Dancer designers seem to be a dime a dozen these days. With three already in Pacific Northwest Ballet's ranks (principals Elizabeth Murphy and duo Lindsi Dec and Karel Cruz), it might seem like an over- saturated market for another dancewear brand to be able to turn heads. Enter Angeli Mamon. With her new line, Belleza Athletica (pronounced "bay-yes-ah"), the corps member is carving out a niche in studio wear with leotards and skirts that match her confident personality.
Mamon in Belleza Athletica.
Born and raised in Seattle, Mamon didn't find ballet as much as it found her. She entered the PNB School through its DanceChance program at 8 years old. "They go to lower-income elementary schools and audition thousands of third-graders," she explains. The program provides full ballet training scholarships, transportation, and dance clothes and shoes (plus bun help) to participants, and particularly gifted students are invited to join the main school after the two-year program.
On a yearly scholarship, Mamon moved up through the PNB School to its Professional Division and was offered an apprenticeship in 2015, becoming the first female DanceChance student to join the company.
Mamon in 'Le Corsaire.' Photo by Lindsay Thomas.
But it was attending the School of American Ballet's summer intensive at 13 that helped stoke Mamon's crafty side. "I didn't grow up in a rich family, so getting a Yumiko leotard was always a big deal," she says, "and when you go away to summer courses, obviously you want to have your coolest leotards." Mamon began sketching her own designs, and by 16, she was cutting up basic store-bought leotards to create them herself.
Starting her own line one day was a natural progression from her early sketches, but Mamon has timed her side hustle carefully. Promoted to the corps in 2016, she finally feels ready to debut the items that she's been prototyping for years. "It's always been in the back of my mind," she says, "but now I feel like I can take the time to do it. And I have a platform and a name, in a sense."
PNB corps dancer Sarah-Gabrielle Ryan in Belleza Athletica.
Belleza launches this summer with six leotards and one skirt—all manufactured in Peru, where Mamon has family. For the leotards, she has selected a special kind of Lycra that resists typical ballerina wear and tear, and the edgy skirts are made of mesh. Remembering her younger days as a cash- strapped student, Mamon also feels strongly about conservative retail cost. The designs' price points range from $48.99 to $65.
Mamon doesn't feel that she's competing with her designer-dancer colleagues. "We're all super-supportive of each other," she says, noting that the differences in their lines (Murphy's LabelDancewear and Dec and Cruz's Solu) match their personalities. "Liz has her very traditional ballerina leotards. And then Lindsi is super-athletic."
PNB corps dancer Calista Ruat in Belleza Athletica.
Mamon herself is drawn to sensual roles—like Arabian in The Nutcracker—and her designs reflect that flirty and fun attitude. "They're a twist on classic designs. I like super-low backs and showing more skin."
Mamon is decidedly self-assured, both as a dancer and a designer. "My dream was to be here," she says of PNB, "and now that I've fulfilled that, I would love to just have my entire career here in Seattle." Though she hopes that Belleza will appeal to a wide audience, she won't pander: "I'm not going to please everyone." For now, she's happy designing for the few—and for herself.