75 Facts About Margot Fonteyn


Dame Margaret Evelyn de Arias DBE, known by the stage name Margot Fonteyn, was an English ballerina.


Margot Fonteyn spent her entire career as a dancer with the Royal Ballet, eventually being appointed prima ballerina assoluta of the company by Queen Elizabeth II.


Margot Fonteyn succeeded Alicia Markova as prima ballerina of the company in 1935.


Thanks to her international acclaim and many guest artist requests, the Royal Ballet allowed Margot Fonteyn to become a freelance dancer in 1959.


In 1961, when Margot Fonteyn was considering retirement, Rudolf Nureyev defected from the Kirov Ballet while dancing in Paris.


In 1972, Margot Fonteyn went into semi-retirement, although she continued to dance periodically until the end of the decade.


Margot Fonteyn retired to Panama, where she spent her time writing books, raising cattle, and caring for her husband.


Margot Fonteyn died from ovarian cancer exactly 29 years after her premiere with Nureyev in Giselle.


Margot Fonteyn's father was a British mechanical engineer, who worked for the British-American Tobacco Company.


Margot Fonteyn's mother was the illegitimate daughter of an Irish woman, Evelyn Acheson, and the Brazilian industrialist Antonio Goncalves Fontes.


Margot Fonteyn's mother accompanied Hookham to her earliest lessons, learning the basic positions alongside her daughter in order to improve her understanding of what a ballet student needed to develop.


Margot Fonteyn's father was transferred first to Louisville, Kentucky, where Hookham attended school but did not take ballet lessons, as her mother was skeptical about the quality of the local dance school.


Margot Fonteyn did not like the Cecchetti drills, preferring the fluid expression of the Russian style.


Margot Fonteyn's mother brought her back to London when she was 14, to pursue a ballet career.


Margot Fonteyn asked his wife for a divorce so that he could marry his new girlfriend.


In 1935, Margot Fonteyn had her solo debut, playing Young Tregennis in The Haunted Ballroom.


Margot Fonteyn returned for further studies with them the following summers.


Margot Fonteyn danced her first televised solo in December 1936, performing the Polka from Facade.


Margot Fonteyn had previously been involved with Donald Hodson, the Controller of the BBC Overseas Service.


Margot Fonteyn became enamored with Arias after seeing him perform a rumba dance at a party.


The reviewer Arnold Haskell wrote that never before had Margot Fonteyn's performance been "so regal in manner or half so brilliant", while the writer Tangye Lean commented that she "rose to it with a stability that one had not seen in her before".


Margot Fonteyn later recalled dancing so often that she sometimes "stood trembling in the wings, unable to remember if I had finished my solo before I left the stage".


Margot Fonteyn was often paired with young, inexperienced male dancers pulled straight from ballet schools.


Concerned about her daughter's welfare, Margot Fonteyn's mother took matters into her own hands, gently encouraging her daughter to move on from Lambert by setting her up with film director Charles Hasse.


Margot Fonteyn performed notably in Coppelia, imbuing the role with humour.


In contrast to most Russian dancers, who traditionally learned roles from previous generations of dancers, Margot Fonteyn had no such living references readily available to teach her the role of Aurora and was obliged to create her own interpretation.


The ballet became a signature production for the company and a distinguishing role for Margot Fonteyn, marking her "arrival" as the "brightest crown" of the Sadler's Wells Company.


Margot Fonteyn appeared on television in 1946, to mark the re-opening of Alexandra Palace after the War.


In 1948, Margot Fonteyn went to Paris to perform as Agathe, a role created for her, in Les Demoiselles de la nuit by the choreographer Roland Petit.


Margot Fonteyn was unable to dance for several months, missing the premiere of Ashton's Cinderella.


Margot Fonteyn recovered sufficiently to dance with Michael Somes in the Christmas presentation of the ballet, and made her mark in the role of Cinderella by challenging the traditional costume for Act I, replacing the usual brown outfit with a stark black dress and a kerchief tied severely over her hair.


Observers commented that Margot Fonteyn inserted a new, stronger sense of pathos into the performance.


In New York, the American showman Sol Hurok said that the Metropolitan Opera House premiere of Margot Fonteyn's Aurora was the "most outstanding" performance he had ever facilitated, the curtain calls lasting half an hour.


Margot Fonteyn appeared in America on The Ed Sullivan Show for the first time in 1951, and would return several times.


Margot Fonteyn's performances were credited with improving the popularity of dance with American audiences.


Margot Fonteyn was honoured as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1951 for her contributions to British ballet.


Margot Fonteyn returned from the American tour and in the 1954 season debuted in Entrada de Madame Butterfly, later called Entree japonaise, in Granada, Spain, followed by her first performance in the title role of The Firebird.


Margot Fonteyn was taught the part by Tamara Karsavina, who had debuted the role in 1910.


Margot Fonteyn's "Firebird" was "among her greatest achievements" for her ability to use her jetes to simulate flight.


On 12 December 1955, Margot Fonteyn appeared with Michael Somes in a live US television colour production of Tchaikovsky's The Sleeping Beauty, for the anthology series Producers' Showcase, on NBC.


Margot Fonteyn starred with Somes in a 1958 BBC Television adaptation of The Nutcracker which premiered on 21 December.


Margot Fonteyn was successful in two other Ashton ballets, La Peri and Ondine, before becoming a freelance dancer in 1959, allowing her to accept the many international engagements she was offered.


Shortly before her marriage Margot Fonteyn had been selected to succeed Adeline Genee, as president of the Royal Academy of Dance and though she protested the appointment, the academy overruled her decision.


Margot Fonteyn was nevertheless criticized for her obvious lack of interest in politics.


Margot Fonteyn was criticized for performing for Imelda Marcos and was once detained for attending a party at which drugs were used.


Margot Fonteyn danced in Chile during Military dictatorship and she became close and admired Hope Somoza, the wife of Anastasio Somoza Debayle.


Margot Fonteyn's husband had staged a coup d'etat against President Ernesto de la Guardia, possibly with the support of Fidel Castro.


Margot Fonteyn returned to Panama City to turn herself in, hoping her surrender would help her husband.


Arias took refuge in the Brazilian embassy of Panama and arrived safely in Lima, Peru, the same day Margot Fonteyn arrived in New York.


Margot Fonteyn danced in the BBC Eurovision production of The Sleeping Beauty in the title role with Jelko Yuresha on 20 December 1959.


Margot Fonteyn began her greatest artistic partnership at a time when many people, including the head of the Royal Ballet, Ninette de Valois, thought she was about to retire.


Margot Fonteyn offered Fonteyn the opportunity to dance with him in his debut, and though reluctant because of their 19-year age difference, Fonteyn agreed.


On 21 February 1962, Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn performed together in Giselle to an enthusiastic capacity crowd, for which they received 15 minutes of applause and 20 curtain calls.


Margot Fonteyn was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of Cambridge in 1962.


Margot Fonteyn found that Arias had been shot four times by Alfredo Jimenez, leaving him a quadriplegic for the rest of his life.


Margot Fonteyn went into semi-retirement in 1972, relinquishing parts in full ballets and limiting herself to only a variety of one-act performances.


Margot Fonteyn ventured into modern dance, performing as "Desdemona" in Jose Limon' The Moor's Pavane June 1975 with the Chicago Ballet followed by a performance of the same dance with Nureyev at The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, in July.


Between the two performances, Margot Fonteyn was appearing with the Martha Graham Dance Company in Saratoga, New York City, Athens and London.


The appearance, though memorable, confirmed that Margot Fonteyn was no longer able to execute more demanding roles.


Margot Fonteyn's husband was still living and Fonteyn was a very private person, as well as proper and fastidious.


Margot Fonteyn retired in 1979 at the age of 60,45 years after becoming the Royal Ballet's prima ballerina.


Margot Fonteyn performed with Nureyev in his summer season, taking the part of lead nymph in L'apres-midi d'un faune by Vaslav Nijinsky and as the girl in Le Spectre de la rose.


Margot Fonteyn discovered that she had a real interest in raising cattle and developed a herd of four hundred head.


In 1979, Margot Fonteyn wrote The Magic of Dance which was aired on the BBC as a television series in which she starred and was published in book form.


That same year, Margot Fonteyn published A Dancer's World: An Introduction for Parents and Students.


Margot Fonteyn danced the role of "Lady Capulet" in Nureyev's Romeo and Juliet with Rudolf and Carla Fracci performing the leading roles in 1981 at the Met in New York City.


Margot Fonteyn travelled to Durham annually to attend the degree ceremony of the graduates and wholeheartedly participated in the duties required until her death.


Margot Fonteyn published Pavlova: Portrait of a Dancer, in 1984, as a homage to Anna Pavlova, whom she admired.


In 1989, shortly before the death of her husband, Margot Fonteyn was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.


Out of money, Margot Fonteyn began to sell her jewelry to pay for her care, and Nureyev anonymously helped to pay the bills.


Shortly before her death, Margot Fonteyn converted to Roman Catholicism so that she could have her ashes buried in the same tomb as Arias.


Margot Fonteyn died on 21 February 1991 in a hospital in Panama City, aged 71, on the 29th anniversary of her premiere with Nureyev in Giselle.


Margot Fonteyn was buried with Arias near their home in Panama and a memorial service was held in London on 2 July 1991 at Westminster Abbey.


Margot Fonteyn was one of five "Women of Achievement" selected for a set of British stamps issued in August 1996.


In 2016, the English Heritage Trust installed a blue plaque on the building where Margot Fonteyn lived when she was performing with the Sadler's Wells Ballet.