It started with a hope-filled phone call: TEXAS BALLET THEATER marketing manager Sheryl Glenn and me. I had dreamt about a shoot like this for a long time: a heightened pairing of design and physique, the apex of luxury outerwear and accessories, all fashioned on professional dancers —their toned bodies and physical abilities being the perfect examples of grace and athleticism. (See the main feature here.) Texas Ballet Theater graciously signed on to the project — yahoo! — and after four weeks of logistical planning and one of the most high-value fashion pulls in FD Luxe history (decadent leathers, feathers, furs), our shoot day arrived. Photographer Steven Visneau, stylist Stephanie Quadri and hair-and-makeup artists Ashley Robinson and Kelly Whaley set up shop in a practice studio at TBT headquarters in Fort Worth: a massive, unmarked unit in a strip mall, a Pump It Up kids’ party space right next door. Despite being in the thick of production and rehearsals for the company’s Nutcracker performances, six top dancers took leave from their rigorous schedules to be fashion muses for a day.
We had a real-life Romeo and Juliet, with husband-wife twosome Alexander and Heather Kotelenets. She was born in Flower Mound; he grew up in Kiev, Ukraine. They met serendipitously at TBT and were married two years ago. Alexander, who goes by Sasha, lent plenty of art direction to the shoot. In fact, it was his idea to have Heather wear a humble black tutu with those amazing Lanvin heels in the photograph that graces our cover.
Then there was the darling 20-year-old Betsy McBride, who wore a gigantic, Daphne Guinness–inspired hairstyle and a 52-carat diamond necklace with as much panache as any seasoned model would.
To defy gravity, we had Joamanuel Velazquez. At Visneau’s command, the Puerto Rico native jumped nearly 4 feet in the air, multiple times, in nothing but velvet trousers, until the perfect in-flight moment was captured on camera.
Robin Bangert served as the Dovima of the day, breaking out in a sequence of slow-motion freestyle movement all while propped across the shoulders of the 6-foot-tall Sasha.
Finally, there was Courtney Stohlton. She was tasked with modeling in the very first shot we took, and she set the day’s tone with ease, sophistication and spunk. At just the slightest roll of her shoulders, she caused the feathers of a Gucci jacket to stand straight up, making for a very fashionable Black Swanmoment. From then on, we all knew it: The day would be a mix of insanely controlled movements and wildly happy accidents — the kind that can only be achieved when you collaborate with a team of artists who are as inspired by their craft as we are by them.