Powdered and primped, feeling awkward and almost pimped, a life lived perpetually on point.
How happily she had left the stage for the last time, accepting the applause, the acclaim and the one final bouquet. Daffodils for her mother’s St David, African Orange Blossom in lieu of Papa’s Happy Valley crew who couldn’t make in time from Kenya to see her.
She curtseyed in pain as she always had, but this time despite bleeding feet, this time her smile broke free of its normal circuit of restraint and coursed right across her face.
No more Cinderellas and Nutcrackers, no more Swans, no more elegance on the surface and turmoil below the water line.
She breathes in deeply, drinks in freedom and drunk on air throws caution and her flowers to the wind.
Running for the wings she neglects to stop, fails to return, lets down her audience by succeeding in pleasing herself and declining to accept their umpteenth forced-upon-her curtain call.
Without missing a beat she is out of the building, her driver, soon to be dispensed with, and her lover, the one she means to keep, wait outside in a car already ticking over.
On the back seat under furs she harbours dreams of swapping pas de deux for secateurs, of leaving behind fifth position for the placing of plants in a landscape of her own choreography.
She sips strong always forbidden gin and orange from a flask, and once out of the city winds down windows to take in the scent of the season’s first hay sleeping off the day in the night’s fields.
And she is happy, for she feels that in the autumn of her life spring has finally come.
Narcisse Noir is the smell of a small liberation.
It is the ecstatic unfurling of a muscle too long held in tension, the stretching out of long limbs too long constrained and now allowed at last to be lucid.
It is a perfume of performance not entirely suitable for rehearsals.
Opening with an entire corps de ballet of daffodils and orange blossoms this production has ambition from the start.
These first performers quickly cede centre stage to new stars: a robust if not downright rotund orange with its two partners a somewhat jagged and playful jasmine and a decidedly medicinal tincture of rose.
The narcissi never leave the scene though, and can be called upon at any point to lend force to every heavily choreographed and highly sexed set piece.
Our third act finds us in expansive territory, an imagined landscape of the Russian Steppes as they once were: wild grasses with antelope and feral cats here and there.
It is an animal world, the only trace of men the incense of unseen churches of the old religion.
Against this endless wilderness our drama plays out towards an enigmatic ending that hints at the eternal.
Narcisse Noir is by turns a joyous evocation of youth, an erotic dance of courtship and a meditation on the meaning of the final curtain.
It is classical ballet made scent.
Like all great dance it calls on dancers of every sex.
The Perfumed Dandy was fortunate enough to sample the current extrait and an older eau de toilette formulation in a white spotted box and the traditional Caron flacon.
However, though lighter, he finds the current toilette to be a perfectly sensuous scent, much derided for no good reason.
Rumours abound that the eau de toilette is to be entirely discontinued if this has not indeed already happened.