“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 shape and form. And why not add scent to the mix? For several perfumers have attempted to bottle the poise and grace of ballet.
Such was the idea behind Penhaligon’s fragrance Iris Prima (£144 for 100ml). Working with the English National Ballet, master perfumer Alberto Morillas chose iris to evoke the image of a dancer on stage. Using an ingredient derived from the roots of Iris pallida, the perfume initially suggests the scent of violet petals. This delicate opening, however, gives way to frozen woods and intensely green buds. The same juxtaposition of ethereal lightness and strength is the hallmark of ballet.
For niche French house Les Parfums de Rosine, it’s the black-white duality of Swan Lake that is at the heart of its Ballerina series. Even the lightest fragrance of the quintet, No 4 (€108 for 50ml), has a dark side. While the perfume unfolds as a slow waltz of white rose, jasmine and tuberose, a faster tempo is introduced by oakmoss and incense. The mood of the composition turns from charming to smouldering, and while Ballerina No 4 retains her feather-like lightness, her presence is dramatic.
In conveying movement through aroma, Russian prima ballerina Polina Semionova set a different and more challenging goal for perfumer Geza Schoen, creator of The Beautiful Mind Series. The Berlin-based perfume company was asked to create a fragrance that not only evoked the grace and elegance of a dancer, but also the cerebral aspect of ballet, its intensity and search for perfection. Aptly named Precision & Grace (£95 for 100ml), the composition intertwines white freesia with ripe plum, a dusky backdrop of sandalwood allowing the fruity-floral pas de deux to stand out. As the composition evolves, a fiery note of pepper takes the stage. Its spicy bite highlights the effervescence of the flowers while giving Precision & Grace depth and mystery. As Semionova says of her perfume: “It’s like the ballet itself – without the hidden strength, you can’t make it light.”
Victoria Frolova has been writing her perfume blog boisdejasmin.com since 2005. Her explorations of fragrance touch upon all elements that make this subject rich and complex: science, art, literature, history and culture. Frolova is a recipient of three prestigious Fragrance Foundation FiFi Awards for Editorial Excellence and, since receiving her professional perfumery training, has also been working as a fragrance consultant and researcher.