The perfect flowers to give to dancers

01 February 2019 | By Hila Shachar

When the Guardian’s dance critic Judith Mackrell wrote a fascinating article on how ballet fell for flower-giving, she explored the secret world of floral gifts. As a tribute to this tradition and nod to Mackrell’s own account, here are some of the best flowers to give to dancers, based on their hidden meanings.

Photography Kate Longley

 

Irises
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.

Carnations
Carnations symbolise many things, but one of their most dominant meanings is pride. Historically, both the green and red carnation flower represented pride in different ways. In the Victorian era, the author Oscar Wilde popularised the tradition of wearing a green carnation on his lapel. This fashion was adopted by other gay men who would pin a green carnation to their lapels as a secret message of camaraderie during a time when homosexuality was considered a crime. Since then, the green carnation flower stands as a symbol of pride, respect and admiration.
Light red carnations symbolise pride and admiration as well, and are often used in bouquets given to dancers at recitals or shows as a way of saying “I’m proud of you”. Carnations are also generally a delicate but hardy flower, and what better gift can there be for a dancer than a flower that represents both the delicacy and toughness of ballet?

Photography Kate Longley

Viscaria
In the language of flowers, the Viscaria flower literally means, “Will you dance with me?” and used to be given to women as an invitation to dance. This is a catchfly flower that blooms in beautiful shades of purple and gets its name from the sticky nature of its stems, which attract insects. Hence, it became a symbol of flirting and attraction. It was particularly popular with the Victorians, who would use flowers to say certain things that could not be uttered verbally in polite society.
The Viscaria flower is therefore not one to be given lightly to a dancer as it represents a secret flirty message as well as an invitation to dance!

Oriental and Stargazer lilies
In ancient Greek mythology and Christian and Jewish iconography, the lily flower generally represents purity. However, the variations of Oriental and Stargazer lilies have more specific meanings that make them the perfect flowers to give to both male and female dancers.
Oriental lilies come in many colours, including white, yellow, orange, pink and red. The warm colours, such as red, orange and yellow, signify something different to purity. They symbolise energy, creativity, drive and ambition in the creative pursuits of the human spirit. As such, they are clear messages to dancers of an appreciation for their dedication to their art and all their hard work.
The Stargazer lily is a hybrid of the Oriental lily, created by an American breeder, Leslie Woodriff, in the 1970s. He called the new hybrid 'Stargazer' because the flowers bloomed facing the sky. The flower has been linked with hope, enthusiasm, optimism, fulfilment of dreams and the endless possibilities of the sky itself. There can be no better gift for an aspiring dancer.

Photography Kate Longley

Roses
You can never go wrong with good old roses, which are lovely flowers to give to anyone. Because there are so many variations of them however, it’s hard to know what they each represent. So here are a few types of roses with specific meanings that are most appropriate as gifts for dancers:

Yellow: The Victorians used to give yellow roses to say, “I’m jealous”, but today they have other meanings such as friendship, affection and joy.

Pink: Light pink roses represent grace and admiration while darker shades of pink symbolise a deeper expression of appreciation and gratitude. They are also a good way of saying a silent “thank you”.

Lavender or lilac: These are rare roses, but if you happen to stumble upon them at a florist, you may like to know they represent enchantment.

Combination of red and yellow: This colour combination traditionally means gaiety, and is a good way of showing appreciation for a particularly lively and fun performance.