Dancer Spotlight

San Francisco Ballet Corps Member Jordan Hammond's Surprising Side Business

Chad Riley, Courtesy Jordan Hammond

Most dancers might be found grabbing a bite or a nap between performances at the height of Nutcracker season. Not San Francisco Ballet's Jordan Hammond. The corps member renovates furniture in her spare time, a hobby that has morphed into a fledgling business called Rénové. At first, she rented extra storage space that doubled as a workshop. "It was on the same street as the ballet," she says. "I'd sell pieces during breaks between shows." Now married to Diablo Ballet dancer and former SFB corps member Raymond Tilton, she uses their living room for her projects.


Hammond's furniture fascination took root while watching house-renovation shows and visiting antique shops in her Southern California hometown, where she began dancing at Ballet Pacifica. She attended her first summer session at SFB School at 15, but didn't accept artistic director Helgi Tomasson's offer to join the year-round program. She received good training at her local studio, and her social life at home was also a draw. "I had just finished my freshman year of high school and I still wanted that experience. I thought, 'I would stay if I was a trainee.' " When Tomasson offered her that coveted traineeship a year later, Hammond didn't hesitate to move upstate in hopes of joining her dream company. Halfway through her second year, she earned her corps spot.

Chad Riley, Courtesy Jordan Hammond

Hammond first took paintbrush to hand when she moved out of SFB's student housing. While furniture shopping with her mom, she was attracted to an old bed frame from an antique shop and knew that she could revive it with a fresh coat of paint. "A lot of pieces have really beautiful bones, and all they need is just a little love."

She picked up the skills needed to achieve her visions along the way. Each piece gets a thorough cleaning and sanding followed by paint, plus the occasional whimsical addition. "I love replacing the handles," she says. "Those are like the jewelry of a piece." Hammond sources her projects' materials through flea-market browsing or "treasure hunts" throughout San Francisco. With her personal network, it didn't take long to receive her first commission, followed by sales through Craigslist ads and flea-market booths.

Renovated desk by Hammond. Courtesy Instagram

Yet renovating furniture in a small city apartment presents challenges. Hammond has to take her power tools out to the sidewalk, and use chalk-based paints, which don't give off dangerous fumes. Such learning curves have given her a process-oriented approach to her dancing, as well. "We focus so much on the final product, which diminishes the enjoyment of being in the studio every day."

At SFB, some of Hammond's favorite roles are ones she watched as a student and later performed in the company, like Christopher Wheeldon's Ghosts and the aristocrats' dance in Tomasson's Swan Lake. She also relishes being part of the choreographic process. In the future, she hopes to take part in the National Choreographers Initiative summer workshop, and be a canvas for artists like Val Caniparoli and Edwaard Liang.

Renovated dresser by Hammond. Courtesy Instagram.

Dedicated to her dance career, Hammond is happy to let Rénové grow over time. But she's ramped up her social media presence and is thinking of starting an online store. The ultimate dream? To open a brick-and-mortar location, a place for people to wander in off the street and be inspired by unique furniture pieces with past lives and fresh coats of paint. Hammond has also come to realize that what she loves most about custom furniture is what she loves most about dancing: It's human. "It's not perfect and it's just the way I want it to be."

Renovated table by Hammond. Courtesy Instagram.

New York City Ballet in Marc Chagall's costume designs for Balanchine's "Firebird."

I am a self-confessed costume nerd who really needs little persuasion to travel nearly 3,000 miles to see a costume exhibition—which is what I did when I set off for California for the new exhibition at Los Angeles County Museum of Art: Chagall: Fantasies for the StageChagall: Fantasies for the Stage. I knew Marc Chagall primarily for his sumptuous blue swirling paintings featuring violin-playing goats, his incredible ceiling at the Paris Opéra's Palais Garnier, and murals at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City, so I was intrigued to see his work with ballet.

Marc Chagall (1887–1985), was born Moishe Zakharovich Shagal in Belarus. He later moved to St. Petersburg, Russia, to study art, apprenticing under famed Ballets Russes designer Leon Bakst. Chagall's work in ballet and opera, however, did not begin until he and his wife Bella arrived in the U.S. as World War II refugees in 1941.

Chagall: Fantasies for the Stage, adapted from an earlier exhibition at the Montreal Music of Art and curated by Yuval Sharon and Jason H. Thompson, is an exciting opportunity to see 41 costumes and nearly 100 designs. But it is the costumes that really steal the show. You won't see any tutus here, but instead amazing, almost cartoon-like realizations of Chagall's artwork. LACMA's exhibition runs through January 7, 2018. For those of you who can't make the trip like I did, here's a rundown of highlights.

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Tiler Peck in "Who Cares?". Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB.

New York City Ballet principal Tiler Peck and Emmy-winning actress Elisabeth Moss (of Mad Men and Handmaid's Tale fame) may seem like unlikely friends, until you dig a little deeper into their backgrounds. Both attended Westside School of Ballet in Santa Monica and spent summers at the School of American Ballet in their youths. Moss and Peck's career paths diverged when the former fell in love with acting and Peck went on to study at SAB full time, eventually becoming the star we know today. Now, the pairs' artistic pursuits are uniting in an exciting new project.

According to Deadline.com, Moss will produce a documentary featuring Peck and her work curating BalletNOW, last summer's star-studded, critically acclaimed program at Los Angeles's Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Peck was the first woman to lead BalletNOW's programming, and she brought together dancers from companies including The Royal Ballet, Miami City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre and the Paris Opéra Ballet, putting them on stage with tappers, clowns and break dancers (sometimes simultaneously).


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Looking for creative and healthy ways to get your pumpkin fix this fall? First, back away from the pumpkin-spiced latte—the season's unofficial drink is often laced with sugary syrup and comes with a complimentary mid-rehearsal crash. Instead, try these simple snacks with puréed pumpkin. It's high in beta-carotene, which converts to immunity-boosting vitamin A, and is a good source of vitamin K, iron and fiber. You can buy it canned or make the purée from a "sugar" or "pie" pumpkin (they're commonly available at grocery stores or farm markets).

Fruit-and-Spice Toast

- Spread purée onto whole-grain toast.

- Top with sliced pear.

- Add a dash of cinnamon.

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When Maya Plisetskaya first toured abroad with the Bolshoi Ballet, she stunned the world. Her dramatic and technical abilities were far beyond what anyone outside the Soviet Union had seen before. She quickly became an icon, symbolizing Russian ballet.

Plisetskaya was the perfect ballerina to play the Tsar Maiden in The Little Humpbacked Horse when choreographer Alexander Radunsky and composer Rodion Shchedrin recreated the classic Russian folktale in the 1960s. This vintage clip of the ballet offers a glimpse into an era gone by. Although ballet technique has advanced since then, Plisetskaya's performance is still electrifying. She is daring and agile in her manèges and fouettés, while she shows gentle purity and authentic emotion in the pas de deux with the wide-eyed Ivan. Even half a century later, this magnificent artist continues to transfix us with her radiant presence onstage. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!


Pointe Stars
P.O. Alienz in Lavender Leotard; Paulina Waski modelling a Kreature Kulture t-shirt. Photos Courtesy Paulina Waski.

Walk into any ballet class and you're bound to see a row of dancers clad in leotards patterned with dainty flowers and lace. But nearly three years ago, American Ballet Theatre corps dancer Paulina Waski wore a very different kind of leotard to class—and her colleagues loved it. Now an average day at ABT includes any number of dancers in leotards featuring angry aliens, detached eyeballs and grinning monsters.

"My dad, John, is an artist, and he draws all these crazy creatures," Waski explains. "One year he did what he called his paper plate project; he drew a new creature onto a paper plate every single day for 365 days. I thought, 'he should put one on a leotard!' He screen printed one onto one of my old leotards himself, and when I wore it to class everyone was wowed." And so, Kreature Kulture was born.


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Danny Rivera (left) is one of six students from San Juan who the Sarasota Cuban Ballet School is hoping to relocate so he can continue his training. Photo by Soho Images, Courtesy SCBS.


Many of us take our ballet training for granted. But for dancers living in Puerto Rico, which is still reeling from the devastating affects of last month's Hurricane Maria, pursuing a ballet career or simply taking class must now feel insurmountable. What do you do when Mother Nature not only destroys your dance studio, but your home and the majority of the city you live in? Priorities must shift to those of basic survival.

Now, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports that the Sarasota Cuban Ballet School is trying to help six Puerto Rican dancers resume their training. The students, whose studio in San Juan was badly damaged, had recently attended SCBS's summer intensive. School directors Ariel Serrano and Wilmian Hernandez have started a fundraising effort called "Sarasota And Puerto Rico Dance Together" to temporarily relocate the dancers. While they can easily offer them scholarships, Serrano and Hernandez must raise an additional $36,000 to provide housing, food and living expenses for one year. (SCBS has a dormitory for female students, but not for male students.)

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Videos
Photo by Nisian Hughes

Transform your next black-and-white tutu look with these on-trend details like mesh cutouts and lace sleeves. And checkout the behind-the-scenes footage from our tutu shoot, below.

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