The Royal Ballet's Lauren Cuthbertson photographed by Aitken Jolly

Ballerinas Are The New Rock Stars

ELLE dressed four of the Royal Ballet's most exciting names in Dior's latest collection

Ballerinas are used to being the centre of attention.

But armed with millions-strong social media followings, today's dancers are becoming bona fide stars off-stage as much as on it.

Take Misty Copeland, the first African-American woman to be made Principal Dancer at the American Ballet Theatre, who featured on the cover of Time Magazine in conversation with President Obama.

She's even inspired a Misty Copeland Barbie doll 'with a brand new ballerina body'.


Along with Michaela DePrince, a dancer at the Dutch National Ballet, and the Royal Ballet's own Eric Underwood, the latest ballet superstars are courting a new cult audience, posting candid backstage shots on Instagram and rehearsal videos on Snapchat.

As a result, ballet is experiencing a Golden Age – the once untouchable world has never felt so accessible.

Here ELLE choreographs four of the Royal Ballet's most electric dancers in the autumn collection from Christian Dior, a house that has a longtime relationship with the ballet.

The Royal Ballet's Sarah Lamb and Eric Underwood photographed by Aitken Jolly


The critics' favourite, Akane joined the Royal Ballet in 2009, where she quickly snapped up the most coveted lead roles including Giselle – 'her dream part' – before being promoted to Principal at the beginning of this season. She's settled into the Royal Ballet as comfortably as she has London, after moving from her home city of Tokyo, via Russia, on a scholarship. After an evening performance she refuels with a burger at her local Five Guys.

For Akane, social media is a chance to connect with people beyond the theatre and let her family know what she's doing: 'Ballet looks like a dream world, with no struggles, but social media shows dancers' personalities, so people feel closer to you,' she says.

The Royal Ballet's Sarah Lamb and Eric Underwood photographed by Aitken Jolly


She's worn gold-sequined tutus and feathered bird wings but one thing you'll never see the Boston-born dancer wear is a pair of flats.

'I love heels because aesthetically they lengthen the leg,' she says.

'As a dancer I really appreciate lines. Dancers, fashion designers and photographers, we're all critical of line.'

In front of the camera she performs as electrically as she does on stage, propelling her willowy body from pose to pose.

Since joining the Royal Ballet 11 years ago, Sarah has had several roles created for her, including British choreographer Wayne McGregor's rebellious heroine in Raven Girl.

Could she imagine herself doing something other than dancing? 'A dancer's career is so short I'm enjoying it while I can, but really it's not a job, it's part of your identity.'

The Royal Ballet's Lauren Cuthbertson and Eric Underwood photographed by Aitken Jolly


Unlike most classical dancers, Washington D.C.-born Eric's ballet career started by mistake. Aged 14, he forgot his lines during an acting audition for a performing arts school in Prince George's County, Maryland, and tried a dance class instead. 'The teacher immediately saw I had no training but I was physically correct for dance and eager to learn, despite being in denim shorts,' he recalls.

He's been redefining the image of a classical dancer ever since with his infectious energy and love of performing. He joined the American Ballet Theatre in 2003 and then moved to the Royal Ballet three years later. This season he stars in Carbon Life, a Wayne McGregor ballet at the Royal Opera House in collaboration with fashion designer Gareth Pugh, which suits his fashion credentials – he's worked on campaigns with Kate Moss and Vivienne Westwood.

On social media, he's not afraid to show a different side to a dancer's life: 'It's not just about perfection. It's important to see the dancers failing and trying again.' Is there anything he wouldn't post? 'I try not to do politics, love or finance.'

Royal Ballet dancers photographed by Aitken Jolly


Lauren, who enrolled in The Royal Ballet's White Lodge school age 11, was late to join Instagram but that hasn't prevented her regularly posting candid backstage shots to her 38.1k followers. 'It's a very different time,' she says of being a dancer in the age of social media. 'It inspires younger dancers to look up to their seniors and spur each other on.' But it also connects dancers around the world. 'We're all living pretty similar lives but in different cities. I like following French dancers, their posts are so chic and sophisticated.'

For Lauren there's a natural synergy between dance and fashion. Her favourite designer may be Erdem but her best red-carpet outfit yet was a huge red silk skirt, which was part of Lady Capulet's costume in Romeo and Juliet 'borrowed' from the Royal Opera House's costume cupboard.

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