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Margot Fonteyn: A Life


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#1 Cygnet

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 12:22 PM

Has anyone gotten their hands on the new Fonteyn biography? It's simply
awesome! I can't put it down! I don't know how it is on the East coast,
but in L.A. it was hard to find a major bookstore chain that carried it in
stock. I had Borders Bookseller order it for me, and it was worth it.
Rating Scale: 5 + Stars.

#2 Herman Stevens

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Posted 09 November 2004 - 04:19 AM

There was a discussion of the book a while ago by people who had gotten hold of advance review copies.

I thought the book was fine. In my view it begins to tell somewhere in the second half, that Daneman is actually more of the McMillan generation than of Fonteyn's generation - obviously so, since she wouldn't be writing the book if she were that old or dead.

#3 Alexandra

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Posted 09 November 2004 - 07:36 AM

Sorry, Herman, but all of pre-MacMillan people have not all died off yet! I expect that some of them will be reviewing this book.

#4 Mary J

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Posted 09 November 2004 - 09:25 AM

I am about a third of the way through this book. I have not seen it in stores at all so ordered through Amazon.

I started reading in the middle, with the early Nureyev years, since that is the period of her dancing that I saw for myself, and then went back and started at the beginning. The book is well written and very thorough but I am having the strange experience (and this is not meant as a criticism of Ms. Daneman) that I am no closer to understanding MF than before I started. It is as though I am accumulating a whole bunch of facts and still feel a certain remoteness about the actual person.

MF clearly had a way of walling herself off from facts or feelings that she could not handle, and her taste in men (Constant (what a misnomer!) Lambert, and Tito Arias??) was unfortunate, but this tendency makes her seem a rather compartmentalized personality which makes her seem less warm and appealing than I expected.

Nothing will change the fact that I adored Fonteyn as a dancer, and for me some of the most illuminating passages describe her dancing in roles I did not get to see.

#5 canbelto

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Posted 10 November 2004 - 11:26 AM

I finished this book and have seen it in bookstores. I think it is well-written, and well-researched. I put up a review on amazon (I was the very first to review the book!) :D
I agree that Fonteyn seemed like a complex, contradicting personality, and I cringed at her taste in men and also dictators. (Pinochet, the Marcoses). I wonder if her extremely disciplined ballerina lifestyle led her to crave adventure, and thus her fondness for revolutionary schemes (of Tito's). It seemed as if different people had different views of Margot. On the other hand the backstage goings-on of a ballet company are always fascinating fodder. Ninette de Valois was certainly a piece of work. And Daneman is much, much more symapethetic to Nureyev than a lot of biographies have been.

#6 dirac

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Posted 10 November 2004 - 03:30 PM

Robert Gottlieb’s review, from The New York Review of Books:

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/17593


But it was not only the extraordinary breadth of her career and the drama of her personal life that set her apart from her coevals, or the exceptional beauty and purity of her performances, her early technical weaknesses long forgotten or forgiven in light of her perfection of line, her exquisite proportions, her unerring musicality, and her profound identification with her roles. It was the charm she radiated, the lovability, that made her so cherished by audiences for more than four decades.



#7 grace

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Posted 10 November 2004 - 07:37 PM

canbelto: for the lazy, could you put up a link here to your review at amazon?

bearing in mind, OF COURSE!, that if any ballet talkers want to purchase said book, i am sure they will come back to ballet talk and CLICK THROUGH THE AMAZON BANNER in order to make that purchase...(so that the site is advantaged)

#8 canbelto

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Posted 10 November 2004 - 07:54 PM

Here [quote name='grace' date='Nov 11 2004, 03:37 AM'] is my review for the book. it's the first review (meaning the one nearer the bottom of the page.

#9 grace

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Posted 10 November 2004 - 08:02 PM

canbelto - thanks for your prompt response, but at present there is no link in your post, and i am guessing that maybe we should all GO THROUGH THE AMAZON BANNER anyway, because maybe just every click (as opposed to every purchase) DOES advantage this site. thanks for trying!

#10 canbelto

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Posted 10 November 2004 - 08:13 PM

canbelto - thanks for your prompt response, but at present there is no link in your post, and i am guessing that maybe we should all GO THROUGH THE AMAZON BANNER anyway, because maybe just every click (as opposed to every purchase) DOES advantage this site. thanks for trying!

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


When you click on the "here" thing it goes straight to the page.
Try this:
http://www.amazon.co...4315055-3736110

#11 Herman Stevens

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Posted 13 November 2004 - 09:05 AM

Speaking of Gottlieb's review of the MF biography in the NY Review - am I the only one who finds it a little disingenuous to chastize Daneman for mentioning a couple sexual details, saying MF would not have wanted these things aired, and then quoting these details in the NYR?

#12 Dale

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Posted 13 November 2004 - 09:16 AM

Speaking of Gottlieb's review of the MF biography in the NY Review  -  am I the only one who finds it a little disingenuous to chastize Daneman for mentioning a couple sexual details, saying MF would not have wanted these things aired, and then quoting these details in the NYR?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


The revealing of sexual details is one of the things that disturb me in the book (and the reviews). I'm no prude, but I definitely know more about Fonteyn's body than I wanted to know. And I don't think I'm better off with the information.

#13 Alexandra

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Posted 13 November 2004 - 09:33 AM

I noticed that too, and wondered if it was the hardwired publisher's instinct -- what's really important is that it SELLS :)

I haven't read this book; I read the excerpts in "The Telegraph" and that, plus conversations with a few friends who have read it, was enough for me, at least for now I am not an admirer the current school of biography, which seems to collect as many stories as one can and put them in a book without filtering them, or placing them in context. This complaint can be made about other recent books as well. If someone writes 15 letters, then all of them get in, regardless of the letter writer's importance to the subject's life, or the veracity or worth of the material in the letters. Etc.

From my own experience researching and writing a biography, people lie, or innocently repeat a lie, or can simply misperceive things. When I began writing my book, I was given, by well-meaning friends, the names of three people I absolutely had to talk to. Two turned out to be completely unreliable, at least in part maliciously so, and the third depended on the other two for his/her information. Some dancers could (understandably) only see their careers through the "why didn't I get that role!" lens and had very imaginative answers to that question, which did not include physical or artistic limitations that seemed clear to choreographers, teachers, other dancers, etc. Do you just put in the "I didn't get the role because I never invited him to my birthday party" story and leave it at that? Or do check it and consider that a dancer's torn Achilles tendon may possibly have something to do with an artistic director's casting decision and toss the story out? I also found that some people just lied for the hell of it. There was one particularly vicious rumor that I'd heard from three or four people, checked it with at least a dozen others who were eyewitnesses, and found it false; then I heard it again. When I asked the fourth person, whom I'd trusted, where he had heard this, saying I'd checked this and it simply wasn't true, he was completely nonplussed and said, "Oh, you're checking these stories? That's good. That's good."

As for repeating third hand sexual gossip from only one source, there's no obligation to put everything in a book, and there should be some ethical stop in oneself to prevent one from repeating an offhand comment someone made in his kitchen, or at a party, or in the shower, that was never intended to be repeated, much less preserved for posterity.

I'm assuming that editors and publishers are driving this trend, and I eagerly await The Next New Thing. But all this said, I was interested to read the (very good!) Amazon reviews that indicated at least two readers, when I checked, liked the book very much, and were NOT drawn to it primarily for its more juicy bits. (Perhaps publishers might check those reviews once in awhile.)

Edited by Alexandra, 14 November 2004 - 09:34 AM.


#14 atm711

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Posted 13 November 2004 - 05:09 PM

daneman appears to be the Kitty Kelly of ballet biography. I am at the halfway point, and it has been an uphill climb...I was looking forward to her explanation of her marriage---but I am at that point now, and I have stopped reading for a while---I can wait for what looms ahead! :)

I do think Daneman was a bit carried away in describing Fonteyn's American debut. Writers tend to take this episode 'out of its time'. It's very true, Fonteyn's reception was tumultuous---BUT, in 1949 New York was welcoming back its wartime allies. During the war years New Yorkers saw thousands of servicemen from England, Australia and New Zealand and they were looked upon affectionately as 'our boys'. It was more than "The Sleeping Beauty", and I really believe that if Moira Shearer had been the Aurora on the first night---she would have received the same adulation.

#15 canbelto

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Posted 13 November 2004 - 07:54 PM

I enjoyed this book mostly as a history of a ballet era. This book focuses a lot more on parts of Fonteyn's career that she didnt like to talk about (namely, before she became Ashtons muse, and was simply a "reliable" Sadlers Wells dancer). I editted my Amazon review to say that I consciously separated what I felt was genuine biography and what was backstage gossip. It's pretty easy to do. For instance, theres a lot of secondhand and thirdhand storytelling: "Margot was overheard saying ..." or "someone said Lynn Seymour said ..." Plus all the sex stories -- I mean, the people are dead, so who really knows? But as a chronicle of Fonteyn's very long career, with a lot of ups and downs, the book was very valuable to me. I suppose this is becaus eI'm American and know the NYCB through and through (I can name the succession of Balanchine muses off the top of my head :) ) but the RB history was a lot more unfamiliar.
As for Nureyev, I find again that Daneman's kind of mean about him, and some of the descriptions have a faint whiff of homophobic judgementalness. And I kept thinking that Margot, despite her right-wing leanings and taste for rightist dictators, was NEVER judgemental and was supportive to her last break about Nureyev's very flamboyant life.


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