There is something very special about attending a production that pays tribute to an era gone by and the dance legends of our past. Seeing a company use their skills in the present to honour one of their own from the past is an incredible journey and one that I enjoyed tremendously at the Queensland Ballet’s production of FONTEYN REMEMBERED!
Once again Director and Choreographer Francois Klaus has employed a whole range of theatrical techniques to bring the history of this remarkable dancer to life. And this is what often makes QLD BALLLET productions so enjoyable – the ability, willingness and creativity that Klaus has in using other performance mediums to facilitate the telling of his story in a unique way.
In FONTEYN REMEMBERED this extended to adding a cleverly scripted narrative, delivered by three actors, that punctuated and highlighted the proceedings, giving the audience a clear picture of FONTEYN’s life and story. Not only the chronological development of her dance but also suggestions as to what may have been her motivation and the implications her decisions may have had on her life away from the theatre.
The choice of music throughout the performance was also wonderful, transporting the audience to the many colourful locations that featured in Fonteyn’s life – London where she studied at the Sadler’s Wells Ballet School, Paris where she worked with Roland Petit and Panama where the ballerina is caught up in gun smuggling through her husband “Tito” Arias. With the Queensland Symphony Orchestra providing the musical accompaniment the performance was both a visual and aural treat for all those there.
In terms of the dance performances there were a few standouts for me. The first was that of ‘Little Peggy” (Peggy Hookham was Fonteyn’s real name). This was danced by young Brisbane dancer, Jessica Brown and what a delight she was. Her technique and line was beautiful and I left the performance feeling happy in the knowledge that the training of our young classical dancers in Australia is well in hand. Her tango with Soloist Keian Langdon was marvellous and showed a maturity beyond her years.
As always, Principal Rachael Walsh was superb, bringing to her role of Fonteyn not only a stunning technique and fluidity of movement, but an expression and emotion that fills all she does with a special quality that transmits seamlessly to the audience, giving them that special connection to not only her dance but to the performance as a whole. Her rendition of Giselle Act 2 with trainee dancer, Piran Scott as Albrecht, was especially moving. Secretly I hope to see the company mount the full length version of this ballet in the near future!
Another standout was Principal, Christian Tatchev, who was immediately recognizable as the legendary Rudolf Nureyev the moment he stepped onto the stage. This may be attributed to his strong jaw line and stage presence but also to his costuming which saw him in an all over knitted warm up suit in which Nureyev had been photographed many times. Together with Ms Walsh, they brought to life the very special relationship for which Fonteyn and Nureyev were renowned the world over. Their pas de deux referencing Sir Frederick Ashton’s ballet “Lady of the Camellias” was a true highlight of the evening .A wonderful piece of choreography displaying the artistry and polish of these dancers.
My favourite scene in the ballet was the very clever and thought provoking parallel in the closing moments where Fonteyn and Nureyev were cast as the tragic figures of Giselle and Albrecht. It was an emotional and poignant moment that spoke volumes in a mere second! And that is the beauty of this production – the theatricality, the narrative and the successful telling of this great story. The passing on from one generation to the next the extraordinary story of an extraordinary ballerina and the contribution she made to the artform as we know it today… a ballerina who affected her generation of dancers like no other before or since.
Famed for her incredible artistry and for her partnership with the fiery and wild young Nureyev, the story of Margot Fonteyn it is an important one that lies at the heart of every young ballerina today. It is a ballet that should be seen by all young classical ballet students… to inform them of who came before them and to inspire them to develop their own artistry in the future.
I salute Francois Klaus and the Queensland Ballet for bringing this wonderful story to life and into our hearts.
Photpgraph By Ken Sparrow