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#TBT: Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev in “Les Sylphides” (1963)

Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn in "Les Sylphides," via YouTube

When Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn began dancing together in the early 1960s, they made an unexpected pair—he was a young, hot-tempered Soviet defector and she was a distinguished prima of The Royal Ballet, 19 years his senior. Yet their partnership (which lasted almost two decades) became one of the most famous in all of ballet. Nureyev said in a documentary about Fonteyn that they danced with "one body, one soul." That connection is evident here in their performance of Michel Fokine's Romantic-style ballet Les Sylphides from a 1963 film.


Fonteyn is a soft and enchanting sylph; her arched upper back in her arabesque line is Romantic perfection. She and Nureyev bend and float together, moving with a fluidity that matches Chopin's score. Although this pas deux features the ballerina, we still get a glimpse of Nureyev's spectacular ballon in his cabrioles (at 2:43) while Fonteyn flutters alongside him in pas de couru. There are moments when Fonteyn takes penché and appears to be whispering inspiration into Nureyev's ear. In reality Fonteyn and Nureyev were both muses to each other. They pushed one another to their pinnacle and elevated the art form to new heights. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

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