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Margot Fonteyn: A Life


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#46 carbro

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Posted 24 October 2005 - 03:43 PM

Spotted in a bookstore window -- ta-DA! -- the paperback!

#47 dirac

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Posted 24 October 2005 - 03:51 PM

carbro, you beat me to the punch -- I saw a copy of the paperback today, too!

#48 grace

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Posted 06 January 2006 - 08:28 PM

OK, i am very late in getting a copy of this book. and pretty much everything has been said - and said so well - already.

but i JUST LOVED IT! and want to say so. :wub:

i really didn't want the story to end.

one thing it did for me, also, is that it took me back to the feelings i had when i was an adoring child looking at her photos and reading about her - and eventually seeing her dance (with nureyev).

and i, for one, REALLY wanted to discover the personal side, of someone who just simply was too perfect to be real.

i found that standard of behaviour - her standard - held up to me by myself, and by the values of the generation i was born into - SOOOOOOOO intimidating and impossible. it was SO reassuring to discover she was wonderfully and awfully human.

*THANK YOU* meredith daneman.

i LOVED re-visiting this time - the time when ballet was SOOOOOOOOOOOO special to me.

and in response to some criticisms above: i DID get
- more understanding of her personality,
- more knowledge of her approach to roles,
- a feel for the works i have not seen, etcetera...

but i agree that, with a couple of lovely exceptions (the swimming one, for example), the photos might have been more exciting.

#49 dirac

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Posted 08 February 2006 - 03:26 PM

it was SO reassuring to discover she was wonderfully and awfully human.


True, grace. Among other things, I found the account of her last years most moving. A very brave lady.

#50 whetherwax

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Posted 31 October 2008 - 05:49 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.
I ask for a few reasons, one is that we do change, each time we read something, we, and it, are different, and another is that I loved the rounded understanding this biography gave . I thought it showed its subject in great clarity as a very conflicted amazing person, full of charm ,discipline, grace and blind spots. I also liked the insight about ballet given by the author where she says that dancers
"were already mutually possed of an anatomical familiarity that a married couple might almost consider indecent" p248. It seemed to me that the sexual dimension that appeared to give offense was really a very mundane and yet valuable part of the biography in that it gave greater understanding. Just as Julie Kavanagh's book on Nureyev illustrates the extraordinary clashes of social values developing at the time.
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?

#51 bart

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Posted 31 October 2008 - 06:51 PM

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.

#52 leonid17

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Posted 01 November 2008 - 04:22 AM

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.

#53 Alexandra

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Posted 02 November 2008 - 03:35 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 :)

#54 Brioche

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Posted 02 November 2008 - 09:35 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 :)


Me either. :)

#55 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 03 November 2008 - 02:22 AM

Nyet.

#56 dirac

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Posted 03 November 2008 - 11:12 AM

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.

#57 Alymer

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Posted 03 November 2008 - 03:24 PM

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.

#58 dirac

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Posted 03 November 2008 - 06:18 PM

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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