Monday 18 April 2011


Margot was part of a collection of films made for BBC4 about notable British twentieth century women in 2009. At the time I remember a great deal of press about Enid, starring Helena Bonham- Carter as Enid Blyton. The remaining two films, about the perhaps less universally famous but actually perhaps more recognisable Gracie Fields (Gracie!) and Margot Fontayn (Margot) were just as fascinating- and I had particularly enjoyed Margot because if you love ballet you just cherish this I think.

That is not to say it's an easy or satisfying story, because it's the story of Margot Fontayn's life and her narrative was at once stranger and more tragic and in some ways more wonderful than any fiction could be.

Post Black Swan ballet seems to be everywhere. People who haven't been near the Coliseum or the Opera House were asking me about The Agony and the Ecstasy the BBC documentaries following the English National Ballet for a year and trying to get tickets for Swan Lake. Well if you liked that film and the documentaries but perhaps want a little bit more reality and a little less horror then I think Margot is worth looking for. The film, which stars the ever excellent Anne- Marie Duff, is available at all the usual online places or can be rented on love film. Margot Fontayn and Rudolph Nuryev are two of the most charismatic dancers ever to have lived and they really did live their lives on and off the stage.

If you would like 'further reading' on ballet at the moment I've recently enjoyed listening to Darcy Bussell's Desert Islands Discs (as part of the archive podcasts). She is very honest about having a family and dancing. She seems to have learnt from Margot's sacrifices and found a way to have a happy family life and continue to dance which must be very inspiring for ballerinas. She was an incredibly strong ballerina physically and the interview shows her mind to be just as powerful in the sense of determination.

Personally I recently went to a short programme matinee at the Royal Opera House, the ballets were: Rhapsody, Sensorium and Still Life at the Penguin Cafe. All were wonderful for what they were. For me Sensorium, which is like a sensual ballet version of a yoga class set to Debussy, was the weakest- in no way for the dancing but because I like a story or a moment to follow. Still Life at the Penguin Cafe is really more dance than ballet most of the time but is a great mixture of lightness and poignancy and it is wonderful to see dancers mimicking animals with so much wit and respect. Rhapsody though truly was wonderful- I was thrilled and enthralled. It is a beautiful ballet, extremely challenging for the leads, set to Rachmaninov and staged in a kind of sunset in the sky it was truly a Rhapsody- I could have gone back the next day.


Miranda said...
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skirmishofwit said...

Oh I must get this! I had seen Enid (there was a lot of publicity) but had no idea about the other two. Thanks for the pointer! I am such a fan of Darcy Bussell - she really is inspiring. Still Life at the Penguin Cafe is a lot of fun!

Unknown said...

Margot looks right up my street - going to check it out, thanks!

Lobster and swan said...

I loved this series and want to watch them all again, thanks for reminding me :)