Margot Fonteyn, London, 1935

Emil Otto Hoppé – Part Two
Colorization & Restoration by Manos Athanasiadis

Colorization & Restoration by Manos Athanasiadis

Margot Fonteyn, 1935 (Curatorial Assistance, Inc. / E.O. Hoppé Estate Collection)

Margot Fonteyn by E.O.Hoppé, 1935 (Curatorial Assistance, Inc. / E.O. Hoppé Estate Collection)

Dame Margot Fonteyn de Arias, DBE (1919 – 1991), was an English ballerina.
Fonteyn was born Margaret Evelyn Hookham in Reigate, Surrey. Her father, Felix, was a British engineer and her mother, Hilda, was half Irish and half Brazilian, the daughter of Brazilian industrialist Antonio Fontes. Very early in her career Margaret took the name by which she was known all her life, “Margot Fonteyn”, with surname derived from “Fontes”, also adopted by her brother—Portuguese “fonte” is “fountain” in modern English, “fonteyn” in Middle English. Her later formal married name was “Margot Fonteyn de Arias”, in the Spanish-language tradition.
At four years of age her mother signed her and her elder brother up for ballet classes. At age eight, Margot traveled to China with her mother and father, who had taken employment with a tobacco company there. For six years Margot lived in TianJin, then in Shanghai, where she studied ballet with Russian emigre teacher George Goncharov. Her mother brought her back to London when she was 14, to pursue a ballet career.
In 1933 Fonteyn joined the Vic-Wells Ballet School, (later Royal Ballet School) which was founded by Ninette de Valois in 1928.  De Valois believed in Fonteyn’s talent and pushed her through difficult moments.By 1939 Fonteyn had performed principal roles in Giselle, Swan Lake and The Sleeping Beauty and was appointed Prima Ballerina. Until then all leading dancers in Britain had been Russian or French.
In the 1940s she and Robert Helpmann formed a very successful dance partnership, and they toured together for several years. When the Royal Ballet toured the United States in 1949, Fonteyn instantly became a celebrity for her performances. In the 1950s she danced regularly with Michael Somes.
In 1951 Fonteyn was decorated a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, and in 1956 she became Dame of the Order of the British Empire, after which she was known as Dame Margot Fonteyn.
Fonteyn began her greatest artistic partnership at a time when many people thought she was about to retire. In 1961 Rudolf Nureyev defected to the West, and on 21 February 1962 he and Fonteyn first performed together in Giselle. She was 42 and he was 24. Their performance was a great success. They created an on-and-offstage partnership that lasted until her retirement in 1979 at age 61. Fonteyn and Nureyev became known for inspiring repeated frenzied curtain calls and bouquet tosses. Despite differences in background and temperament, and a 19-year gap in ages, Nureyev and Fonteyn became close lifelong friends and were famously loyal to each other.
During the late 1930s and early 1940s Fonteyn had a long relationship with composer Constant Lambert. In 1955, at age 36, she married in Paris a man she had met in her youth: Robert E. Arias, “Tito,” the son of the former president of Panama who became the Panamanian ambassador in London. In 1959, whilst Margot continued her successful career, Arias planned an armed invasion to Panama City. Fonteyn was arrested for helping Arias to attempt a coup d’etat against the government. Confidential British government files released in 2010 showed that Fonteyn knew of and had some involvement in the coup attempt. In 1964 a rival Panamanian politician shot Arias, leaving him a quadriplegic for the rest of his life.
In 1979, Fonteyn made her last stage appearance and received, from the Royal Ballet in England, the title “prima ballerina assoluta,” a title only given to three ballerinas in the 20th century. After her retirement Fonteyn spent all her time in Panama, and was close to her husband and his children from an earlier marriage. She had no pension, and had spent all her savings looking after her husband. Shortly before her husband’s death, in 1989, Fonteyn was diagnosed with a cancer that proved fatal. She died on 21 February 1991 in a hospital in Panama City, Panama, aged 71.
Emil Otto Hoppé (1878–1972) was a German-born British portrait, travel, and topographic photographer active between 1907 and 1945. Hoppé was one of the most important photographic artists of his era and highly celebrated in his time. He was the undisputed leader of pictorial portraiture in Europe. In the 1930s Hoppé photographed a number of dancers at the Vic-Wells company including Margot Fonteyn, Ninette de Valois, Hermione Darnborough and Beatrice Appleyard.
Sources / More to Read:
Wikipedia: Margot Fonteyn
Daily Mail: Fonteyn in Panama coup attempt
Wikipedia: E.O. Hoppé


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