Ballet Stars

The Perks of Being a PUMA Brand Ambassador: NYCB's Unity Phelan's Whirlwind Tour to Asia

NYCB's Unity Phelan in Indonesia. Photo Courtesy PUMA.

Last month, New York City Ballet soloist Unity Phelan spent a whirlwind 10 days in Asia with PUMA, unveiling their ballet-inspired workout line, En Pointe, which was created with input from NYCB dancers. Phelan traveled to five cities—Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Jakarta and Shanghai—to give demonstrations and teach the NYCB x PUMA workout, which incorporates aspects of ballet physicality. Also on the tour was PUMA Team Faster trainer and former dancer Emily Cook Harris, who helped develop the workout with NYCB. We caught up with Phelan to hear all about the experience.


A number of NYCB dancers are involved with PUMA. How were you chosen to represent the company on this tour?

I have such a big interest in workouts. I was a late bloomer, and when I was younger it took my muscles much longer to develop than everybody else's, so I found the gym much earlier than most of my colleagues. At 14 I already had a gym membership. So I've always been interested in the whole fitness aspect of ballet. I think that PUMA caught onto that in some of the events that I'd done with them, and I'd also learned this workout; I think I'm now the only one in the company who knows it.

Phelan and Harris teaching in Japan. Photo Courtesy PUMA.

What kind of input did you give in creating the En Pointe collection?

We had a summit of sorts with PUMA at their headquarters. They asked us what we like in leggings and shirts and different things, and how we would like to wear different articles of clothing that they could make. I talked a lot about color scheme. I think that like most ballet dancers I find myself gravitating towards gray or black or white or pink, just because those are the colors we grow up with.

What did you do in each location on the tour?

I'd teach one or two workout classes with Emily and then I'd lead a demonstration and teach a modified ballet class. For the demonstration I'd do a full barre and some center, and talk the audience through the whole thing, which was actually really exhausting. It's hard to do a barre and talk at the same time; the first day I had such a sore throat. In the class I'd teach them the feet positions and arm positions, and do some different jumps. Grand jeté was a really fun one. We also did photo shoots, had interviews with different media outlets like Elle China, and got to explore a little and soak up some of the culture and try local cuisines, which I love.


Phelan in China. Photo Courtesy PUMA.

What's the most adventurous food that you tried?

We had this one meal in Singapore where they just kept bringing out different meats, and at one point our host was trying to tell us about what we were eating, and I looked around and said, "This is really good, but stop telling me what we're eating; I don't want to know!"

What was it like teaching ballet to people who had little to no dance training?

It was so much fun. I think that ballet is seen by so many people as this untouchable art form that no one could ever do unless you start when you're five, but this workout makes it so approachable. I think it's so important in getting more people interested in ballet. I don't think that was the goal of the whole trip going into it, but I think that was an unexpected outcome that was really exciting for both PUMA and NYCB.


Phelan and Harris in Japan. Photo Courtesy PUMA.

Was this your first time teaching?

I actually teach ballet every summer in Princeton, NJ, at the studio I grew up in. I love teaching kids and people younger than me, but this was my first time teaching people my age or older. I found it really fun; everyone was there to learn and to try something new.

What was your favorite part of the experience?

I loved Malaysia and Indonesia, all these places I'd never imagined going. But I think that becoming closer to the workout and seeing how many people loved doing it was one of my favorite parts, because it's a way of spreading joy. I felt like it was The Nutcracker, like you're just spreading joy everywhere.

Show Comments ()
Viral Videos
Bucharest National Ballet's 2013 trailer for "La Sylphide,' via YouTube

Few things are more powerful for promoting ballet performances than captivating trailers—especially in today's visually-focused, digitally-connected world.

We've rounded up some eye-catching ads from seasons past and present that not only make us wish we could have seen the show, but also stand alone as short films.

Bucharest National Opera's La Sylphide

Magnifying the scarf which—spoiler alert—brings about the ballet's tragic conclusion, this 2013 Bucharest National Opera's trailer turns that fateful fabric into a beautiful, deadly web. Its windswept movements form a dance of its own.

Keep reading... Show less
popular

Looking for your next audition shoe? Shot at and in collaboration with Broadway Dance Center, Só Dança has launched a new collection of shoes working with some pretty famous faces of the musical theater world! Offered in two different styles and either 2.5" or 3" heels, top industry professionals are loving how versatile and supportive these shoes are! Pro tip: The heel is centered under the body so you can feel confident and stable!

popular
Boston Ballet in Bournonville's "La Sylphide." Photo by Angela Sterling, Courtesy Boston Ballet.

Wonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've pulled together some highlights.


Wayne McGregor Makes His ABT Choreographic Debut

Ever since Vaslav Nijinsky shocked Paris audiences in 1913 with his Rite of Spring for the Ballets Russes, dancemakers from Sir Kenneth MacMillan to Pina Bausch have tried their hands at choreographing to Igor Stravinsky's infamous score. This spring, Wayne McGregor will be added to that list. The Royal Ballet resident choreographer's first work for American Ballet Theatre, titled AFTERITE, will premiere at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City on May 21. Known for his grounded and experimental movement style, McGregor's work will feature video designs by innovative filmmaker Ravi Deepres and sets and costumes by designer Vicki Mortimer, both longtime collaborators. Alessandra Ferri, who has collaborated with McGregor in the past, will join ABT as a guest artist.

Keep reading... Show less
via Instagram

The wait for Alexei Ratmansky's restaging of Petipa's Harlequinade is almost over! But if you can't wait until American Ballet Theatre officially debuts the ballet at the Metropolitan Opera House on June 6, we've got you covered. ABT brought the Harlequinade characters to life (and to the Alder Mansion in Yonkers, NY) in a short film by Ezra Hurwitz, and it's a guaranteed to make you laugh.

Keep reading at dancemagazine.com.

Ballet Stars
DePrince soars in English National Ballet's "Giselle." Photo by Laurent Liotardo, Courtesy ENB.

As told to Amy Brandt.

Myrtha is a role I've always loved to watch, but when Tamara Rojo asked me to dance it for English National Ballet's Giselle last year as a guest artist, I thought she was crazy. The role is usually for a tall, strong dancer. I'm strong, but I'm also very petite. I thought people might criticize me for that. I also wore brown tights onstage, since I'm a brown dancer, and I was nervous people wouldn't understand that—but I got great comments on it.

Keep reading... Show less
Viral Videos
Josephine Lee on the road. Photo Courtesy Lee.

Master pointe shoe fitter Josephine Lee of the California-based The Pointe Shop is taking her wares on a tour of the West Coast: California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah and Nevada. Lee is visiting dance schools along the way in her mobile pointe shoe van to fit ballet students. Check out her first five vlogs from the road, filled with picturesque scenery, fun facts and fitting tips—and stay tuned for the next round.

Jeanne Robinson Dance Arts in Salinas, CA

Among the attractions in Salinas that Lee points out is the childhood home of famous novelist John Steinbeck.

Keep reading... Show less
popular

If diamonds are a girl's best friend, it's safe to say that faux-diamond earrings are a dancer's best friend. A fixture onstage at just about every competition weekend, these blinged-out baubles are also the surest sign that recital season is upon us again. And what better way to get into the sparkly spirit than by drooling over these 5 diamonds in the rough? (Sorry not sorry!)

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Videos

Sponsored

mailbox

Get Pointe Magazine in your inbox

Sponsored

Win It!