Margot Fonteyn

British ballerina

Dame Margaret Evelyn de Arias DBE (née Hookham; 18 May 1919 – 21 February 1991), known by the stage name Margot Fonteyn, was an English ballerina.[1][2] She is widely regarded as one of the greatest classical ballet dancers of all time.

Dame Margot Fonteyn DBE
Two prima ballerinas: Tamara Karsavina rehearsing Margot Fonteyn for Le Spectre de la Rose
Margaret Hookham

(1919-05-18)18 May 1919
Died21 February 1991(1991-02-21) (aged 71)
Cause of deathCancer of unknown primary origin
Resting placePanama
EmployerRoyal Ballet
Known fordancing
TitlePrima ballerina assoluta
Spouse(s)Roberto Arias
(m. 1955-1989, his death)

She spent her entire career as a dancer with the Royal Ballet, eventually being appointed Prima Ballerina Assoluta of the company by Queen Elizabeth II. This is an honour rarely given to a dancer. The highest rank in the Royal Ballet today is Principal dancer. Fonteyn's appointment as a Dame commander of the British Empire is the female equivalent to a knighthood.

Fonteyn danced until 1979, when she was nearly 60. This is unusual for any dancer, male or female. Her career was expected to end round about 1960, but it was reborn by a new partnership with a Russian dancer who had escaped from the Soviet Union. He was Rudolph Nureyev, one of the three greatest male ballet dancers of the twentieth century. Though he was 19 years younger than her, the partnership flourished, and was called "the most famous partnership in ballet history".[1]p188

She married a Panamanian politician in 1955. He survived an assassin's bullets ten years later. She continued dancing to raise money for his upkeep. The marriage was not happy; he had a mistress. However, the couple remained married until his death in 1989.

Several films were made of her performances.

  • Various photos and early film clips [1]
  • 1955 The Sleeping Beauty: with Michael Soames (NBC, colour). A black and white version is available on DVD.
  • 1958 The Nutcracker: with Michael Soames
  • 1960 Swan Lake: a colour film of her with Rudolf Nureyev as the Prince
  • 2005 Margot: a documentary with filmed interviews with Nureyev, Frederick Ashton, Roland Petit, Ninette de Valois, Robert Helpmann, Lynn Seymour, and others.
  • 2009. Margot: BBC 4, dramatised biography with Anne-Marie Duff.
  • 1976 Margot Fonteyn Autobiography New York: Alfred A. Knopf.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Crane, Debra and Mackrell, Judith 2000. The Oxford dictionary of dance. Oxford University Press. p187/8
  2. Obituary Variety, February 25, 1991.