Saturday, June 17, 2006

Romeo and Juliet

I've been watching a video of Romeo and Juliet recently. It's the Prokofiev version, some of my favorite music. But it's the dancers who really have me transfixed.

This videotape is of the Royal Academy of Ballet's 1966 production of the ballet, with Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev. They are two of the most well-known dancers of the 20th century, and this video shows why they are! The pics above are from the movie. I wish they were bigger!

I'm especially watching Fonteyn. I knew that she danced way into middle age, and Nureyev was her partner then. As I watched her dance the role of Juliet, I fell in love with her style. She dances so fluidly, her body flowing and her movements seemingly effortless. Perhaps the RAD was consciously reacting against Balanchine's attention to crisp technique (Balanchine was a famous choreographer of about the same time).

I wanted to see this version because I'd heard about Fonteyn and Nureyev and how there was electricity when they danced together. The Fonteyn-Nureyev duo was famous. In this production, they have such chemistry on stage--you could almost believe they were Romeo and Juliet, or that they loved each other passionately.

They did love each other, but not romantically. Nureyev was gay. In fact, his homosexuality was the big reason he defected from USSR, which thought him a threat to the country's family values and wanted him in custody. But Fonteyn and Nureyev were close friends all their lives.

I wondered aloud how old Fonteyn was for this production. Bruce looked it up and we discovered that she was 47.

47! When there are closeups, you can tell that her open, expressive face is not the face of a 13-year-old Juliet. Her face is beautiful, and so is her dancing. She inspires me. If one can be the prima ballerina at that age, then certainly one can learn to dance en pointe or earn a black belt at 44.

The video reminded me of another I've watched, one called "I am a Dancer," which shows Nureyev at work in the studio and performing a couple of pieces. At one point, they show him at the barre, sweaty and working hard. Then you hear him speaking in a voice-over, saying that if he even misses one day of practice, he can feel it in the way his body moves.

OK. Makes me feel better that I was moving slowly and awkwardly at TKD today after a full week away!

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