Margot Fonteyn is considered to be one of the best classical ballet dancers in history. That’s a big claim to make and is purely subjective to your own perspective. However, what cannot be denied is that she greatly impacted not only her colleagues but her audiences. Inspiring many young dancers to follow in her footsteps, many choreographers to create new works and even the unique inspiration she had over her long time dance partner Nureyev are the testaments to her skill as a performer. In our examination of inspirations, Fonteyn was one of the first names to come up. Why? Well, Fonteyn was a British dancer who stayed at one company, the Royal Ballet, her entire career. Eventually she was made a Dame by Queen Elizabeth II. But, one of the most inspiring things about Fonteyn was her longevity as a ballet dancer. Although many professional ballet dancers retire somewhere between 30 and 40 years old, at least from the prima ballerina role in a classically based company, Fonteyn danced until she was 60. Her famous partnership with Rudolph Nureyev did not even begin until she was in her 40’s!
What can we take away from Margot Fonteyn’s influence as a dancer? It’s not so much about her technical precision but perhaps more of her philosophy that can inspire us. Fonteyn said, "The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous." Taking your work in the dance studio seriously can mean great achievement in the form of technical abilities and physical care. Perhaps her longevity as a dancer came from this serious approach to her work in rehearsal halls, classes and performances. However, Fonteyn continues, taking yourself seriously can cause disaster! Maybe it is in this sense that she was able to connect with through her work. Allowing for a freedom, for pleasure and joy in her performances and her relationships, on and off stage, is perhaps why she affected so many dancers, audience members and colleagues.
Check out this video of Fonteyn and Nureyev: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dLItQ3vFUZk