Sunday, April 23, 2017

Dame Margot Fonteyne on Vaslav Nijinsky, 1979 (originally posted 2010)



Dame Margot Fonteyne, still considered one of the world's greatest prima ballerina, spoke about the history of ballet in this 1979 documentary. Here, she quite clearly states that it is Vaslav Nijinsky and not any later choreographer (ie Martha Graham) who should be credited with modern dance, citing his 1913 Le Sacre du Printemps as a work quite far ahead of its time, referencing the riot.

In the clip, Stravinsky's Rite of Spring score is played, a couple of photos of the 1913 Ballet Russes Compagnie who performed this near-mythical masterpiece are shown, as are some sketches from newspaper reporters present at the opening (Valentine Gross) while Fonteyne laments that the choreography was not preserved. You see a genuine pain in her as she speaks on Nijinsky'
s lost legacy and sadness when stating that "he lost his reason" soon after the 1913 debut. 

Fonteyne then goes on to speak with Kyra Nijinska, Vaslav's daughter, also a dancer and choreographer and - let's face it - also with an attic full of toys. It is a sad thing when she recalls her father being taken away by the "policemen" to the institution after a violent episode.  She begins to cry just like a 6 year old but stops herself,   Her father, Vaslav Nijinsky, was the world to her.  There was no need for fairy tale books, she explains, when you have a father who is like a fairy tale. 

Everything about Nijinsky from that debut forward, is sad.  Seeing his daughter, strange thing that she was, start to weep like a little girl makes it feel worse.

Fonteyne - who danced way beyond her years and in her last filmed clip, Le Spectre de la Rose, looked like Bette Davis in "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?", really someone should have stopped her - she would not live to see the reconstruction of Nijinsky's masterpiece which she clearly believed it was in this 1979 interview.  Her absolute conviction that Nijinsky's Le Sacre would be groundbreaking had it not become lost makes the reconstruction that much more exciting though I certainly felt disappointed for her.


Kyra, on the other hand, was still alive at the time of the 1987 Joffrey presentation but I can find no information on whether or not she saw it. She lived a nomadic life until her 2001 death -  maybe 2002? - and was rumored to have been working as a sales clerk in a department store in San Francisco at the time of The Joffrey Ballet was there in California resurrecting her father, so to speak.  Like I said, toys in the attic. 

Russian stacking dolls. -Fatova Mingus.