Margot Fonteyn’s name ranks among the greatest artists of the 20th century. In an era wrought with shifts in literature, philosophy and dance, she captured audiences through her dancing in seemingly tangible ways. Here, it all begins within the first few seconds of this footage of the “Rose Adagio” from 1959—we can’t take our eyes off her.
Ballet dancers who have seen the “Rose Adagio” know the simplistic nature of the steps (the first few phrases consist of bourrées and port de bras). It’s not until the famous promenades en attitude that the difficulty and control required for Aurora become clear (that oh-so simple spectacle makes us sweat). Nevertheless, Fonteyn treats each movement as a crucial component to Aurora’s character. No step goes unattended—each is backed with passion and intent. Perhaps this is what makes her interpretation of The Sleeping Beauty the archetypal standard for ballet dancers today.