Monday, 18 May 2015

Margot Fonteyn

Bronze statute of Dame Margot Fonteyn
Photograph by Ian Yarham,
Commons Attribution Share-alike licence 2.0
Source Wikipedia

Peggy Hookham was born this day in Reigate exactly 96 years ago. She is of course better known as Dame Margot Fonteyn de Arias, prima ballerina assoluta and probably one pf the greatest dancers of all time. I won't attempt a biography. There are plenty around as well as her own autobiography. For those who want to research her life and career the Wikipedia article provides a good starting point.

I shall confine myself to some personal memories. Although I saw her on television many times as I was growing up I did not see her on stage until I went to university. This was in the late 1960s and early 1970s when she was entering her fifties. One of the roles that I saw her dance was Juliet in Macmillan's Romeo and Juliet from which a remarkable film was made. You can still see on YouTube. I saw her in most of the other great classical roles as I was a Young Friend of Covent Garden and practically lived at the House in the Christmas, Easter and first part of the Summer vacations between 1969 and 1972.

My last memory of Fonteyn was not on the stage but in the Great Hall of Lincoln's Inn. She had been invited to dine with the benchers on Grand Day. This is an occasion when prominent individuals in public life visit the Inn. Usually the benchers and their guests enter and leave the hall in silence. After their name is read out they are greeted with a bow which they usually reciprocate. But when Dame Margot left the Hall there was an explosion of applause as though she had danced Odette-Odile. Her smile will remain with me to my dying day.

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