The worlds of film and fashion have got the point at last! dance is hot
By Susie Mesure
A host of ballet-inspired films, among them the Hollywood hit Black Swan, with the
help of dance-based television shows, has sparked a rush for all things ballet-related,
from catwalk fashion and its high-street equivalent, to dance lessons and tickets
for The Nutcracker.
The buzz around ballet has been growing ever since Black Swan, which stars Natalie
Portman, premiered at the Venice Film Festival last summer. The film, which opens
in the UK later this month, required Portman to train for up to eight hours a day
for a year, to master the role.
Ballet teachers are reporting record demand for adult ballet lessons and expect interest
to soar further. Some offer their mature students the chance to take Royal Academy
of Dance exams.
The high-fashion label Rodarte designed the costumes for Black Swan, helping ballet-inspired
looks to move beyond the silver screen and on to the catwalk. Karl Lagerfeld dotted
his Chanel spring 2011 ready-to-wear collection with tutu skirts and plume-infused
fabrics, much like Sarah Burton's avian-themed designs for Alexander McQueen.
The online retailers Lipsy and Asos are among those to have reinterpreted the trend
for the high street, Lipsy's tulle tutus selling well in the run-up to the Christmas
party dress season.
Adidas has enlisted a dancer with Staatsballett Berlin to be a brand ambassador,
and has developed an athletic, figure-hugging new line, with the German ballet company.
And in the pop world, Cheryl Cole has a ballet theme to one of her videos.
Adults are turning to classes as a source of creative and effective exercise. Emily
Blunt, who plays a ballet dancer in the film Adjustment Bureau, released in March,
said learning ballet got her into "the best shape of her life".
Despite adding extra classes, the English National Ballet (ENB), which runs adult
ballet lessons at its studios in Kensington, west London, cannot keep pace with demand.
Many local authority-funded adult education centres have also put ballet on their
syllabus. Sonya Pettigrew, who runs the Brighton Ballet School, said all her classes
are full, six days a week. "Women love it because it either evokes childhood memories
or helps them create those memories if they didn't get to dance," she added. "They
buy the whole outfit: pink tights, leotard and skirts even grown 40-year-olds."
For Judy John-Baptiste, who runs the Basement Dance Studio in London, ballet is the
most popular of all the classes she offers. "We always get a big influx of absolute
beginners with each new course. Even the men who come for really male classes like
breakdance or hip hop all end up taking ballet at one time or another," she said.
Ballet companies are also benefiting from the renewed interest. Sadler's Wells has
had a strong season with Matthew Bourne's Cinderella, while the ENB's new Nutcracker
has also proved popular, as has the Victoria & Albert's exhibition of Sergei Diaghilev
and the Ballets Russes, which will have had more than 100,000 visitors when it closes