Student Spotlight: Vanessa Friedman
Anyone who has been in class with Vanessa Friedman at TSNY is already privy to her elegant carriage, and her inherent glamorous demeanor—even in chalk- covered sweat pants. If you could see her in her “regular” environment, at the main offices of The New York Times, you’d be even more impressed that the willowy woman we usually see flying through the air is a force to be reckoned with on the ground, as well. Vanessa serves as Fashion Director for that prestigious publication, and I got to sit down with her recently to talk about her post—a position that came as a bit of a surprise to her.
“It was Fashion by Mistake!” she laughs, adding “But I did always want to be a writer.” As such, Vanessa was no stranger to fashion publications having written for The New Yorker and Vogue (among other major publications), but that was mostly about books, movies and theater.
It wasn’t until after she got married and moved to England that she began to actively pursue freelance writing opportunities.
“I sent a cold pitch letter to the Financial Times, and (they) seeing that I had written for Vogue and Vanity Fair assumed I was a fashion writer.” Thus began her journey in editorial fashion, as the FT was launching a new section devoted to style; Vanessa became the first person to hold the fashion editor position in 2003. Her 11-year tenure at FT was a great opportunity to cut her teeth in the business, and to “write about the things that really interest me. Fashion was the perfect Trojan Horse,” she says, to write about everything from identity politics to gender stereotype, entertainment and philosophy. “I like when designers have ideas. And what I really like is how people use clothes to express identity, or culture,” she said, and not just in the world of fashion; she follows politics closely. Public figures and politicians are always up for dissection, as Vanessa figures out “…how a person is using clothing to manipulate the opinions of people around them, to get what they want. Which we all do.”
And how did trapeze come to be a fashionable fit in her lifestyle? “I was a totally uncoordinated child,” she volunteers, “but when we moved back from England, my second child, Miranda was in the first grade, and was invited to a party at STREB, in Brooklyn. At the end, the parents got to try it and I thought ‘this is totally fun!’ It’s a great equalizer between parents and children ; being bigger doesn’t get you that much more.” She stuck with it, first with her children and then on her own, and eventually ventured over to TSNY (“There were more adults, which I liked.”) as well as occasionally flying elsewhere when traveling. “I discovered this highly connected trapeze subculture, where I get to meet fascinating people from different walks of life, all with their own stories, whom I really admire and who are flying role models for me. I really like the community it creates.”
Staff Spotlight: Paul Ochoa
TSNY welcomes DR. PAUL OCHOA, a Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists. He brings with him a wealth of knowledge, including a specialty in orthopedic injuries and an extensive background in massage therapy. Dr. Ochoa is also a certified Orthopedic Manipulative Therapist. As a native New Yorker, he founded F Squared in 2011 and has maintained its unique one-on-one treatment model, ensuring the highest quality of care. He is an active member of the American Physical Therapy Association and the
North American Institute of Manual Therapy.
He has been an active trapeze flyer at TSNY since 2016, and has worked with local and international dance companies and professional circus performers.
Welcome to the Team, Dr. Paul!
Running errands in New York can be a revelation, if you’re open to it. I know we’re all in a hurry to get the groceries, do the banking, even—dire circumstances, indeed—go to the post office. But the other day, I was shopping and schlepping in Astor Place and at the exact moment I looked up from message checks on my phone, Aladdin whizzed by on his magic carpet. Seriously.
Ok, I don’t think it was the real Aladdin, nor was it a magic carpet; it was a motorized skateboard with a 3’ x 4’ board mounted on it, covered in purple carpet with gold fringe hanging all around. An urban magic carpet. A Manhattan Magic Moving Carpet! With a young man in full Aladdin drag riding it proudly, arms crossed, head high, and an ever-so- perfect mischevious smirk!
Alas, Aladdin was away and up LaFayette before I could snap a pic.
But lo-and-behold! At my next crosswalk, there he was again, whizzing (flying?) around the corner! He must have known my disappointment in not capturing his fleeting image. I ran. I actually ran to catch up with him. (Side note: I’ve always had a thing for “bad boys” and Aladdin totally falls into my crush category).
“Hey, Aladdin!” I called. He stopped. “Can I get a pic?”
“Sure!” he exclaimed, smiling.
“So…just for fun, or…?” I indicated the whole…thing.
“It’s almost Halloween,” he explained, and flew (skated) away, shouting a merry “Bye!’ over his shoulder.
And I got to thinking about the fun, the freedom of being Aladdin for a day. Of riding a magic carpet through the streets of Manhattan with total abandon, confident in who you are. How cool would that be? And then I thought, “My life IS like Aladdin! And my work is FULL of OTHER Aladdins!” I mean, isn’t that why we do circus arts? Isn’t trapeze magically flying through the air? Isn’t silks just a big, long magic carpet? Isn’t lyra…painful? But I digress…and guess what I’m trying to say is BE YOUR OWN ALADDIN. Revel in being you. Because you know what? We do get to ride that magic carpet. Everyone does, if you’re open to it. Happy flying, y’all.