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well, i've been whatching a video about the very famous couple Fonteyn-Nureyev.

i have to tell that in this coupple something is wrong.

i thing Fonteyn had a great sensibility for dance, but her tecniche was not so good!well, i explain myself.people know that she hadn't got good feet, but i find so many others fails... and i think that her seinsibility didn't remplace this fails.i'm

not saying she was a bad dancer!!!but she wasn't so great... i think!!

about nureyev i think he was better dancer than fonteyn, and maybe he look more brilliant with other partner...

sorry if i've disturb someone!!


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Lu, you must try to keep in mind that the videos with Fonteyn and Nureyev were done rather late in Fonteyn's career. It would be a really good idea to watch some of her earlier performances. While she was never the kind of technician that we see today, she was indeed very beautiful, and, for those of us fortunate enough to have seen her in person, she was a very special artist.

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Hi Victoria Leigh,

You were indeed very lucky to see Fonteyn dance live. I've always loved her dancing (her bourree was the most beautiful I've ever seen -- a sublime glide) and she was a marvelous actress. Could you elaborate a bit on what it was like to see Fonteyn live? What role(s) did you see her in? Thanks!


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yes! you' ve be very fortunate!!

i know that this videos are in the "end" of fonteyn career but i was talking only about the couple fonteyn-nureyev... i didn't talk of fonteyn career when she was young because i hadn't see her then...it's a piti...i hope that i can see her someday...


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Lu, another thing to remember not only about Fonteyn, but about many dancers of the 1950s and 1960s, that in those times, dancers did not put every trick they could do in every role. They did what was appropriate for the role. There were a lot of dancers who were quite different in class than on the stage. (Meaning, just because you have a high extension doesn't mean you should show it. It's not appropriate to the style of many ballets.)

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Lu, from watching historical films, what I have learned is not that training is better or worse today or yesterday. It is different. We have different emphases. I've watched tapes of the same ballet (George Balanchine's Agon) from 1960 to 1993. At first I thought the technique from the earlier tapes was quaint. Then I saw that as much as had been added in flexibility, there were things missing in other areas; musicality especially.

Recently I saw a dancer learn a recently discovered variation by Balanchine from 1936. She's one of the most promising technicians around, but the variation was simply too exhausting for her. Does that make her a worse dancer than those in 1936? No, no more than higher extensions make today's dancer's better. Don't judge dancers of other eras by the standards of ours. We dance only in our own time, not for all history.

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I'd echo Leigh's post. There's also a difference between training and ability. Those latter-day Agoners would, I'm sure, be quite capable of mastering what the dancers of the 1950s had, if that's what they were taught; the same thing with the able young technician grappling with the 1936 variation.

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One of the most fascinating things about Fonteyn, however, was that as the technique advanced, so did she, up to a point, and then age began to limit her. I ran across a film of her dancing the Rose Adagio in the 1950s, and thought, "She was better than that!" And certainly, by 1962, which is when I first saw her in person, she had dramatically improved as a technician.

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first i have to say that i not understand very much things that you had say! i'm sorry for it!!

well, i think that things have changed very much in ballet with the time... but i also think that although we can't judge an ancient dancer with ours standars we can opine of them, don't we? i've heard very much times about the "bad feet" of fonteyn... i don't mean that she is a bad dancer! but her techniche is very normal...

her sensibility isn't normal! she was a pretty artist!!and i like she as a dancer.i dislike her techniche, because i dislike the techniche of others artist from others eras...(not all!!!crearly!)

(i hace a problem! i can't express well which i think!!! hahaha, sorry!!)


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It all depends what you mean by technique. I f you are talking about immaculate placing and line,and exquisite taste, you will appreciate Fonteyn. If (as is increasingly the case) you think technique means ultra-high extensions, hundreds of fouettes and huge leaps, you won't.

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When I was training, the distinction we used to make was "technique" and "facility". Facility was how we referred to what one entered the game with; turnout, natural flexibility, the shape of the foot, and also being a "natural turner" (there is such a thing). Technique was what the dancer made of his or her facility. We judged a dancer on both, but we would also say, "Great facility but no technique."

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I can see where one can put one's life in jeopardy on this web-site for any criticism of Fonteyn. Something you didn't know Lu when you expressed your opinion and that is that Fonteyn has been all but canonized on this web-site.

A long time ago Beaumont wrote of Fonteyn:

"Fonteyn's dancing is always ordered and restrained. She moves within an ambit determined by herself and is seldom carried out of it by the emotion born of a moving situation.

Fonteyn has vitality, but not fire. You never feel that her whole body pulsates and burns with the desire to dance...."

I saw Fonteyn dance "live" many times, starting from her first American appearance in 1949, and down through the years. Beaumont's description sums it up for me. Somehow, I have never judged a dancer by commenting on "placement".

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atm, I don't think we can claim the credit for canonizing Fonteyn. I think that was done a year or two before we went on line :) And anyone is welcome to post for or against. Yes, I admire her greatly (and think what Beaumont describes is her style, not a failing.) But it doesn't bother me if someone else doesn't. I think the "she can't dance" or "has no technique" idea, that gets raised here periodically, will always be countered, but that's different. (Different to not like a dancer than to say he or she is a bad dancer.)

This may be a good time to slip this in: I've often used Fonteyn and Farrell as examples of "ideals" of their respective styles, or of great ballerinas, because both are generally recognized as such, and it seemed easier, in the interests of having a common discourse, to use such people as examples instead of someone (Beriosova, for example, or Patricia McBride) whom many people also admire -- with reason -- but who weren't quite household names to the same extent as F and F. But it's never been to try to imply they're the *only* dancers in the world, or that no one can dare say anthing to the contrary. I've been using La Sublimova and La Dreckova and will continue to do so in the future, as names to indicate the highs and lows of the scale, in the hopes of avoiding misunderstandings.

[ 08-30-2001: Message edited by: alexandra ]

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victoria: i think her feet wasn't the best because in points her feet didn't have the beatiful line that we use in ballet...

glebb: i've see the video of fonteyn nureyev swan lake...

Helena: logically, i think techniche is extensions, fouettes, leaps... the taste or the line, is which i've named "sensibility" and this is which i like of fonteyn...

atm: i think this is the problem!! fonteyn hadn't fire!! fonteyn is artificial and i don´t like that in a dancer, in a dancer i admire that he could make the people shake when they saw him, that he express in the outside the fire she has in the inside, that she express her sensations, her feelings... And she should have espectacular and immaculated movements, things that fonteyn doesn´t have...

obviously this is also for men...

thanks for your attention and i hope i could finally express myself...


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Hello all - just wanted to say re: Fonteyn/Nureyev - that my first real exposure to ballet began by watching a performance of theirs in Romeo and Juliet in San Francisco, many years ago - not long after he defected (not sure which year that was)- but the performance was in the late 60's. I stood in line for several hours to buy a ticket for this performance - and it was magical! I was absolutely transported - and will always remember it. She was so convincing as the young Juliet - and captivating in every way. My long career with ballet - piano soloist with NYCB, years of working with Balanchine in NYC and in Zurich, working on many ballets with Nureyev and becoming personal friends with him, and also playing for Margot in a benefit performance in NYC (Aurora's variation from S.B.)- all was sparked by that initial introduction in San Francisco to the art of ballet. It is true that technique has changed a great deal over the years, and the actual body muscle tone is developed differently now - however, Rudy and Margot were truly special and inspiring artists in all aspects.

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I recently came across a comment by Ninette de Valois on Fonteyn's technique which people might find interesting.

In reply to a question about whether on not Fonteyn's technique had continued to develop over the years de Valois replied:

"I call her technique very sound. She's no virtuosity dancer - that is something quite different..............she has an extremely neat accurate technique in my opinion. I would regard her work on the whole as exceptionally tidy and beautifully placed. After all, line, placing, phrasing, recision, control - everything comes into technique. And there is a state of perfection there, which is what technique means. One hides technique, one doesn't display it as such. Definitely Margot's technique is hidden in the apparently effortless perfecting of every movement she does."

Lu, I would suggest that you are confusing virtuosity with technique and would also add that there is a great deal more to dancing than steps.

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good!!! i found out that here i can't explain myself.. so if you can't understand what i want to tell i have nothing more to say to you...

i try to difference between what i understand for techniche and sensibility, but! i couldn't...

i suppose that finally this is only a taste question...


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Lu, don't be upset! I think this is only a difference in terms of varying opinions on what constitutes technique. You feel that technique and "sensibility" are separate things, and I think some of us feel that they are essentially the same thing in that technique is such an integral part of great artistry that they are not separate things. While Fonteyn may not have had the highest legs, the most turns, or the biggest jumps, she had a clean and strong technique which provided the means for her beauty, elegance, and artistry to shine through. While some people feel that she did not have fire or passion, I think she most definitely did but in her own beautifully subtle way. She may not have been a spitfire Kitri, but she was an exquisite Juliet or Aurora, and a most eloquent Swan Queen!

Todays competitive world, fired by all of the International Competitions and the media hype have made higher/bigger/more the keywords. We all love to see beautiful extensions, lots of turns and soaring jumps, but without the artistry it's just not what ballet is all about, IMO of course! You are certainly entitled to your opinions of Fonteyn, but so are those of us who saw her perform many years ago!

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I am saddened to read that so many people believe the myth that Fonteyn had poor technique. That she improved technically over the years is a fact she herself acknowledged when she praised Nureyev’s coaching abilities, which enabled her to master steps that had given her trouble throughout her career. She also took on new roles such as Raymonda and La Bayadere when she was well into her forties. And excelled in them.

It is generally agreed that her most famous role was Aurora in the Sleeping Beauty, and for that you need outstanding technique, which Fonteyn still displayed even in her early fifties, She was without doubt the finest exponent of a role which has defeated more dancers than any other. Today there are few that I would describe as adequate in the role of Aurora, let alone good and none I am able to describe as great. Take a look at the video “An Evening with the Royal Ballet” which was filmed in the early ‘60’s and watchFonteyn rise from the ground on point in the grand pas of the last act. How many are able to do that today?

Technique hasn’t improved. It has changed. The emphasis now is on ludicrously high extensions and split jetes and batterie is becoming a lost art. The classics are increasingly becoming watered down versions of the originals mainly due to the bad habits of dancers substituting their favourite steps for the originals.

There was an excellent series of articles about lost steps in the Dancing Times a few years ago. Both dancers and teachers contributed and it became clear that classical variations have suffered seriously through the practice of adapting a sequence of steps to match a dancers abilities rather than insisting on maintaining the integrity of the originals.

To get back to Lu’s original post, Nureyev was always at his best when he danced with Fonteyn, together they had a rapport which neither could recreate with other partners, no matter how good. When they danced together the atmosphere in the theatre was electric and their audiences rewarded them with applause that bordered on the hysterical. They are now legends – a status they richly deserve.

[ 09-03-2001: Message edited by: Mashinka ]

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