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IT'S A WUNDERKIND LIFE He’s been dancing since he was 4, but rising ballet soloist John Lam saves some of his biggest star turns for life beyond the curtains. by KATHERINE BOWERS // portrait by JOEL BENJAMIN IS THERE ANY ROLE—on stage or in fashion— that Boston Ballet soloist John Lam won’t embrace? Known for his expressive athleticism in dance, he doesn’t think twice about whirling into a party in a full-length fur cape or bouncing into rehearsals in fitted Diesel sweat pants. It’s harem pants one day, a sleek suit another. When he’s on the 10-acre country home he shares with husband John Ruggieri in Vermont, he’ll go country-prep in a cardigan. But he’s just as comfortable in an androgynous shimmery shirt for a night out in the South End. The youngest child of Vietnamese immigrants, Lam grew up in the low-income Canal District of Marin, California. His parents enrolled him at a nonprofit child-care center, which offered free dance lessons. At age 4, the hyper boy who’d charge through stores toppling clothing racks landed a full scholarship to the Marin Ballet to study dance. The discipline challenged him—he learned to hold his body still, to move it purposefully, and to wait for cues. Then at 15, he scored another scholarship, this time to study ballet full time at Canada’s National Ballet School in Toronto. By 18, having impressed Boston Ballet Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen on several occasions, he landed a spot in Boston Ballet’s youth company. These days, Lam is thriving in roles like Oberon in George Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the Snow King in Nissinen’s The Nutcracker. He laughs often and talks about hopes of starting a family with Ruggieri once the couple has finished building a townhouse in the South End’s Worcester Square. In


their new home, Ruggieri’s art (portraits from Chuck Close and Julian Opie) will cozy up to Lam’s pairings of modern furniture and Victorian accents. As he does in home design, Lam lets his own compass—rather than conventional rules—guide his wardrobe. If a garment appeals to him, he doesn’t care who made it. Likely, he doesn’t even remember. “I don’t believe you have to go to the most expensive stores to get great product,” he says. “I’ll find some weird, great shoes in a thrift store for $20. People will ask, ‘Barney’s?’ and I’ll say, ‘No, Florida!’” (Although, for the record, Barney’s does carry Goyard, a favorite of Lam’s. Ruggieri surprised him on his 28th birthday with a navy-blue tote monogrammed in Lam’s married initials.) He loves to shop Alan Bilzerian for special pieces, and mix them with finds from All Saints and H&M. His closet holds heaps of shoes (loafers, monk straps, sneakers, boots, oxfords). There’s also plenty of dark skinny denim as well as jeans in saffron yellow and maroon. For going out, there’s a favorite Hugo Boss floral shirt, alive with citron and magenta flowers. A beloved pair of kicks in an outré color palette (maroon, green, patent black and gold) came from a women’s rack; he doesn’t get hung up on male/female “sections” when he shops. He swears women’s cashmere sweaters are superior to male versions. “They’re thinner and finer. Better for layering,” he explains. “If it’s not too girly, I’ll buy it.” When he’s not rehearsing or performing in tights daily, he prefers layers and looser-fitting items: a shawl draped over his shoulders or slouchy pants, T-shirts, and button-downs layered with a vest. (When you have a body as sculpted as Lam’s, you can pile on a lot without looking like a pumpkin.) “I love movement in clothes,” he says, then pauses a moment to laugh. “I guess I just love movement in general.” hair & makeup by DANI WAGENER



The Health & Beauty issue.

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