Dame Margot Fonteyn de Arias, DBE

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Margaret Evelyn Hookham

Also Known As: "Peggy Hookham", "Fonteyn de Arias"
Birthplace: Reigate, Surrye, England
Death: February 21, 1991 (71)
Panama City, Panama
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Felix John Hookham and Hilda Acheson Hookham
Wife of Roberto Emilio Arias
Sister of Felix Edward F Hookham

Occupation: Prima ballerina
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Dame Margot Fonteyn de Arias, DBE

Dame Margot Fonteyn de Arias, DBE (18 May 1919 – 21 February 1991), was an English ballerina. She is widely regarded as one of the greatest classical ballet dancers of all time. She spent her entire career as a dancer with the Royal Ballet, eventually being appointed Prima Ballerina Assoluta of the company by HM Queen Elizabeth II.

Fonteyn was born Margaret Evelyn Hookham and known as Peggy Hookham on 18 May 1919 in Reigate, Surrey,, United Kingdom to an English father and a half-Irish half-Brazilian mother; her mother's father was the industrialist Antonio Fontes of Brazil. Very early in her career, Margaret transformed the Fontes into Fonteyn (a surname her brother adopted as well) and Margaret into Margot: thus her stage name was established. Among her father's family were people in literature and music, but he was an engineer.

When she was four her mother signed her up for ballet classes with her older brother. At age eight, Margot made the long journey to China with her mother and father, who had taken employment with a tobacco company there; her brother Felix remained at his school. For six years Margot lived in Tientsin then in Shanghai, where she studied ballet with the Russian émigré teacher George Goncharov. Her mother brought her back to London when she was 14 in order to pursue a ballet career. Continuing to work in Shanghai, her father was interned during World War II by the invading Japanese.

In 1933, she joined the Vic-Wells Ballet School, the predecessor of today's Royal Ballet School. She trained under the direction of Ninette de Valois and teachers including Olga Preobrajenska and Mathilde Kschessinska. After starting with the Vic-Wells Ballet, she rose quickly through the ranks of the company. By 1939, Fonteyn had performed principal roles in Giselle, Swan Lake and The Sleeping Beauty and was appointed Prima Ballerina.

Fonteyn was most noted in the ballets of Sir Frederick Ashton, including Ondine, Daphnis and Chloe, and Sylvia. She was especially renowned for her portrayal of Aurora in Tchaikovsky's The Sleeping Beauty. (Televised versions of Sleeping Beauty and Ashton's version of Cinderella are now available on DVD.) Fonteyn also worked with the choreographer Roland Petit and later in life, Martha Graham. In 1949 when the Royal Ballet toured the United States, Fonteyn instantly became a celebrity for her performances.

Time magazine cover - Margot Fonteyn | Nov. 14, 1949

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Dame Margot Fonteyn de Arias, DBE's Timeline

May 18, 1919
Surrye, England
February 21, 1991
Age 71
Panama City, Panama