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Appropriate Flowers for Performers

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Are there customs for giving flowers to performers from Russia and Europe? I've read that an odd number of stems is appropriate in Russia, except for funerals, but are there numbers to avoid (like 13), and type of flowers (no roses unless engaged, no lilies, etc.) that are more appropriate than others? Is there a difference by gender (Single stem vs. bouquet for men?)

Can I assume that these can be delivered to the stage door by the florist the day of the performance?

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The longstanding floral gift for a man is a laurel wreath. I only saw one given as a tribute onstage, and that was to Nureyev. He didn't know what to do with it, and neither did the page, so Rudi just stuck his arm through it and wore it like a sort of aiguillette. I have since learned that the proper etiquette is for the man to bow or kneel down, the page to hold the crown over his head, and then hand it to him. It doesn't actually get put ON the head. George Washington had something like that happen to him in Trenton, NJ while he was enroute to NYC to be sworn in as President. The General and party were escorted through a long floral colonnade at the end of which there was a large arch with the legend "The Defender of the Mothers Will Also Defend the Daughters"! The Presidential party was desired to halt under this arch to hear an anthem sung by a girl choir all in white robes. Unbeknownst to Washington, Charles Willson Peale's daughter, Angelica, had stationed herself at the top of the arch and swung down with an oak-leaf wreath to hold over his head. After the anthem, Angelica clambered back up onto her perch, and they trotted on, with Washington totally unaware that he had been "crowned"!

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Everyday I read from these pages. It is difficult. I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT BALLET, but I'm trying to learn. I read the "links" daily and ponder what the year ahead will bring. Possibly, this site will be my only connection to a son who turned eighteen today but will live/dance across the Atlantic by autumn. I try to understand the casting notices, the Russian names, the polls, the upcoming performances, the preferences Choreography, my God, I'm in well over my head. It is really, really hard for someone like me. I feel stupid everyday. I feel alien. Then, as if by magic, there is a thread like this one! There are volumes written on the symbolism of flowers and bouquets. Color selection is important. The grouping and numbers of blossoms are important. These are customs much older that the Victorian era (from which most of my books on the subject come). Giving and receiving flowers is, at least, something to which I can relate. I've even seen a laurel wreath presented on stage! Our ballerina (yes, Mel, she's considered a "ballerina" here in South Carolina!) presented one to her partner/husband at his final bow as principal dancer on the last performance of Nutcracker. I didn't know this was a custom. I didn't know there was a reason behind the floral selection, but at least I knew that flowers are and likely always will be symbolic if given properly. For six years I've asked my son, "How many flowers, what kind, what color, which evening?" Thanks for the reminder that I've got these questions to pose just one more time! After that, he's on his own! (It's been a sort of joke in our house to present the most outrageous flower to our son after significant performances. Fortunately, the botanical world is full of all sorts of rare and exotic and "highly suggestive" blossoms for these occasions! We're not purists! We'll create our own floral translations! It is really sort of fun to find new plantlifes for male dancers!)


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Thanks Mashinka for the information about odd and even numbers of flowers from the point of view of superstition. I easily could have offended one of my daughter's Russian ballet teachers by giving an even number!!!

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But if you have to leave one for the ballerina to give to her partner, that means she either has to start with an even number and end with an odd, or she has to start with an odd, and after giving one away, end up with an even number.

Is it better to give away the even to end with odd, or is this a case of no good deed going unpunished?

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I've even seen a laurel wreath presented on stage! Our ballerina (yes, Mel, she's considered a "ballerina" here in South Carolina!) presented one to her partner/husband at his final bow as principal dancer on the last performance of Nutcracker. I didn't know this was a custom.

It's part of the norma loquendi to speak of a dancer doing a "ballerina" part to be referred to as a ballerina, but I've seen lots of "ballerina" parts done by non-ballerinas in the world sense.

The laurel wreath is a gift for artistic achievement; an oak-leaf wreath is given for military triumphs.

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Here are some articles that provide background information about the presentation of flower bouquets in ballet, and yes, it's complicated.

Tiptoeing (on Point) Through the Tulips

"At City Ballet and Ballet Theater performances, flowers are generally given by the company on opening nights and for role debuts. At the Royal Opera House, however, there are flowers delivered onstage at almost every ballet performance, most provided by loyal fans who can spend hundreds of dollars each month to keep their favorite ballerinas supplied with floral tributes."

How Ballet Fell for Flower-giving
Tamara Rojo likes lilies and Darcey Bussell likes whatever her mum sends. But why don't male dancers get flowers? And what happens if no one sends any? Judith Mackrell enters the world of petal protocol

The Perfect Flowers to Give to Dancers

"In Greek, the word “iris” means “rainbow”. In Greek mythology, the goddess Iris would carry messages from women’s souls to the gods Hera and Zeus through the arc of a rainbow. Through her, the iris came to represent a link between the earth and the heavens, the temporal and the sublime.
Irises are a great flower to give to ballerinas as signs of appreciation for their artistry, which may likewise move an audience to the sublime. The purple iris flower in particular symbolises compliments and admiration."

When Presenting a Bouquet to a Ballerina, Don’t Trip!

'In the world of classical ballet, the presentation of flowers to the lead ballerinas is a carefully choreographed ritual, one steeped in tradition and rules, and perfected by decades of practice. It's also a study in contrasts, as ushers with no stage experience must walk across the stage to meet the most graceful of performers at center stage.
What could go wrong?
"I'm thinking I don't want to fall. Every time I've done it, I've covered that thought in my mind," said Jason Miller of Temple Hills, Md., an usher for nine years.'


Edited by pherank
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