Building a Fitness Empire
You may have noticed Broadway dancer Emily Hsu's vibrant leggings and sports bras in dance and yoga studios across the country. In just two short years, Emily Hsu Designs has become a dancer-approved sensation, thanks to her unique understanding of line and fit—knowledge of a woman's body that only a dance career can teach. Her roster of clients now boasts the Rockettes and top-level Broadway dancers, who swear by her flattering gear.
The Road to Broadway
Hsu was late to dance, not starting in earnest until she was an undergrad at Harvard University, where there's no formal dance program. She dedicated herself to dance training in her free time, and moved to NYC after graduating with a psychology degree. “I always knew I wanted to perform growing up, and I always loved theater," she says. “So, I started auditioning and training at Broadway Dance Center." Her work paid off within a year, when she landed her first Broadway gig, Miss Saigon. In the 22 years since, Hsu has performed in 12 Broadway shows, including Spamalot and Elf, and many workshops and tours.
Supply and Demand
In the summer of 2014, Hsu reconnected with her yoga practice. “I just really couldn't find much that I liked to wear to class," she says. She had no formal training in sewing or patternmaking, outside of her mother's instruction, but Hsu decided to go buy some stretch fabric and see what she could do. “After many, many tries, I actually made something that I really liked for myself," she says.
People at the yoga studio took notice and started asking for custom pieces of athletic wear. Hsu's network of dance and fitness colleagues followed. Beth Nicely, a dancer in Something Rotten!, a former Rockette and current trainer at Body by Simone, started posting pictures of Hsu's creations on her Facebook page—and the requests started to multiply. “There's a pattern for any mood or emotion you're giving while you dance," Nicely says. “They're supportive but don't hold you back from kicking your legs." At the time, Hsu was making all of the clothes by hand. “I would make 40 pairs and load them up in a suitcase and sell them to the Rockettes," she says. She later opened an Etsy shop and eventually launched a website. Faced with growing demand, she enlisted a cut-and-sew operation out of New Jersey to produce her pieces.
Models wearing Hsu's designs (photo by Justin Patterson, courtesy Hsu)
Building a Brand
Great dancers are master cross-trainers, and Hsu wanted her pieces to stand up to anything her customer threw at them. “You want to wear it out and about looking cute, but you also want to be able to dance, spin or do hot yoga," she says. All of her garments are made with four-way stretch fabric and high-performance thread to withstand all those high kicks and splits, and her leggings are also all high-waisted and are cut long. Her high-waist design stems from frustration with other leggings causing muffin top. “I used to feel like I had to wear baggy tops with my leggings or wear a really tight tank top to pull me in, but with the cut of my leggings it's smooth, so you can wear anything."
Hsu's colorful prints have become her signature. She's often drawn to patterns with lots of color and interest. “I think when there's movement to a print, it draws the eye away from any imperfections," she says. Though Hsu sources most of her prints, she has been starting to experiment with designing her own fabrics.
Being a professional dancer has prepared Hsu to own an activewear company because she actually knows how it feels to use her products. “I'm not some man sitting in a corporate office. I am my customer," she says. Dance has also prepared her to roll with the punches. “It's hard to audition all the time and constantly put yourself out there, being true to yourself and understanding that it's OK if you're not what they're looking for," she says. “Knowing that it's acceptable to fail is a big lesson that carries over from the dance world to the business world. There's no set path, just like being a performer."
Getting corrections from our dance instructors is how we grow, and as students, it's important that we do our best to apply every correction right away. But sometimes—whether it's because we're in physical pain, or have a lot on our minds, or are just not paying attention—those corrections don't sink in. And from a teacher's standpoint, giving the same corrections time and time again gets old very fast. Here are 10 important corrections dance teachers are tired of giving. Take them to heart!
Summer intensive auditions can be nerve-racking. A panel of directors is watching your every move, and you're not even sure if you can be seen among the hundreds of other dancers in the room. We asked five summer intensive directors for their input on how dancers can make a positive impression—and even be remembered next year.
We always love a good halftime performance. And we LIVE for halftime performances involving talented kids. (Fingers and toes crossed that Justin Timberlake follows Missy Elliott's lead and invites some fabulous littles to share his Super Bowl stage.)
So obviously, our hearts completely melted for 5-year-old Tavaris Jones. Tavaris may have just started kindergarten, but during Monday night's game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, the Detroit native danced with the panache of a veteran pro at halftime.
The coolest place she's ever performed:
I'd have to say the Super Bowl. The field was so cool, and Katy Perry was right there. And there were so many eyes—definitely the most eyes I've ever performed for!
Something she's constantly working on:
My feet. I'm flat-footed, so I'm always hearing, 'Point your toes!' And I'm like, 'I am!'
My hair! That, and a pair of leggings with a T-shirt or tank top.
In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to be featured!
For a long time, I was the strongest dancer at my studio. But this year there's a new girl in my class who's very talented, and my teacher's attention has definitely shifted to her. I'm trying not to feel jealous or discouraged, but it seems like my whole dance world has changed. Help!
In the dance world, Mandy Moore has long been a go-to name, but in 2017, the success of her choreography for La La Land made the rest of the world stop and take notice. After whirlwind seasons as choreographer and producer on both "Dancing with the Stars" and "So You Think You Can Dance," she capped off the year with two Emmy Award nominations—and her first win. Dance Magazine caught up with her to find out how she's balancing all of her dance projects.
Marzia Memoli may be the Martha Graham Dance Company's newest dancer, but her classical lines and easy grace are already turning heads. Originally from Palermo, Italy, Memoli started studying at age 16 at the Academy of Teatro Carcano in Milan. Later, she attended the Rudra Béjart School in Lausanne, Switzerland, before heading to NYC in 2016 to join MGDC. This month, she'll perform The Rite of Spring in the Martha Graham Studio Series in NYC, and tour with the company in Florida. Read on for the dirt.