Ballet Stars
Margot Fonteyn in Sir Frederick Ashton's Cinderella. Louis Peres, courtesy DM Archives.

Dame Margot Fonteyn, The Royal Ballet's legendary prima ballerina assoluta, is an icon of elegance and refinement—and her remarkable theatricality still sets her apart. In this short clip from a 1957 television broadcast of Sir Frederick Ashton's Cinderella, she channels easy grace into the title character's giddy, girlish dreams of going to the ball.

Margot Fonteyn Cinderella excerpt www.youtube.com

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Still of Fonteyn from the 1972 film I Am a Dancer. Photo courtesy DM Archives

On May 18, 1919, Margot "Peggy" Hookham was born. She would grow up to become Dame Margot Fonteyn, England's homegrown prima ballerina. She joined the Sadler's Wells School in 1934 and was performing principal roles with the precursor to The Royal Ballet the next year. Fonteyn was a company-defining figure, dancing Aurora for the re-opening of the Royal Opera House after World War II, creating numerous roles with Sir Frederick Ashton and forging a legendary partnership with Rudolf Nureyev.

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Viral Videos

When Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn began dancing together in the early 1960s, they made an unexpected pair—he was a young, hot-tempered Soviet defector and she was a distinguished prima of The Royal Ballet, 19 years his senior. Yet their partnership (which lasted almost two decades) became one of the most famous in all of ballet. Nureyev said in a documentary about Fonteyn that they danced with "one body, one soul." That connection is evident here in their performance of Michel Fokine's Romantic-style ballet Les Sylphides from a 1963 film.

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News
Genée IBC gold medalist Monet Hewitt of New Zealand. Photo by Keith Sin, Courtesy Royal Academy of Dance.

If you missed the Genée International Ballet Competition's live-streamed finals this weekend, we've got you covered. Last night, 17-year-old Joshua Green of Australia and 16-year-old Monet Hewitt of New Zealand were named this year's gold medalists in the men's and women's category, out of 14 finalists. Caitlin Garlick (Australia) and Basil James (United Kingdom) won silver medals, while Enoka Sato (Japan) and Jordan Yeuk Hay Chan (Hong Kong) took home bronze. Chan also won the Margot Fonteyn Audience Choice Award, and Green was given the Choreographic Award for Dancer's Own Variation.

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Jody Sawyer: “Margot Fonteyn didn't have great feet."

Jonathan Reeves: “Well, when Margot Fonteyn was onstage, you couldn't tear your eyes away from her."

—Center Stage (2000)

YouTube wasn't yet invented when the movie Center Stage was released. But thanks to the wonders of the internet, we (who weren't lucky enough to see the great British ballerina in person) can observe exactly what Peter Gallagher's character was talking about.

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In the ballet world, great partnerships are rare. The unique chemistry of a splendid ballerina and her attentive partner can hold audiences spellbound. Witnessing a pas de deux by extraordinarily simpatico dancers can fundamentally change the way one perceives ballet.

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Margot Fonteyn's name ranks among the greatest artists of the 20th century. In an era wrought with shifts in literature, philosophy and dance, she captured audiences through her dancing in seemingly tangible ways. Here, it all begins within the first few seconds of this footage of the “Rose Adagio" from 1959—we can't take our eyes off her.

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