Off with the tutus, on with the leather: ballerinas launch a lad mag offensive

It's a risqué move that may horrifytraditional fans. A trio of leading dancers from the English National Ballet (ENB) are to pose in raunchy, Moulin Rouge-inspired outfits in Britain's biggest-selling "lads' mag".

Their appearance, sans tutus and decorum, on the pages of FHM magazine is only the beginning of an attempt to attract new audiences for the ballet's productions. One of the trio, Joanne Clarke, already has experience of adopting seductive poses to promote the ballet. In 1999, she appeared in a black PVC catsuit in a photograph to publicise a production of Swan Lake.

Also planned is a series of unconventional photographs to be released through national newspapers, and ballerinas' diet and fitness tips to be shown on morning television programmes.

One photograph, a pastiche of the poster for the Oscar-winning film American Beauty, has a female dancer sprawled naked beneath a pile of strategically scattered ballet shoes. Another shows a ballerina dressed as the Sugar Plum Fairy from The Nutcracker being held in the air by a muscle-flexing bodybuilder.

And in an effort to appeal to women as much as they inevitably will to men, ENB ballerinas are to appear on daytime television shows such as GMTV and This Morning to offer fashion and exercise tips for those hoping to get in shape for the festive season.

The wealth of initiatives has been dreamt up by the company's first PR consultants, who have been charged with keeping it in the public eye during the refurbishment of its winter home at London's Coliseum.

The ENB insists that the FHM photo shoot and other forthcoming images of its dancers are "in the best possible taste", but reaction has been mixed. While some in the ballet world have applauded the company's daring, feminists have condemned the shoot as the latest example of a banal exploitation of attractive young women with little or no regard for their talents.

Beatrix Campbell, the writer and academic, dismissed as "nonsense" the suggestion that a picture spread in FHM could be "tasteful". "They [the ENB] are insisting on a false distinction between art and porn," she said. "They know that they're really being cheeky, sexy little monkeys."

She said if the ENB's genuine concern was to break down stereotypes about ballet, it should be focusing not on ballerinas but on male dancers. "What's interesting in terms of gender is that the thing that's a 'joke' in Britain with regard to ballet is men," she said. "Why they haven't gone for cracking that macho perception of ballet I don't know."

Others were less sure. After an initial exclamation of "oh heaven!", the retired ballerina Dame Beryl Grey, a director of the Royal Opera House and vice-chairman of the Royal Ballet, reacted more philosophically. "Of course, one wants to see more people coming to the ballet," she said. "I suppose they're looking for immediate results."

She added that it was "a good idea" for the ENB to infiltrate daytime TV shows to offer advice on subjects such as fitness that ordinary people could relate to.

Luke Rittner, the chief executive of the Royal Academy of Dance, said: "Ballet is an art form which is quintessentially about the body looking good. As long as things are decent and dignified, I don't see any problem."

The new publicity campaign is not the first time ballet has courted controversy in its efforts to broaden its appeal. The ENB's former artistic director, Derek Deane, became notorious for reinventing classical ballets, most infamously with a modern-day version of The Nutcracker featuring mobile phones, Barbie dolls and a Michael Jackson mannequin. Prior to his impromptu departure in 2001, his swan song for the company was to have been a version of Romeo and Juliet in which the title characters ripped off all their clothes.

Britain's most famous ballerina, Darcey Bussell, a member of the Royal Ballet, made a guest appearance at the launch of the British International Motor Show in Birmingham last year wearing a revealing leather bodice.

The ENB is unrepentant about the latest initiative. Its head of public affairs, Jim Fletcher, said: "I've been speaking to FHM for a couple of years now, and we've been looking for an opportunity to do something with them. Some of the ladies in the company are very keen to be involved in modelling projects, and this seemed like a good opportunity for them: fashion, glamour, and all done in the best possible taste."

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little