Cocaine & Cabrioles

By Victoria Looseleaf

We all know that dancers, ballerinas in particular, occasionally go to extremes for their art: Being rail-thin is the ideal, with chain smoking and drinking diet pop one way to stave off hunger pangs. So is binging and purging, the result being that some of these lithe creatures bourrée down the road to becoming full-fledged anorexics/bulimics. Indeed, this kind of behavior has been going on since Marie Taglioni donned her first pair of La Sylphide wings (see picture below). Well, maybe not. But we do know that the concept of body fascism – placing a value on one’s physical appearance – was rearing its ugly head even back then. (Click here to read The Leaf’s L.A. Times essay on that subject).

But smuggling 330 pounds of cocaine in pointe shoes – what gives? (Click here to read that bizarre story.)

Not much, really. Though perhaps Darren Aronofsky will integrate that plot line into Black Swan 2, cuz this smuggling story has about as much to do with ballet as the Natalie Portman-starring horror flick did. (Click here to read The Leaf’s review of the $13 million film that grossed some $163 million, which at least thrust ballet into the zeitgeist. And click here to read her follow-up to the review.)

Seriously, why are the words cocaine and classical ballet colliding these days? The Leaf has no inside knowledge on erstwhile ballet superstar Nikolaj Hübbe’s involvement with the drug as it pertains to the Royal Danish Ballet (click here to read that sordid story), but after Hübbe retired from New York City Ballet and headed to the quieter climes of Copenhagen so that he could helm the Royal Danish, perhaps the responsibilities of bringing a storied, centuries-old institution into the new millennium got to him. The Leaf sees some sort of connection between Taglioni whose ethereal presence was the result of her father’s tyrannical teachings and first seen at Bournonville’s Royal Danish Ballet, and Hübbe. But then there’s always a connection in ballet, the art form that is passed down from body to body, generation to generation.

Nicolaj Hübbe: Then…








Nicolaj Hübbe…now.


As these stories continue to unfold, we’ll be here continuing to comment. In the interim, whatever is going on with ballet and that white powdery stuff shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who remembers Gelsey Kirkland’s memoir, Dancing On My Grave. Fortunately, Gelsey got over her addictions and is very much alive and well. Let’s wish the same for Mr. Hübbe and his troupe of fabulous dancers – and take all of these cocaine stories with a grain of, well, salt.




About Victoria Looseleaf

Victoria Looseleaf is an award winning arts journalist and regular contributor to the Los Angeles Times, KUSC-FM radio, Dance Magazine, Performances Magazine and other outlets. She roams the world covering dance, music, theater, film, food and architecture. Have pen - and iPad - will travel! Her latest book, "Isn't It Rich? A Novella In Verse" is now available on Amazon. Thank you for reading! Cheers...
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