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July 29 2014

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An Eau That’s En Pointe

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Sweat. Tears. Competition. Jealousy. Hair spray. Wood. Resin. Freshly steamed tutus. Toil. Strain. Tiger Balm. Serenity. These are the smells of the English National Ballet.

The British fragrance house Penhaligon’s set out to bottle not only the aromas found in old theaters and well-worn stages, but to capture the emotion of dance. Described as “a work of olfactory choreography,” Iris Prima was created from perfumer Alberto Morillas watching rehearsals and immersing himself in a world that doesn’t normally play out in front of the thick velvet curtain.

Top notes of pink pepper, bergamot, and green amber are like a fresh burst of energy (meant to represent a ballerina leaping across a stage), while a heart of iris absolute and sensuous jasmine provides strength and drama. A base of leather, vetiver, and benzoin brings an essence of masculinity (found in a pas de deux). And a hint of vanilla rounds out the fragrance and alludes to the warmth and comfort so many dancers find at the barre. Even better: You don’t have to wait in the wings to get a whiff—it launched just this week at Saks Fifth Avenue and on Penhaligons.com.

In honor of the partnership between the company and the perfume brand, dancers try to put into words what ballet smells like to them in the video above.

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