MARGOT FONTEYN: A Life

Meredith Daneman, Author . Viking $29.95 (672p) ISBN 978-0-670-84370-1

Margot Fonteyn (1919–1991) earned her title of prima ballerina assoluta with her elegant presence, exquisite musicality and eloquent line. She was Frederick Ashton's muse, Rudolf Nureyev's partner and, for more than 40 years, the ideal of the English ballet style. As Daneman relates in this admiring and compulsively readable biography, well before forging her partnership with Nureyev, Fonteyn was a star, Britain's "Queen of Ballet." She was already in her early 40s when Nureyev defected in 1961 and she danced Giselle with him; despite the 20-year age gap, the unlikely pair generated magic on stage. Fonteyn was rejuvenated as a dancer: her career lasted an additional 15 years. But in Daneman's astute telling, Fonteyn's personal life proves more fascinating than her dance legend. She performed in London during the blitz, becoming "a national mascot," and was discovered in her hotel bed with a lover the night German troops entered the Hague. She had many lovers (Nureyev perhaps among them) before marrying Roberto Arias in 1955; Arias was a former Panamanian ambassador suspected of planning a coup against the government of President Ernesto de la Guarda. Fonteyn gave her final performance in the early 1970s and then retired to Panama to live with Arias, who had been paralyzed in an assassination attempt. Daneman has impeccable credentials: a graduate of London's Royal Ballet School and a former member of the Australian Ballet company, she's written four novels. Both critically sophisticated and dramatically compelling, this is a must-read for balletomanes as well as biography aficionados. Illus. not seen by PW .Agent, Esther Newberg at ICM. (On sale Oct. 11)

Reviewed on: 09/27/2004
Release date: 11/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 655 pages - 978-0-14-016530-2
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