Ballet West's Emily Adams on the Unlikely Inspiration Behind Her Activewear Line
In 2015, Ballet West dancer Emily Adams was promoted to principal; the milestone achievement left her feeling inspired—but also a little unbalanced. “Through the daily intensity, I wasn’t enjoying everything as much as I should have been,” she says. To unwind, Adams turned to yoga classes, where she found a renewed sense of self-love and an unexpected business idea: an eco-friendly activewear line called State of Bodhi. At 30, Adams is now a community-minded entrepreneur as well as a principal dancer.
Sewing classes never factored into Adams’ extracurricular activities while growing up. Instead, the Pennsylvania native took as many ballet classes as possible before settling into the School of American Ballet’s advanced division.
Adams joined Ballet West II at 18, and has been rising through the ranks steadily ever since. “I wasn’t a shooting star,” she says. But Adams thrived in everything from Balanchine to Sleeping Beauty to her own choreographic projects for the company’s Innovations program. Along with performing a diverse repertoire, Adams gets to dance alongside her sister, corps member Paige Adams, and her husband, first soloist Beau Pearson.
It wasn’t a fellow dancer, however, who gave her the idea for State of Bodhi. “I became really good friends with a lady
at my yoga studio,” she says. Marcia Light, a 50-something Brazilian yogi (and now Adams’ business partner), had the spontaneous thought that Adams would be a natural designer. One day, Light simply said, “You should design clothes.” Twenty-four hours later, the two sat at Light’s sewing machine and began with simple lessons and patternmaking.
With the help of a digital patternmaker in Salt Lake City and a Los Angeles factory, Adams’ early creations have evolved into State of Bodhi’s first 10-piece line. It has everything from a sports bra to harem pants to structurally intricate tops. “Activewear is so popular right now,” says Adams. “[State of Bodhi] bridges the gap between looking underdressed and being comfortable.”
With preorders on stateofbodhi.com completely sold out, Adams will do her first production run in August to bulk up her inventory. When the business grows, Adams and Light hope to hire women in Salt Lake City to weave leftover fabric scraps into yoga rugs, donating the proceeds to local charities. “I already have a career I love,” Adams says, “so this is an opportunity to do everything the right way.”
Juggling a business and company life is no easy feat. When she’s not performing, Adams spends her evenings fulfilling customer orders, sourcing fabric and coordinating the many elements it takes to run a business. Yet Adams finds that devoting herself to non–dance-related activities in her free time helps recharge her focus in the studio. After all, Adams says, “I haven’t reached my peak. I have a lot left in me.”