Margot Fonteyn: An Enduring Magic and Majesty

July 8, 2014 5:28 PM

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Margot Fonteyn: An Enduring Magic and Majesty

Margot Fonteyn was a simple dancer. She wanted urgently to live up to the expectations of others, placing no limit on how hard she would work to do that. In 1935, just 16, she danced her first leading role in The Sleeping Beauty. By four years later, in 1939, she had also danced the leads in Giselle, and Swan Lake in such a way that earned her the title of Prima Ballerina. Over the next decade, which included WWII and much disarray and interruption of public performances, she had become a household name worldwide, having achieved unprecedented fame. Fonteyn had only danced in classical ballets, nothing more. The way she danced had, in just 14 short years, earned fame that reached far beyond those who attended. In 1949 she took New York by storm as Aurora, and by 1959 had earned the title Prima Ballerina Assoluta du Monde, a distinction only a small handful of artists has ever achieved.

Retirement is expected of ballerinas at age 40, but she hesitated as it didn't feel right to her. This hesitation proved to be an inspiration, for in 1961 Rudolf Nureyev defected and, starting in 1962, they danced together for the next 17 years until she was 60. She then stayed on stage in non-dance...

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