Jody Sawyer: “Margot Fonteyn didn't have great feet."
Jonathan Reeves: “Well, when Margot Fonteyn was onstage, you couldn't tear your eyes away from her."
—Center Stage (2000)
YouTube wasn't yet invented when the movie Center Stage was released. But thanks to the wonders of the internet, we (who weren't lucky enough to see the great British ballerina in person) can observe exactly what Peter Gallagher's character was talking about.
Fonteyn appears with Rudolf Nureyev in this clip from Swan Lake, filmed at the Vienna State Opera in 1966. Whereas Act II's iconic White Swan pas de deux displays a tentative love blossoming between the swan queen and her prince, here—in the last act's pas de deux—there is more trust between them. And much more sadness. Siegfried has betrayed Odette, enchaining her in her curse. Fonteyn and Nureyev, as luminous as their reputations promise, dance as one: joined in the tragedy of their characters' impending fate.
Fonteyn and Nureyev's partnership began when she was 42 and he was just 23. Named a Dame of the Order of the British Empire in 1956, Fonteyn was also one of few people given the title "prima ballerina assoluta" in the 20th century. Nureyev's career spanned continents, TV screens and company roles. From 1983−1989, he served as director of the Paris Opéra Ballet, which still presents his restaging of classical ballets. Eminent dancers and public figures in their own right, together, they are transcendent. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!