Posted on April 25, 2019
We pay special tribute to Margot Fonteyn in this month’s magazine. One of the greatest ballerinas of the 20th century, and the only dancer to be given the title prima ballerina assoluta by The Royal Ballet, the centenary of Fonteyn’s birth – on May 18, 1919 – is marked by articles written for Dancing Times by The Royal Ballet’s director Kevin O’Hare, the dance critic Alastair Macaulay, and by Gerard Charles, artistic director of the Royal Academy of Dance.
We also hear from the new directors of Rambert, Benoit Swan Pouffer and Helen Shute, from Latin dancers Neil and Katya Jones, and from Henry Danton, a former colleague of Fonteyn at Sadler’s Wells Ballet, who has just celebrated his 100th birthday.
By Alastair Macaulay
“What’s classical? Fonteyn was a dancer who, without ever adopting any intellectual parlance herself, led us back to the multiple meanings of classicism. Standing still in Symphonic Variations with that one foot crossed over the other leg, she seems to have been as profoundly an emblem of classicism as anyone in fifth position. Too often in dance talk, the adjective ‘classical’ is used as if it was synonymous with ‘academic’. In truth, there are many classicisms: which may be refractions of a larger essence. That combination of stillness in motion and motion in stillness – so crucial to the dance character of Symphonics and certain other classical ballets – was one that Merce Cunningham singled out as a quality he sought for in his dancers and choreography. As he knew, it has been a goal of the dance forms of South Asia for centuries…
“As she [Fonteyn] came into her prime, after World War II, he [Frederick Ashton] explored the links between ballet and ideas of ancient Greece. Among the many beauties of the configurations of Symphonic Variations is the way its central ballerina holds a supported arabesque in her partner’s arms while the other four dancers are in motion around them. The arabesque is one I’ve often labelled the ‘Margot arabesque’: although her face, arms, and raised leg are in profile, her shoulders are squared to address the audience, while she keeps her arms in symmetrical lines that continue the downward slope of her shoulders – and her raised leg is parallel to her back leg. Although this arabesque is held with serenity, it distils a quality of ecstasy in the exposure it places on the neck, and when the ballerina raises her head to look upward, it echoes the depiction of Maenads (followers of the wine-god Dionysus, their heads raised in abandon) in the art of the ancient Greeks. (Isadora Duncan copied the Maenad look of the upper body.)”
“One of the world’s best-known dance brands, named after its founder Arthur Murray – a symbol of entrepreneurial success in the US – is on a mission to encourage the growth of social dancing in the UK.
“Arthur Murray himself, a pupil of Irene and Vernon Castle, started teaching dance in 1912 at the Grand Palace in New York and opened his first dance school in 1925. Now, the ballroom franchise he founded boasts 280 dance studios in 23 countries worldwide, but currently only three in the UK – hence the campaign.
“‘We’re interested in creating additional studios,’ says global ambassador Victoria Regan. ‘What I found dance did for me, as it would for anyone, is that it instilled a sense of discipline, confidence and camaraderie – you develop a lot of communicational skills. I made a career out of it in ballroom, Latin and performing on Broadway. Even if it doesn’t end up being one’s career, it definitely instils all those things in people of any age.’”
“‘It’s an exciting new chapter,’ says Benoit Swan Pouffer as I arrive at Rambert’s shiny purpose-built base on London’s South Bank. ‘We’re trying to democratise dance. Dance has come from the people and needs to be delivered back to the people. We want to inspire the next generation of dancers and audiences… those who don’t even know they’re interested in dance yet!’
“This dynamic vision has come slowly into fruition since Pouffer joined Rambert as interim director last year. Born in Paris, he was a principal with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater but is best known for his acclaimed ten-year stint directing Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet. Initially, he intended only to oversee Rambert for one season, but is now thrilled to have been formally appointed as artistic director: ‘It was a very slow and smooth transition – homeopathic. Little by little, I got back into the rhythm of dance. It was just meant to be. Now it feels so fun and natural to be here – it’s like a playground.’”
Kevin O’Hare writes about Margot Fonteyn’s legacy
Alison Gallagher-Hughes meets ballroom champions Stas Portanenko and Nataliya Kolyada
Fátima Nollén discovers how Margot Fonteyn helped shape the dance scene in Panama
Igor Stupnikov is impressed by The Royal Ballet’s Lauren Cuthbertson in St Petersburg
Northern Ballet’s Gavin McCaig is our Dancer of the Month
Nicola Rayner interviews Neil and Katya Jones
Marianka Swain examines the intersection of same-sex dance and sport
Stuttgart Ballet’s David Moore is interviewed by Gerald Dowler
Barbara Newman sees In the Willows and Little Miss Sunshine
Debbie Malina looks at the benefits of screening and profiling for dancers
Dance at the 2019 Edinburgh International Festival, Darcey Bussell quits Strictly Come Dancing, autumn at Sadler’s Wells, South American dance at London’s Southbank Centre, Ivan Putrov’s Against the Stream gala, and Phoenix Dance Theatre
Reviews of Aerowaves, Ballet Central, Ballet Magdeburg, Ballet of La Scala, Milan, Boston Ballet, English National Ballet, Gauthier Dance, Hamburg Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Isadora Duncan Dance Company, Mark Morris Dance Group, Maryinsky Ballet, Northern Ballet, Norwegian National Ballet, Queensland Ballet, Albert Quesada and Zoltán Vakulya, Rome Opera Ballet, The Royal Ballet, Scottish Ballet, and Saburo Teshigawara
The May issue is now in shops – including branches of WHSmith – or you can buy your print copy here or buy your digital copy from all good app stores