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Margot Fonteyn's Feet


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#1 nlkflint

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Posted 31 January 2004 - 09:57 AM

Not sure where to post, but this seemed close enough. I was watching Romeo and Juliet/Royal Ballet with Margot Fonteyn last evening with my DD. No school yesterday, and after 4 hours of rehearsal during the day, an hour of pilates and a jazz class in the evening, she still needed more.

I have heard frequently comments about Margot Fonteyn's feet. Even my DD commented about her "bad feet", although admitted,based on this video, that she did not know what it was about them that made them less than ideal.

I had not seen this performance before. Miss Fonteyn did not quite look the part of Juliet in that I am guessing she was 40ish, when this was recorded, rather late in her career. But she certainly danced the part! Just what were people referring to when they said she had "bad feet??!! Had they improved by this time? I thoroughly enjoyed this performance and became a little distracted trying to find out with my eyes just what the critisism was.

Was if because Fonteyn may not have had the highest legs, the most turns, or the biggest jumps? To me, her technique seemed clean and strong. And of course she was beautiful and elegant. What artistry. Was the subtleness of her dance the reason why some criticized? Was it because the passion was contained and restrained and not so...showy? Not full of "tricks?"

Would love comments on both sides of the argument. Thanks

#2 Treefrog

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Posted 31 January 2004 - 10:27 AM

Not saying you won't get good replies here, nlkflint, but if you don't get a satisfactory answer you might want to post this question on the "other" Ballet Talk as well. There are more long-time ballet watchers on that board, and I don't know how many of them will check in here. There is a "Dancers" forum on that board too.

#3 Mel Johnson

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Posted 31 January 2004 - 10:42 AM

Dame Margot Fonteyn's feet were not "bad", they were simply not exceptional, or exceptionable, for that matter. The same thing goes for her extension, elevation, turns and a host of other things. The greatest thing about her technical dancing was first, her line, and second, her ability to "move with the times" and improve technically over the years. There are films of her made by the BBC in the 50s, doing the Rose Adagio, and she would not have excited favorable comment from a 60s audience had her technique not perfected as the demands and expectations of ballet rose. The Romeo and Juliet she made was filmed when she was 46. She was improving in all sorts of ways right down to the latest part of her career. The other part, which is an ineffable, was her ability to create character. Even in "abstract" ballets, she was able to act to tremendous effect, and seemed to know intuitively what a choreographer wanted. Her role in Ashton's "Symphonic Variations" was a good illustration of Balanchine's observation, "You have a man and a woman together onstage, how much more story than that do you want?" Her ability to absorb, and to be absorbed by, the entire tone and "plot" of a ballet led her longtime partner Sir Michael Somes to correct dancers doing SV, "Here you should be thinking something. I don't care what, just so you look like you're thinking of SOMETHING!"
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#4 vagansmom

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Posted 31 January 2004 - 11:28 AM

As I recall, Fonteyn herself, in her autobiography, tagged herself with "bad feet". That may very well be where that label originally came from. She was very modest and self-effacing about her dancing. But she also stated that because her feet were less than ideal, she worked really hard at improving them. I'd love to see footage of her dancing very early in her career so I could compare that with her later performances.

Nlkflint, if you haven't read her autobiography, by all means find a copy. She led a very interesting life and some parts of that autobiography involving her life with her husband read like an adventure or suspense novel.

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#5 Alexandra

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Posted 31 January 2004 - 12:12 PM

There are two things I've noticed about Fonteyn's feet (from watching videos: when I first saw her she was 55!)

First, the shoes have changed. Today's shoes -- some of them, anyway -- look like a vise to me, forcing the arch. I noticed this when watching the Kirov dance -- I had a very close seat when they were at the Kennedy Center this past fall. At first, I was surprised by their "bad feet" (in the first act's waltz) until I realized that they were wearing a softer shoe, and that the foot was really working, feeling the floor, interacting with the floor. It was the first time in a long time I felt that I was watching feet, and not shoes, dance.

Second, I saw a video of Daphnis and Chloe last summer at the Dance Critics Association conference -- a house tape. There were some moments when Fonteyn's foot looked quite, well, relaxed, and then, a few minutes later, there was the most beautiful arch. The idea of women being on pointe 24/7 as your DDs might say is recent. In pre-1970s choreography (generally speaking) I think the footwork was more varied.

And I second everything Mel said. I wonder if there's been anybody else in history like Fonteyn -- she would not have won a medal at Varna, and yet people who saw her Nikiya in the mid-60s -- when she was in her 40s! -- say that she "beat" three ballerina Shades and Nureyev. And that's called artistry.

#6 Guest_Watermill_*

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Posted 31 January 2004 - 01:04 PM

Who's even watching her feet when the character is so powerfully, movingly portrayed?
Fonteyn remains for me the shining example of "artistry", "acting", "musicality", "presence" and all those other ineffable qualities overcoming modest shortcomings in areas pertaining to technique.

The problem is how does the changing world of ballet and especially its schools view your daughter (and mine) regarding the balance of these essential attributes?
Would the young Fonteyn be accepted by top companies (including her own) today.
Many think she would not. And what a loss for the human spirit!

As I get ready to watch the Live Feed from the Prix de Lausanne, I am reminded of how coldly technical the majority of the last few year's finalists have been.

#7 Hans

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Posted 01 February 2004 - 02:42 PM

Would the young Fonteyn be accepted by top companies (including her own) today.
Many think she would not.


But that goes for plenty of dancers--times change, and so does the style of dancing.

I can't think of Fonteyn having "bad" anything. In all the videos I've seen, I've never noticed anything wrong with her feet, and all one has to do to be convinced of her technical prowess is to watch her in Nureyev's production of Swan Lake (specifically the act III variation). You'd be hard pressed to find a dancer today who could perform those steps.
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#8 Victoria Leigh

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Posted 01 February 2004 - 02:53 PM

Totally agree with those who have said she did NOT have bad feet! And I really like Alexandra's notice of the difference in both pointe work that is expected today and in the pointe shoes.

IMO, Fonteyn had very lovely feet, and used them well. They were not "Paloma" feet, but they were still quite fine. One was a bit weaker than the other, I think, however, they looked very good. Check out some of the photos!

As to Romeo and Juliet, the film was a slight problem because of all the close ups. I saw her dance that role in her 40's, and she was amazing! From a distance, the childlike Juliet was totally believable, due to her extraordinary artistry and still quite lovely technique! :thumbsup:

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#9 Guest_Old Fashioned_*

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Posted 03 February 2004 - 07:37 PM

It really irks me when dancers like Fonteyn are considered to have "bad feet." What's so terrible about them? Because they have low arches? A low arch does not necessarily = bad feet, and neither does a high arch necessarily = good feet. There was a thread awhile back when people were naming off dancers with "bad feet." One example was Maria Kowroski. How?? What I consider to be bad feet are weak ankles, sickling, poor articulation, inability to get over the boxes, etc. Truthfully, I have never known a professional dancer to have bad feet because they are trained to correct such problems. If there happens to be some out there, I don't think they have any business being a pro!

#10 vagansmom

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Posted 03 February 2004 - 07:54 PM

Well, as I said in my previous post, I think it was Margot Fonteyn who brought that reputation upon herself when she said that she thought she had bad feet early in her career. Then that statement of hers got picked up and unfairly perpetuated.

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#11 abdwybabe

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Posted 26 March 2004 - 09:46 AM

Margot Fonteyn was always the part she played. There was nothing particularly amazing about her dancing, it was the way, at any age, she could be the character. She was not just a person with technique, she WAS an artist. I don't like when people rip apart an artist. It is the whole package and many dancers would love to have her feet. How many dancers danced, or ever will dance as long as she, and still be able to bring youth to her performance?

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Posted 31 July 2004 - 10:12 AM

margot fonteyn was such a beautiful dancer it didn't matter that she didnt have great feet.

#13 dance4life56

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Posted 07 March 2006 - 07:36 AM

margot fonteyn was such a beautiful dancer it didn't matter that she didnt have great feet.

I compleatly agree. Also, part of what it probbly looked at s a passion for dance, or a stage pressaance, which she (of course!) had. So even if you are not the best, If you can apear light on stage, and if you are very dedicated, you have just as much a chance, as those with perfect tequnique, and no dedication.

#14 Siegelife

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Posted 07 March 2006 - 11:13 AM

I'm just wondering how come her feet aren't considered good feet? I have looked at some pictures of her and I wouldn't have guessed that. Just surprised me.

#15 NutsaboutBallet

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Posted 07 March 2006 - 11:32 AM

I think this stuff about highly arched feet being the 'only' good feet for ballet has gone overboard!