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Dame Margot Fonteyn de Arias was the greatest British ballerina of the twentieth century. Born Peggy Hookham in Reigate in Surrey, in 1919, she joined the Vic-Wells company of Ninette de Valois in 1934. This became the Sadler's Wells Ballet, and she became its prima ballerina in 1940. After the War it became the Royal Ballet, and towards the later part of her dancing career she partnered the young Rudolf Nureyev on his defection from Russia. They became the greatest ballet partnership ever seen; first playing together in Giselle in 1962, and lasting for seventeen years. Curtain calls went on forever.

In 1956 she was created a dame; in 1979 she was named prima ballerina assoluta of the Royal Ballet. She married a Panamanian politician, Roberto de Arias, in 1955. Many years later he was paralysed in an assassination attempt, and she withdrew from public life to look after him. He died in 1989, and Dame Margot died in Panama in 1991.

One of her most famous roles was Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty. Another was Marguerite opposite Nureyev's Armand in Marguerite and Armand, the ballet form of the story of La dame aux camélias (= Camille and La Traviata). These roles were so uniquely theirs that it would have seemed sacrilegious to stage it again; and only very recently did Sylvie Guillem agree to revive the role of Marguerite.

Her first solo performance was in The Haunted Ballroom in 1939.

An auction of Fonteyn memorabilia, such as tutus and shoes, took place at Christie's in December 2000. They were expected to raise £100 000, and raised £654 144.

cerberus mentions: A statue of her in Reigate was stolen at one point, but later returned.

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