Margot Fonteyn

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Fonteyn was born Margaret Evelyn Hookham and known as Peggy Hookham on 18 May 1919 in Surrey, England to an English father and a half-Irish half-Brazilian mother. When she was four her mother signed her up for ballet classes with her older brother. At age eight, Margot moved to China with her mother and father, who had taken employment with a tobacco company there. For six years Margot lived in Tientsin then in Shanghai, where she studied ballet with the Russian émigré teacher George Goncharov. Her mother brought her back to London when she was 14 in order to pursue a ballet career.In 1933, she joined the Vic-Wells Ballet School, the predecessor of today’s Royal Ballet School. She trained under the direction of Ninette de Valois and teachers including Olga Preobrajenska and Mathilde Kschessinska. After starting with the Vic-Wells Ballet, she rose quickly through the ranks of the company. By 1939, Fonteyn had performed principal roles in Giselle, Swan Lake and The Sleeping Beauty and was appointed Prima Ballerina. Fonteyn was most noted in the ballets of Sir Frederick Ashton, including Ondine, Daphnis and Chloe, and Sylvia. She was especially renowned for her portrayal of Aurora in Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty. Fonteyn also worked with the choreographer Roland Petit and later in life, Martha Graham. In 1949 when the Royal Ballet toured the United States, Fonteyn instantly became a celebrity for her performances.In the 1940s, she and Robert Helpmann formed a very successful dance partnership, and they toured together for several years. She danced regularly with Michael Somes and in 1955, they danced together in the first ever color telecast of a ballet, a production of The Sleeping Beauty. In 1958 they appeared together in the first British televised version of The Nutcracker. She did call him the favourite partner of her entire career. Fonteyn began her greatest artistic partnership at a time when many thought she was about to retire. In 1961 Rudolf Nureyev defected to the West, and on 21 February 1962, he and Fonteyn first performed together in Giselle. She was 42 and he was 24. Their performance was a great success; during the curtain calls Nureyev dropped to his knees and kissed Fonteyn’s hand. They created an on-and-offstage partnership that lasted until her retirement in 1979 at age 60, and were lifelong friendsAfter her retirement, she spent all her time in Panama, and was close to her husband and his children from an earlier marriage. Shortly before her husband’s death, in 1989, Fonteyn was diagnosed with a cancer that proved fatal. She died on 21 February 1991 in a hospital in Panama. Fonteyn was awarded a DBE (made a dame) in 1956 at the age of 37. She was chancellor of the University of Durham from 1981 to 1990. The main hall in Dunelm House, the Student Union building, is named the Fonteyn Ballroom in her honour. Also, the foyer to the Great Hall of University College, Durham in Durham Castle is named after Dame Margot Fonteyn. Fonteyn Court, one of the accommodation buildings at the Parsons Field site of St. Cuthbert’s Society, is also named in her honour. Margot Fonteyn was one of five “Women of Achievement” selected for a set of British stamps issued in August 1996. In her hometown of Reigate, a statue stands in tribute.


Dame Margot Fonteyn David Blair- Act 3 The Sleeping Beauty