Fonteyn ’59 : Sleeping Beauty
As part of the BBC Ballet Season, Darcey Bussell, sitting by the fireside, introduces edited highlights of Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty, created especially for television by producer/director Margaret Dale in 1959 and featuring the then stars of the Royal Ballet, Margot Fonteyn and Michael Somes. Fonteyn’s Rose Adage is performed with a flourish.
Bussell recalls her time as a young dancer at The Royal Ballet, and how she was coached by Fonteyn on a few occasions. Bussell was concerned about her technique – could she balance long enough, was her arabesque high enough – but Fonteyn, she says, focused on none of that and instead told her, “if you can’t tell a story then it’s not worth being on the stage.” It was all about telling the story, something Bussell remembered throughout her career. You can see how Fonteyn’s focus on story telling translates, even via television, with these highlights. Ballet has moved on a great a deal in terms of technique, but still, you can’t take your eyes off Fonteyn.
Sleeping Beauty premiered in St Petersburg, Russia, and is known for its elaborate miming of the story. Bussell demonstrates “she dies” and “she sleeps” which you can see played out during the transmission of the recording.
This rarely seen film gives you a glimpse of 1950s ballet. The performance features footage previously feared lost, but now able to be seen for the first time since the original broadcast over 50 years ago.
This recently rediscovered archive includes the ‘lost kiss’ – the awakening of Sleeping Beauty by a kiss from her handsome prince.
Fonteyn ’59: Sleeping Beauty is broadcast on Friday March 7th at 8pm on BBC Four