as old fishing nets, along with industrial plastics diverted from landfill. The best part for me is that everything can be reused and recycled again and again.
The amount of information we hear every day about sustainability - what is good or bad for the environment - can be overwhelming, but Helen's approach to changing things one small step at a time really resonated with me. It is ok to be imperfect and to take things on board slowly, to admit that we are trying but there is still room for improvement. By letting go of the pressure we put in ourselves every day to be perfect, we can make more conscious decisions and open our eyes to what truly matters in the moment.
Isabella performing in Rhapsody in 2016. (Taken by Dave Morgan)
Choosing to start something new, whatever it may be, gives us a chance to evaluate things from a new perspective. I believe we are presented every day with new concepts, ideas, and opportunities that can help us grow and develop as human beings. Inspired by Mayara's collaboration with Imperfect Pointes and their shared commitment to doing something meaningful, I have realised that I can also help make a difference by supporting independent, eco-friendly brands that change our perception of ballet for the better.
I feel so incredibly alive when I dance. But there is another thing that feels just as good, and that’s when I’m surrounded by nature. Protecting it means just as much to me as my work as an artist.