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Margot Fonteyn: A Life

58 posts in this topic

I purchased and read Daneman's biography at the time it came out and have just re-read the posts in this this fascinating thread. Thanks, whetherwax, for bringing the topic back to life.

I agree with those who were not particularly troubled by the discussion of sexual affairs. I also agree with canbelto that it is fairly easy to distinguish, as one reads, between those statements that are verifiable by fact checkers and those which are based only on what certain people thought or were saying at the time.

I definitely agree with Ari and dirac both of whom were by how beautiful Fonteyn is in many of her photographs, whether in snapshots from life (eg., # 21, "With Leonor Fini" and #30, "With Tito in the Bahamas"), studio portraits (eg., #26, "Chloe"). or performance shots (#42, "As Marguerite Gautier").

And thanks, dirac, for this remarkable quote from Mindy Aloff's original review. It explains the continuing allure of Fonteyn the dancer and human being:

Audiences around the world (and especially in New York, which she took by storm as Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty when the Royal made its debut at the old Met in 1949) associated Fonteyn with eternal youth and a kind of untouchable purity. Among 20th-century ballerinas, only Anna Pavlova and Galina Ulanova inspired similar rapture and devotion on such a scale, and for similar reasons: The dedication to the art was relentless and unswerving; the dance effects were simple, large and exact; and, perhaps most important, each gave the sense that she was opening herself up from the inside—that, in the dancing, one saw the essence of who she was. Although all were showcased in virtuoso roles, none of them could be said to be a bravura dancer. The mystique was built on the illusion of being an utterly transparent presence.

These are the dancers who survive in the imagination of future generations, even those ballet lovers who have only one or two old bits of film, and a biography like this, to go by.

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I purchased and read Daneman's biography at the time it came out and have just re-read the posts in this this fascinating thread. Thanks, whetherwax, for bringing the topic back to life....

I was able to see Dame Margot dance on very many occasions throughout the 1960's and later in her life, I had the good fortune to correspond, telephone and meet with her. I bought the Daneman book when it was first published but it enraged me and I was unable to complete it. There were for me, too many instances of incidents that did not appear to be substantiated. A biography like this can never be a complete picture, as there are many hours, days and years spent in activities that make a persons life, that are never recorded. I was never a very close follower of Dame Margot's every move, except on stage. When someone is writing about any theatrical performer, it is what made them so different on stage in various roles, is what I want to read. You are quite right Bart in saying, "These are the dancers who survive in the imagination of future generations, even those ballet lovers who have only one or two old bits of film, and a biography like this, to go by." As regards her physical beauty, it was real and it was illuminated by something which also came from within. While it is said, that she made foolish decisions in her life, here in London I never heard a bad word about her. As regards her filmed legacy, I am reminded by Pavlova’s comment upon watching rushes, “It doesn’t even capture my dress, how can it capture my performance” (paraphrased). Fonteyn was an exceptional woman and an inimitable artist who could on many occasions exhibit virtuosity in the execution of choreography. More importantly, every second she spent on stage was an exhibition of a true theatricality entirely personal and unlike any other dancer of the 20th century except, that she shared greatness with a very few other ballet icons, I am glad for the revival of this thread and yes weatherwax, I shall attempt to re-read the Daneman.

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I've just read this biography and liked it very much. I was wondering whether any of those who had disliked it at first, put off by the reviews, had changed their minds.

...

Have people changed their minds?

Nope :)

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I've just read this biography and liked it very much. I was wondering whether any of those who had disliked it at first, put off by the reviews, had changed their minds.

...

Have people changed their minds?

Nope :)

Me either. :)

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Also, when I contrast it with a new biography of Robert Helpmann by Anna Bemrose which is a very strong, heavily researched ,well written hagiography,I miss the gossip about Helpmann, which shows his wicked sense of humour and powerful personality, which Daneman has included in her Fonteyn bio. The gossipy aspect also gives a better understanding of social mores in an historical sense.

I think it is a very good biography. Have people changed their minds?

I agree with bart's most recent post. Daneman's book is not perfect but I'm glad it's around and I benefited from reading it.

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QUOTE (Alexandra @ Nov 3 2008, 12:35 AM)

QUOTE (whetherwax @ Oct 31 2008, 08:49 PM)

I've just read this biography and liked it very much. I was wondering whether any of those who had disliked it at first, put off by the reviews, had changed their minds.

...

Have people changed their minds?

Nope

Not at all. and I read it a second time to be sure.

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When someone is writing about any theatrical performer, it is what made them so different on stage in various roles, is what I want to read.

I agree, and I want to read about that, too, but my shelves already have quite a few books dedicated exclusively to Fonteyn’s art – Monahan, Chappell, Money, etc. Considering the many things left out, elided, or glossed over in Fonteyn’s own memoir, there was a need for a book like Daneman’s.

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