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Great dancers Pavlova vs Fonteyn

Guest pavlovadancer

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Guest pavlovadancer

Pavlova vs Fonteyn. From, pictures, books and films, which one is better? Of course, they cannot really be compared with each other, as there are no videos of pavlova dancing, and also the standard of ballet technique changed over time, but subjectively, it IS possible, so out of curiosity (sp?) may I know your views (I know that's bad English, but...me English no good)?

I prefer Pavlova, since she has a more delicate quality, I think. Also, Fonteyn does not have as nice arches as Pavlova (though I never read anywhere that she had bad arches, can someone clear me up on that?).

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Anna Pavlova was trained at the Maryinski school by Christian Johansson, a direct pupil of Auguste Bournonville, and then by the great Italian professor Enrico Cecchetti, with whom she continued to take lessons for the rest of her life. She was a schoolmate of great technicians like Olga Preobajenskaya, and Olga Spessivtseva.

It is currently the fashion to say that Pavlova was not technical. Although she is said to have been of a delicate constitution, and to have had a somewhat impure turnout, which affected her batterie, coming from that sort of schooling, I cannot see how she could ever have been "untechnical". I think you are probably right that in many respects, she was MORE, not less, technical than Fonteyn. She was certainly unique in her ability to create what Bournonville calls "plastique", i.e., were you able to freeze a movement in mid-air, it should look like a drawing by Raphael or Leonardo. That is the highest level of psycho-physical coordination, Pavolova had it, and few others do.

I believe that she surpassed most dancers, also, in her deep love, that made her able to inspire countless others to dance. Hundreds, perhaps thousands - including Ashton - decided to enter the ballet as a profession because of her. Everywhere she went, schools and conservatories sprang up - and she actively encouraged Governments to subsidise them.

The film footage available is of appalling quality, and gives no idea whatsoever of how she danced.

You might want to read the book by her husband, Baron Victor Dandré, which gives an insight into her mind, and her many activities.

Fonteyn was of a more reserved temperament - she acknowledges this herself, in speaking of her great admiration for Galina Ulanova - and therefore, perhaps, did not affect her audiences quite as deeply. Again, my own view is that in many respects, Fonetyn's technique was SUPERIOR to what we have got on stage today, despite the fact that she never attempted to pick up the leg !

Also, one should not confuse a pretty foot, with a well-trained foot. An artist's foot is made, not born. Fonteyn's feet were not pretty, compared with, say, Alessandra Ferri - although I've never liked that banana look myself - nor were they especially strong, but she got round the problem by admirable placement, alignment and musical intelligence (a perfect sense of timing can often get one in at the goal post, where one lacks in strength!). This enabled her to do things that constitutionally, she might otherwise have stumbled over.

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Of course, it is obvious that it's impossible to compare them, but I have to come in on anything to do with Fonteyn, whom I saw many times. Naturally, I didn't see Pavlova, though my mother did, but I've seen what everyone else has seen.

My impression is that Pavlova was a dancer of air and fire, spiritual rather than human in the impression she made, and I always think that Markova, whom I did see, must have been very like her. She certainly looked rather like her. Fonteyn, on the other hand, was very human - reserved perhaps in temperament (though not all that reserved, I suspect), but able to express human feelings on stage to a remarkable degree.

It's interesting that Arnold Haskell (English ballet critic a long time ago) wrote of Fonteyn's Giselle in a book published in 1938, when Fonteyn was still a teenager, that "She more nearly resembles Pavlova than any other dancer I have seen in making one forget the mechanics of the ballerina". I find that a fascinating comment, especially from a man who was very unwilling to admit that anyone who wasn't Russian could dance. You have to remember, though, that almost all Fonteyn's early training was by exiled Russian teachers (including Preobajenska), so she and Pavlova came out of a more similar background than one might think.

Part of Pavlova's huge influence came from the fact that she took ballet to so many places where it had never been seen - including, of course, Peru where the 13 year old Ashton saw her, as katharine says. (At least, I don't think ballet had been seen there - certainly not much.) Imagine the shock of seeing ballet for the first time - no films, no television to prepare you - and seeing it in the form of Pavlova! No wonder she was influential.

Technique - well, most of the people who decry either Fonteyn's or Pavlova's technique are actually talking about virtuosity, the ability to leap very high or do thousands of fouettes, but there is very much more to the ART of ballet than this. That's what Arnold Haskell was talking about.

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Fascinating, Katharine and Helena. I very much enjoyed reading your posts about Pavlova and Fonteyn.

I never saw Pavlova dance, but have seen the films of her.

When I was about ten years old, I saw Fonteyn perform live at the Miami Beach Center for the Performing Arts. She danced Ben Stevenson's 'Cinderella' with The National Ballet of Washington, and I watched from the wings. :) On another occasion, at Dade County Auditorium, I saw her dance the balcony scene from MacMillan's 'Romeo and Juliet'. I so vividly remember her radiant smile. She was so beautiful!

She took class one time at our ballet studio and she did all of the combinations as the teacher gave them. She was a great example to me.

Years later she came backstage after a performance I had been part of in NYC. She had a white fur hat on with a wisp of silver hair showing in the front. Still stunningly beautiful, she spoke to me as if I were on her level. Amazing!

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Interesting that you say that, Glebb, about the way that she talked to you. I had the great privilege of being in ABT when she guested with us, and my impression of her, beyond her greatness as a dancer of course, was that she was the epitomy of a "Lady". Not at all a diva or prima donna, but a true Lady, and she spoke to all of us just the way you said, as if we were all on the same level! :)

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I've seen film of Pavlova, too. One was, of course, "The Dying Swan", and the other was a snatch of her production of Don Quixote which she danced with Laurent Novikoff. There's a problem with films of dance which date back into the 19teens, as the standard "crank" speed was rather slow - sometimes as slow as nine or ten cycles per second, which produces a hypnotic "flicker picture", hence "flick"!:) Modern digitizing can be used to bounce the crank speed up to the standard twenty-four cps, but the record of the dancing loses something in the "translation". Incidentally, they found out that the 9-10 cps crank speed would set off epilepsy-like seizures in some individuals, so they made it a little faster - 14 cps. This was just as bad, as that is the resonant frequency of the human bowel system!

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Thanks for the question, Pavlovadancer, and all the responses.

There is a beautiful book about Pavlova by Keith Money -- it's huge, loads of photos, but Money writes about her as if he'd seen her (I doubt that he did) and really places her in her repertory. She wasn't only delicate -- she was also a great gypsy in several roles. She was a very dramatic dancer. Money points out that Pavlova was willing to appear in small parts, in opera ballets, which many of her peers would not do. She wanted to dance!

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