Lau­ren Cuthbertson

The Royal Bal­let prin­ci­pal dancer brings grace and ded­i­ca­tion to every per­for­mance, whether she is de­but­ing an orig­i­nal piece or rein­ter­pret­ing a clas­sic.

Harper's Bazaar (UK) - - Lauren Cuthbertson - By Sasha Slater

Lau­ren Cuthbertson’s dress­ing-room is every lit­tle girl’s dream. Tu­tus in turquoise and cream, pink and black lie in a drift of froth on the bed, se­quins sparkling among the lay­ers of tulle. There are pho­to­graphs of bal­let dancers of the past and present pinned around the make-up mir­ror and, best of all, a great heaped pile of worn bal­let shoes on the floor, their toes scuffed, rib­bons twirled into knots. There must be more than a hun­dred pairs, tes­ta­ment to the Royal Bal­let prin­ci­pal dancer’s hours and hours of pirou­ettes, fou­et­tés, pas de chats and arabesques in front of en­rap­tured au­di­ences.

But Cuthbertson her­self, in­con­gru­ous among the pas­tel in a leop­ard-print swim­suit and Björn Borg black track­suit bot­toms, is much more ex­cited about a lime-green pair of this-sea­son Prada heels she’s bought for a party tonight. Cuthbertson’s pas­sion for fash­ion has done more than sim­ply en­sure her footwear is up to the mark: her friend­ship with Er­dem Moralioglu, the Turk­ish-Cana­dian de­signer whose shows are a high point of Lon­don Fash­ion Week, led him to de­sign the el­e­gant, berib­boned cos­tumes for a new bal­let, Co­ry­ban­tic Games, at the Royal Opera House ear­lier this year. ‘I go to his shows,’ she says, ‘and there’s such a the­atri­cal essence to them. There’s a real link be­tween bal­let and fash­ion. I recog­nise how re­lent­less his world is. I know how Er­dem is be­fore a show, and he knows how I am be­fore a de­but.’

Cuthbertson has cer­tainly had her fair share of de­buts, re­cently cre­at­ing the roles of Al­ice in Al­ice’s Ad­ven­tures in Won­der­land, and Hermione in The Win­ter’s Tale. And there’s more to come… ‘I’m so ex­cited for this sea­son, I’m rar­ing to go,’ she says. ‘I feel like I could pounce.’ In­deed, in her an­i­mal-print top, her small, sin­u­ous form crouched in a chair, knees to chest and blue eyes glow­ing, she looks like a wild cat about to spring.

Mar­got Fonteyn once said that if only we knew the tor­ture a dancer suf­fers to achieve that ef­fort­less grace, only those who en­joy watch­ing bull­fights would want to go to the bal­let. Cuthbertson has had more than her fair share of an­guish, once suf­fer­ing mul­ti­ple lig­a­ment tears in her foot in a freak ac­ci­dent on stage with Car­los Acosta, and scream­ing out loud with the pain. She has en­dured

other in­juries and a bout of glan­du­lar fever so se­vere it kept her out of ac­tion for over a year. ‘For you,’ she says, ‘it may feel like com­ing back into a girl’s dream. But this world is for tough women. It’s for re­ally tough women. I have so much re­spect and a huge bond with any­one else who’s also a pro­fes­sional bal­let dancer, be­cause we all know what it takes to get there. And that’s con­stant, re­lent­less grit.’

Her life is in­deed a strange mix of po­etry and grind­ing hard work. When she trav­els, as she did this sum­mer to Japan, Den­mark and across the At­lantic, she car­ries her tu­tus and pointe shoes in her hand lug­gage, and 10 kilo­grams of weights strapped to her body to strengthen her knees and an­kles.

Cuthbertson has been danc­ing since be­fore she was four, when, as a hy­per­ac­tive child, she was sent by her mother to bal­let school near their home in Devon. ‘I was cap­ti­vated by how I felt. I fell in love with it. I lit­er­ally never had a mo­ment’s doubt about what I was go­ing to do.’ Aged 11, she left Devon, where her fa­ther ran a butcher’s shop (he used to lock her in the meat freezer if she was naughty) and her mother worked as a seam­stress, and came to the Royal Bal­let School in Lon­don. ‘It was amaz­ing to be sur­rounded by peo­ple who loved what you loved.’

The depth of her de­vo­tion for what she does is demon­strated by the ar­ray of per­fume bot­tles on her dress­ing-ta­ble. She works with Anas­ta­sia Bro­zler in the per­fumer’s stu­dio in May­fair to cre­ate a fra­grance not only for many of the char­ac­ters she em­bod­ies, but also some­times for each dif­fer­ent scene. She spritzes onto my wrist the scent she wears to dance Juliet in the bal­cony scene of Romeo and Juliet, and im­me­di­ately I catch the light scent of a Veronese gar­den on a spring evening. ‘Juliet goes on such a jour­ney through the story,’ she ex­plains. ‘The per­fume I use for her wed­ding night is dif­fer­ent – more ma­ture and know­ing. The emo­tion she feels is not child­ish; it’s true love, it’s big.’

This, says Cuthbertson, is her mo­ment. ‘As a woman of 34, I feel like I’m al­most be­gin­ning again. I’m not try­ing to be any­thing or any­one but my­self. And all there is right now is the raw essence of me, and the role.’ Her next task is to de­cide what to wear to the Harper’s Bazaar Women of the Year Awards. ‘I guess it has to be Er­dem, doesn’t it? Or a tutu… so long as it goes with neon-green shoes.’

‘This world is for re­ally tough women. I have so much re­spect

for any­one else who is also a pro­fes­sional bal­let dancer’

Lau­ren Cuthbertson wearsdress, from a se­lec­tion, Er­dem. Pointe shoes, her own

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