Dores André: The Spanish Ballerina Pirouetting Her Way to Stardom
Read Her Story
With gorgeous dark features and a razor-sharp wit, principal dancer Dores André is a study in contrast. She has the charm and grace of Audrey Hepburn but swears like a sailor. Initially, she gives off the air of a laid-back Spaniard. But when it comes to her dancing career, Dores brings forth a palpable resolve. It’s a trait fired in her upbringing spent in the cutthroat world of ballet, where an inkling of doubt could mean the downfall of a budding career.
Dores is the daughter of a professor and a doctor. Both parents pushed her and her siblings to constantly develop new skills in order to learn the importance of discipline and personal growth. They played chess and piano, took swimming lessons, and tried competitive diving. When her mother asked if she wanted to try ballet, Dores agreed, thinking it was just another activity to check off the list.
Dores started dancing later in life than most ballerinas; she was 11 years old when she took her first class in her hometown of Vigo, Spain. She took to it immediately. Ballet was social, yet still physically demanding — a perfect combination for charismatic young Dores.
Just two years after she started dancing, Dores entered a small competition where she caught the eye of Maria de Avila, a renowned Spanish ballerina. De Avila invited Dores to attend her prestigious ballet academy in Zaragoza, a town eight hours from Vigo. She was only 13 when she first left home, but she knew she had to take the opportunity.
Upon her arrival, Dores quickly realized her new training was at a different level than the recreational classes she’d taken back home. De Avila saw raw talent in Dores, but technically speaking, she was the worst in her class.
That uphill battle only ended up fueling Dores’s aspirations and dedication to the craft. “The more I knew about ballet, the more I liked it,” she says. “It became not just a fun thing, but something that forms you, and shapes you.”
Ballet gave Dores a sense of responsibility and self-awareness.“[As a dancer], you have to be very careful with your words and with your actions,” she says.
“It wasn’t really ballet that I fell in love with. It was more a love of what it created in me.” #FromOutsideIn
When she tells us how nervous she was about her initial move to the US from Europe 12 years ago, it comes as a surprise; she seems to be so confident all the time. To that, she gives a sly smile and responds, “You kind of have to be, no?” In her world, you do. After all, self-assurance is as much a survival instinct as an admirable character trait.
Throughout our time together, it was difficult to separate Dores from her ballerina persona — but then it became obvious that they are one in the same. “Being a ballerina has shaped who I am as a woman,” she explains. “I think I understand myself and what I want better, because I have this experience.”
The performances might one day fade to black, but the discipline, collectiveness, and drive required to make it as a dancer has to be a natural instinct.
A DANCE ACROSS THE SEA
By the time she was 17, Dores had pirouetted into a professional ballerina at a dance company in Italy. Shortly after that, she was given the opportunity to audition at the San Francisco ballet. She got the gig and immediately packed her bags.
“I was nervous [to move to America], but I think that’s when you know you have to do things. You just do them; you don’t really let emotions get in the way,” she explains. “I was compartmentalizing doubt and fear and just going for it.”
When she initially made the move from Florence to San Francisco in 2005, Dores expected to find a culture that was ambitious and cutthroat. Instead, she found herself identifying with the country’s strong work ethic almost immediately, and she also came to appreciate the positive and straightforward demeanor of Americans.
Dores describes her transition to life in the US as a relatively seamless one. The European-inspired architecture and the water surrounding San Francisco reminded her of Spain. Professionally, the San Francisco Ballet provided her not only with a steady job, but also an immediate sense of community, which many immigrants often go a long time without.
But as many a Hollywood movie has shown, the life of a ballerina isn’t all backstage hangouts and glamorous evening performances. Dores is in the dance studio six days a week, from 9AM to 7PM.
She’s managed to keep the rigorous schedule all these years mainly because she doesn’t see it as work, but as a way of life. The physical strain of dancing as much as she does is part of the package.
“What I understand as pain is different from what other people understand as pain,” she explains. “My feet hurt. My hips hurt. It’s not the most natural thing to do, to be moving your legs back and forth for 12 hours a day. You’re going to hurt.”
She knows the role of a ballerina is not something she can play forever. But right now she’s too focused on her responsibilities as a principal dancer to worry about what comes next.
“I’m very happy and very proud of where I am,” she admits. “But there are thousands of people who could be doing what I’m doing. You can never stop; you have to continue. You have to work harder.”
That’s pure Dores. While her competitors are collecting their roses on stage, she’s already back in the studio rehearsing for the next show.
A SPANISH PERSPECTIVE
When asked if she identifies as an American, Dores furrows her brow in concentration. “It’s complicated,” she says. When she’s in America, she views herself as an immigrant. But at the same time, when she’s back in Spain, she doesn’t feel entirely Spanish either.
“Having this no-identity identity is interesting because you choose to pick the right things about each culture,” she says.”I choose to be optimistic and I choose to be like Americans are in many ways. I choose not to be in other ways.”
Dores believes her international upbringing provides a unique perspective on some of the troubling issues the US faces in 2017. However, she’s also found that her outsider position sometimes prohibits her from chiming in on current affairs.
“I’ve sometimes found that if I have an opinion about something like racism in this country, my opinion doesn’t count because [people believe] I don’t understand the United States because I didn’t grow up here or I wasn’t born here,” she says. “But I don’t think that’s correct. ”
Overall, Dores loves life in the United States. She considers San Francisco home. But with her Spanish perspective, she says she would like to see the government and US citizens reflect on their collective past more often.
“By being a pioneer, sometimes you forget to look back and [check] on your own history,” she points out. “I think that learning from its past could be a really good thing.”
As a ballerina, Dores is used to acting as a role model for young girls who idolize her profession. But when it comes to dishing out advice to future immigrants who may also want to pursue a new life in America, she’s hesitant. She worked hard to get the visa needed to come here, but she’s well aware of how fortunate her situation in the States is. Still, she has a few words of wisdom that could apply to anyone looking to make a new home here, no matter the circumstance.
This Jewelry Designer Infuses ‘90s Hip Hop, Caribbean Spice + Vibrant Hues into Everything She Makes
This Jewelry Designer Infuses '90s Hip Hop, Caribbean Spice + Vibrant Hues into Everything She Makes
Vibrant hues, '90s-era boldness, and raw artisanal beauty — these are just a few of the characteristics that make the work of today's creative crush truly swoonworthy. Named for a potent Caribbean pepper, Tracey-Renee Hubbard's Scotchbonnet is a gorgeous line of earrings and accessories made by hand with love, thoughtfulness and a resolute passion for the art of making.
Anjelika Temple here, co-founder of Brit + Co and super fan of Scotchbonnet! Like so many creative connections these days, I first connected with designer Tracey-Renee when she DM'ed the @britandco IG account and we featured her work in a story roundup of BIPOC makers. A few weeks later, she applied and won a scholarship to our first session of the Selfmade program where Brit and I both had the privilege of mentoring and working with Tracey-Renee on her brand, her business plan, and her mission. Since then she's been awarded a minority creative grant from JOANN Fabrics, and seriously upleveled her production process thanks to a collaboration with Glowforge. (PS: B+C readers can get 20% off their own Glowforge Pro by clicking here!)
Now I am thrilled to be able to share more about this brilliant maker's journey, inspiration and creative process in this edition of Creative Crushin'.
Anjelika Temple: Before we get into learning all about your creative inspiration, tell us a little about your background.
Tracey-Renee Hubbard: I was born and raised in Wisconsin. Yep, lots of cheese and cows. Growing up in Wisconsin right outside of Milwaukee provided me with a surprisingly diverse and eclectic foundation. My parents stressed the importance of academics, but they didn't believe that excelling at school needed to come at the expense of creativity or other hobbies. Art, music, books and softball were a big chunk of my childhood. Crafting and creating have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.
One of my favorite shows to watch when I was growing up was "A Different World." It was about the college experience at a fictitious HBCU (Historically Black College/University) called Hillman College. Watching that show inspired me to go to Florida A&M University (an HBCU) where I received a BS in Business Management and an MBA.
The world changes quickly and I love learning new things! After completing my MBA program, I studied graphic design, multimedia art and completed the Merchandise Product Development program at FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising) in San Francisco. My academic and professional experiences have given me the opportunity to live and work in lots of interesting places; but for now I am based in the San Francisco Bay area.
Anj: Did you always know that you wanted to be a professional artist/creative?
Tracey-Renee: Yep, but for a long time I was afraid to do it because of the "starving artist" stigma (all lies, btw). I tried to compartmentalize my creative practices as just a "hobby", but when something is truly in your spirit the desire never really goes away…and so now here I am!
Anj: What do you love about making things? What keeps the spark going for you?
Tracey-Renee: I've been inspired to create for as long as I can remember! I've always been fascinated by color, texture, travel and cultural connection. I grew up watching my grandmother quilt, sew and mend garments, I saw my Mom create beautiful home décor and heirloom holiday decorations and spent time in my Dad's workshop. Being surrounded by unique handmade items that hold special stories has fueled my passion for being a designer and maker.
Anj: Like so many artists, you've got a day job in addition to your creative hustle. Tell us about your career path.
Tracey-Renee: My first "real job" was in pharmaceutical sales and marketing. I loved the left brain/right brain mix of processing all the data and scientific information and then finding creative ways to relay that information to doctors and health care providers. That role really opened my eyes to the power of messaging and visual communication tools which ultimately led to me returning to school to study digital design and multimedia arts. I've had fun using my marketing and digital design skills in several different industries. I currently work as the Director of Marketing and Creative Strategy for a candy company. I spend a lot of time working in the digital realm – I think most of us do- and that makes me really appreciate the time I spend making handmade jewelry for Scotchbonnet.
Anj: Tell me more about your brand Scotchbonnet! How would you describe your brand's mission?
Tracey-Renee: I want to make pieces that are cherished - special but not so "precious" that they sit in a box stored away for special occasions that are far and few between. My accessories are known for their bold shapes, bright colors and eye-catching patterns. Each piece is handmade with love (I hope my customers can feel it when they wear their Scotchbonnet accessories)!
Scotchbonnet jewelry has been described as "conversation starters" and I love the fact that they connect people and get them to start conversing. I am excited about elevating those conversations by creating capsule collections connected to social causes; that way the chat can go beyond just "cute earrings, where'd you get them?"
Anj: At Brit + Co, we are enamored with bright colors, patterns and geometric shapes -- and clearly, you are too! How did you hone in on your aesthetic?
Tracey-Renee: I chose the name Scotchbonnet for my jewelry brand because scotch bonnet peppers add a distinctively potent spice to Caribbean food and I feel that my jewelry has the same vibe. My accessories are known for vibrant hues, bold shapes and eye-catching patterns. I am inspired by the flashiness of 90s hip-hop, the simplicity of modern luxury, and the raw beauty of artisan goods from the African Diaspora. My aesthetic continues to evolve based on the things I love, the places I've been and the community I want to serve.
Anj: We LOVED mentoring you + helping your business grow during our first Selfmade session. What were your main takeaways from the program and experience?
Tracey-Renee: Selfmade helped me understand the importance of having a clear vision and trusting my intuition. It can be inspirational watching other entrepreneurs "hustling and winning" on their social media feeds, but without clarity about my vision that "inspiration" can be overwhelming and make things confusing. It's easy to confuse movement with progress – Selfmade helped me craft an action plan that ensures each step builds momentum and accelerates me toward my goals. Selfmade also provided me with a vibrant, uplifting community of founders, entrepreneurs and go-getters.
Anj: When you get creatively blocked or burnt out, how do you reset? Do you have tips you can share?
Tracey-Renee: I take a break. We're inundated with "hustle culture" that can make us feel guilty for taking a break, but at the end of the day we're of no value to anyone when we're burnt out. When I have a creative block I usually log off for a while… there's this duality with the internet where on the surface it seems to be an endless pool of inspiration, but in reality everything that's on the internet has already been filtered or curated by someone else. Sometimes it's helpful to see things through a new lens and find inspiration in ("real" physical) books, at a museum or out in nature. Seeing things in a new light from a different angle can be a really refreshing creative jolt.
Anj: What does your workspace look like? What tools do you use and how has it changed over the years?
Tracey-Renee: I'd describe it as "choreographed chaos". It's organized enough so that I can be efficient with the administrative parts of my business like: inventory management, packing and shipping. It's creative enough so that it still feels inspiring, and it's tidy enough that it doesn't feel overwhelming to sit down and start working. It smells like coconut or tropical fruit (thanks to my candles) and it sounds like hip-hop, dance hall, soca or afrobeats.
The primary mediums I work with are wood, paint, glass beads and recently brass. With that being said my paint brushes, needle & thread and jeweler's saw are always within close reach. The most recent addition to my studio is my Glowforge Pro 3D laser printer; it is a game changer! It shrunk my product development cycle time infinitely. Prior to the Glowforge the process was time consuming and costly; now, I can literally "print" a new design within minutes of sketching out an idea. It's also been awesome when it comes to inventory management and sustainability. I no longer have to worry about over-producing or wasting materials; I can make exactly what I need right when I need it without any waste. The Glowforge can make millions of things and I'm excited about trying new design ideas in the future. I have a ton of sketches and inspo photos on my magnet board and in my notebooks waiting to be explored. (ICYMI: B+C readers can get 20% off their own Glowforge Pro by clicking here!)
Anj: What advice do you have for emerging artists and designers just getting started? What advice do you have for creatives struggling to find their unique voice?
Tracey-Renee: Start with your "why" and not your "what". Your "why" will be the secret weapon that competitors will never be able to touch. Once you have that part figured out; dive in! I think that now is a really exciting time for creatives. The rise of entrepreneurship powered by social media has removed a lot of barriers that used to make creative careers seem out of reach. Protect your work, but don't be afraid to put yourself (and your stuff!) out there. Connect with other artists and build a community, it's so important to have a sounding board for difficult times and a crew with whom you can celebrate your successes.
Anj: What's next for your brand?
Tracey-Renee: Scaling and growing in a way that feels authentic. I have new colors and new products coming soon and I am super excited about that! My upcoming premium capsule collections are close to my heart; designing jewelry inspired by social causes and having a "give back" component means the world to me. I want to keep having fun with my brand, sharing joy with fun colors and patterns and infusing love into each handmade piece.