There's a buzz about ballet

The worlds of film and fashion have got the point at last – dance is hot

Susie Mesure
Sunday 02 January 2011 01:00

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 next weekend.

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