ballet: 9 posts

5 Books about Dance and Resilience

Dance, like all arts, is about making a connection with others. I was thinking lately about Gelsey Kirkland, a dancer with whom I was fortunate to study when she gave her much beloved classes at Steps in NYC. Kirkland was one of George Balanchine’s star dancers and an American ballerina with a striking style. I will never forget how she told us that when dancing, we should remember that we are holding our beating hearts in our hands. That image solved the problem of dropping the wrist even during the most complicated movements, but it stayed with me even when I changed into street clothes and put my pointe shoes away.

These days I also think about Kirkland’s comment often, whether I dance or write. Making a connection with others is much more difficult in this time of Zoom and social distancing, but being genuine and honest and not being afraid of being vulnerable towards others is still important. My ballet training has influenced my attitude to life and shaped my personality. I admit that not all  such influences have been entirely positive–the relentless push for perfection comes with a price, ballet taught me what resilience means. Reading about other dancers and dance has always inspired me, and I would like to share my list of favorite books with you.

Continue reading →

The Nutcracker and Its Perfumes

“The Sugar Plum Fairy bade Marie and Nutcracker sit down while a feast was brought before them: teas, cakes and the rarest of fruits … Marie hardly had time to nibble at her sweetmeats before the next diversion was presented: the music abruptly changed to an adagio tempo. Arabian dancers dressed in gauzy veils garnished with gold medallions and jewels swayed hypnotically past… The rich aroma of coffee drifted past.”  –from E.T.A Hoffman’s The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.

As a former ballet dancer, I can’t think of winter without associating it with Hoffman’s tale and Tchaikovsky music–even the countless Nutcracker performances and rehearsals haven’t robbed the story of its magic. December for me has a strong whiff of rosin on ballet slippers, but it is also a month of fairy kingdoms, groves made of candied fruit and coffee scented dancers.

My pointe shoes are rarely in service these days, but my Nutcracker fantasies find their expression in perfume. It allows me to become the Sugar Plum Fairy, the Arabian Dancer, Prince Coqueluche or any other character I wish. No wonder that the great American choreographer George Balanchine picked fragrances for his favorite dancers and encouraged them to wear perfume to class.

Continue reading →

Ballet Inspired Perfumes

In my FT magazine article Ballet in a Bottle?, I describe several perfumes inspired by ballet or created in collaboration with ballet dancers. The results are fascinating–the spirit of ballet has a lot in common with perfumery, from its ineffability to its complexity.

“Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” This wonderful quote nonetheless misses the mark. Music can be captured in words just as dance can be used to understand shapes and forms. What’s more, perfumers working in collaboration with ballet artists have shown that one can even smell adagios and allegros.

Such was the idea behind Iris Prima, a fragrance by Penhaligon’s. Working with the English National Ballet, master perfumer Alberto Morillas chose iris to evoke the vision of a dancer on stage. An ingredient derived from the roots of iris pallida, at first it suggests the scent of violet petals.  Yet, the delicate opening gives way to frozen woods and intensely green buds. The same juxtaposition of ethereal lightness and strength is the hallmark of a ballet, and Iris Prima captures it perfectly. Its floral softness is challenged by woods and musk, and while the contrast is strong, the result is harmonious.

Continue reading →

Tamara Toumanova’s Perfume Collection

Called “the Black Pearl of the Russian Ballet” for her glamorous look and dramatic beauty, Tamara Toumanova (1919-1996) was as memorable on stage as she was behind the curtains. I very much like this photo showing the ballerina before a performance surrounded by icons, flowers and perfume bottles. It reminded of the gift that the American avant-garde artist Joseph Cornell presented to her in 1968.

Called Untitled, the box contained eleven perfume bottles filled with objects that captured the essence of Toumanova’s performances. Some bottles contain fragments of the costumes she wore to dance Don Quixote and Les Sylphides. Another one includes fragments of painted eggs, colored beads and gold threads, referring to Easter rites and the importance of the Orthodox faith for the dancer. Looking at the photo above, I can see why Cornell’s was an ideal gift for Toumanova.

Anyone care to guess the names of the perfumes on her vanity table?

Fall Reading : Odyssey, Celestial Bodies and Obsessions

Autumn can be described as “golden,” “melancholy” or “rainy,” but I like the Japanese epithet of autumn as “the season for reading,” dokusho no aki. There is something particularly inviting about the image of sitting down with a book and a steaming cup of tea on a rainy day. Or I like to take a favorite book of poetry to a park and read a few stanzas as I wade through the fallen leaves. This fall, however, I’ll more likely be reading at train stations and airports as I have several trips lined up. Whatever the circumstances, I made a list of books to read. For the Bois de Jasmin fall reading list, on the other hand, I want to share the books I’ve read and enjoyed. As always, I look forward to your lists and recommendations.

Homer, The Odyssey

I’ve decided to re-read The Odyssey after I finished Mary Beard’s Civilisations: How Do We Look/The Eye of Faith. Beard observes that certain works of literature influenced our culture to such a great extent that we take it for granted. Two of the most important books in the history of Western literature, as well as the oldest, are Homer’s Iliad and The Odyssey. I’ve selected The Odyssey, because it was my favorite when I was a student, and the copy we had at home was a French translation by Leconte Lisle circa 1860’s. It’s a translation in prose, but I found it beautiful and suspenseful.

Continue reading →

From the Archives

Latest Comments

  • Alfred Deschamps in Balenciaga Le Dix : Fragrance Review: Victoria, I have found two bottles of Le Dix Eau de Cologne new and also with the plastic cover. Absolutely a masterpiece, like many other fragrances from the fifties and… October 23, 2021 at 10:41pm

  • Frances in 10 Favorite Modern Patchouli Fragrances: *word correction: (and demure -not demuse!- really isn’t Angel’s main quality) ps: was I unconsciously thinking about Angel Muse? Never tried that one! October 21, 2021 at 7:33pm

  • Frances in 10 Favorite Modern Patchouli Fragrances: Thank you Tourmaline, the word just sprung to my mind and I thought it was fun to use it as it is the exact opposite of demure (and demuse really… October 21, 2021 at 7:30pm

  • maja in 10 Favorite Modern Patchouli Fragrances: Any rose-patchouli combination will have at least a piece of my heart. There is something so sultry about the combination. Agent Prov., Lumiere Noire, POAL, Reminescence Patchouli’n’Rose… Out of the… October 21, 2021 at 3:20pm

Latest Tweets

Design by cre8d
© Copyright 2005-2021 Bois de Jasmin. All rights reserved. Privacy Policy