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Dame Margot Fonteyn Birthday Celebration

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Dame Margot Fonteyn de Arias would have been 90 years old today(18 May) and the London Ballet Circle took the opportunity to celebrate this with guest speakers, Dame Monica Mason, Donald MacLeary, David Wall and Alfreda Thorogood.

Each of the guests gave descriptions of Dame Margot's tenacity, utter professionalism and courage. Each in turn recalled events of performing roles alongside Dame Margot painting a picture of a woman that most biographers have failed to capture. Her kindness and support of other dancers was discussed and I was surprised to learn that Dame Margot Fonteyn after recommending a school to a backstage Royal Opera House employee for his daughter, she then paid for her tuition until she was able to get a scholarship to the Royal Ballet. The girl was Alfreda Thorogood.

Dame Margot comforted Dame Monica when she returned to the stage after a nine month absence due to injury, when Dame Monica felt she had given a poor performance. Dame Margot told her it was a hurdle she had to clear and that now every thing would be much easier.

Donald Mac Leary and David Wall princes on and off stage gave many examples of Dame Margot's thoughtfulness and courage when she performed through pain.

Apparently Dame Margot was a terrible giggler and loved to tell and be told amusing stories while the dancers relaxed between rehearsals. All the contributors gave praise for those performances where she produced a miracle of strength and commitment to her art. The emotion felt by each contributor made this an extraordinary experience as they shared events they had participated in with Dame Margot and all recalled her miracles of balance and the years when she completed 32 fouettes securely and regularly.

When Dame Margot's husband was incapacitated she learnt to drive, passing her test first time, so that she could leave the Opera House catch and train and then drive to the hospital to her husband and then be first in class the following morning.

David Wall first partnered Dame Margot when he was eighteen years old and was terrified. In the twenty minutes rehearsal he had with her in a role he had never danced before she gave him every confidence and support and the final coaching he needed for the role. Patience and thougtfulness was what came across from the contributors in their views of Dame Margot. Donald MacCleary's enthusiasm for her was almost exultant.

Jennie Walton the photographer and historian had created a small exhibition of historical photographs of Dame Margot and brought along a most life-like posthumous portrait of Dame Margot which one felt could almost speak.

In that audience I saw faces that I had known from my teenage when these ladies and a few gentleman I considered elderly over forty years ago. A very nice birthday cake was served with wine and everybody chatted to every body else exchanging memories. I spoke to one lady who used to attend Anna Northcote's class in London in the 1940's who would arrive early at the studio to watch Vera Volkova's class where Dame Margot would perform 32 fouttes with the arms in 2nd every day of the week. I saw Dame Margot dance with a number of ballet companies throughout the 1960's and early 70's.

In her retirement I participated in a project with her and found her to be a woman of great culture and in her sixties she had a magical allure, a gentle and kindly expression in speech and an extraordinary positive outlook on the future.

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Leonid, this was a beautifully written tribute to Dame Margot. Thank you for sharing it with us. You made me cry.

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May 18th is my birthday too, and leonid's post was the best present I received this year. Thank you so much for posting these insights and memories. :yahoo:

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Leonid, reading your beautifully written post was the next best thing to being there. Thank you so much.

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I was lucky enough to see Fonteyn a few times toward the end of her career, when she was touring with Nureyev. Whatever technical deficiencies she may have had by that time were more than offset by her artistry and the poetry of her movement. I've seen fine dancers since, but for me, Fonteyn remains the touchstone.

Thank you, Leonid, for that lovely remembrance.

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Margot Fonteyn will always be special to me. Almost exactly 40 years ago she is the dancer that really hooked me into ballet. She was just turning 50 that May of 1969.

Although I had seen a few performances at NYCO ballet and had enjoyed them, when my high school teacher took a bunch of us to see Fonteyn and Nureyev dance Romeo and Juliet with the RB all of us were immediately captured.

I was lucky enough to see her a couple dozen times and she still defines so many things about ballet to me . :thanks:

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When I was about 7 years old Dame Margot came to my town to do a book signing for 'The Magic of Dance'. I was incredibly lucky to be chosen from my ballet school to go and present her with a bouquet of flowers. I was unbelievably nervous and completely awestruck, she was such a big star. To me she was more important than the Queen!

But just as Leonid said, she had a magical allure and was so gentle and kind. She immediately put me at my ease, ushering me away from my ballet teachers who were anxiously watching to make sure I presented the flowers as rehearsed. She talked to me about my ambition to be a dancer and when she left I felt like some of her beauty and magic had been sprinkled on me! If only! I still have the photos.

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Thank you Leonid! When I was a member of the National Ballet of Washington, Dame Margot guested with us quite frequently in Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella.She always would talk to me, which at first made me very nervous, however her charm put me completely at ease. She would take company class with us, watch us from the wings and after the end of her tour with us, gave a dinner party for the company. She was the perfect hostess. I remember her walking up to my table -I was sitting with another company member- and asking if she could join us. So I had the honor of sharing not only dinner, but her charming conversations about every subject except ballet. She had a tremendous sense of humor. Once after coming off stage after a variation in the last act of Beauty, she startled me by saying- "that was lovely, but I think you should burn the gloves!" The costume was a very bright orange tutu with full-length orange gloves. I think I wore them for only a few more performances after that. I had forgotten about all of these memories until I had read Leonid's tribute. Also thank you BT for your interesting topics!

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A simple story. Many years ago, I was on an elevator with another dancer, going to a dance studio, when Margot Fonteyn entered the elevator. The other dancer nervously blurted out "I named my cat after you." Fonteyn replied "thank you, but I hope your cat jumps better than I do."

I'll never forget that.

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My Margot Fonteyn memories date back to the mid 1960's, where I would make sure to catch every performance that she and Nureyev would do at the Hollywood Bowl. The magic in the air would have fueled any young student towards aspiring a dance career, as it did with me. Through the years, I've seen the famous duo do "Romeo and Juliet", "Swan Lake", "Giselle", "Les Sylphides"; almost their whole personal repertory with each other.

Dancing-wise, it's hard to forget Margot's famous run with her silk cape to Friar Lawrence or her death scene with that final falling of the head and arm off the bed. I loved the illusion of maiden to Swan Queen as she disappeared behind Von Rothbart in her flowing chiffon, returning fully tutu-ed in just a wink of an eye.

My parents would wait patiently in the car while I stayed extra hours to get autographs. Dame Margot would always elegantly appear with a beautiful, radiant smile, sparkling eyes and meticulously dressed in pearls and mink or some designer knock-out creation. Royalty.

I later was able to watch her rehearse when she used the San Francisco Ballet studios. But it was for only a short while, as she very graciously asked all of us to leave. We didn't care, because all we really wanted was a glimpse. She had to be nearing 50 at that time, and I'm sure that she wanted time to warm up that body without being judged.

She was never my favorite dancer, if I am to be truthful. But I did appreciate her intelligence of how to perform. She knew exactly what to do to gain attention and had an incredible amount of skill with facial usage: expressive eyes and warm smile. Of course, she had to perform with Nureyev and his charisma, which could completely dominate his partners if they weren't skilled in theatre tricks.

I feel very fortunate to have seen the famous duo at their height of popularity. It was, indeed, explosive chemistry.

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