Ballerina Margot Fonteyn performing as a guest dancer with the Mariinsky Ballet in Saint Petersburg (Leningrad), Russia in 1948. Russian photograph. (Credit: Wikipedia Encyclopedia.)
“The most important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one’s work seriously and taking one’s self seriously. The first is imperative, and the second disastrous.”
Margot Fonteyn was born in Surrey, U.K. in 1919 and died in Panama City, Panama in 1991. She was considered by many to be the greatest English ballerina, and one of the greatest dancers of the 20th Century.
Besides having a worldwide reputation as being one of the greatest ballerinas of all times, she was a great friend of Panama. Fonteyn married Roberto “Tito” Arias, a Panamanian diplomat to Great Britain in 1955. She met him in 1937 at Cambridge University in England and married him 18 years later. On Feb. 6, 1955, she married him in the Panamanian consulate in Paris amid an explosion of flashbulbs.
Fonteyn was an 18-year-old dancer and Arias a 19-year-old law student when they met at a party in Cambridge, England, in 1937. The next morning, “I got up and I walked across the room and had this really strange sensation,” Fonteyn later recalled. “Then it came into my mind about people walking on air when they’re in love.”
Their marriage received a great blow when he was shot by a rival Panamanian politician, leaving him a quadriplegic for the rest of his life. But regardless of his condition, he was always at her side and vice versa.
She ended her days in Panama—retiring to a beachfront cattle ranch—, remaining loyal to Arias because she loved him and also because she was very devoted to his children from an earlier marriage.
She had a charming personality difficult to explain:
“What Fonteyn possessed, more than the gift for dance, was a presence that transcends charisma or any of the usual qualities of attraction. She was not a woman of great intelligence. Her conversation was mundane and her interests narrow. Unlike world leaders she was not driven by raging ambition or a desire to improve society. She was Peggy Hookham by birth, and Peggy Hookham by nature, pleasingly down to earth.
Yet she could enter a crowded room and everyone present knew she was there. Those who worked with her speak of an aura, an impermeable state of being. At Covent Garden, 14 years after her death in distant Panama, she is never far from the lips and toes of dancers who were not yet born when she retired and of teachers who cannot erase her from performing memory.”
I didn’t have the opportunity to meet Ms. Fonteyn while she lived in Panama, since Panama City is not such a big place. But in a certain manner, I did have some kind of relationship with a document of hers while I worked at Compañía Colonial de Seguros, S.A. as a Comptroller.
One day, while reviewing some automobile insurance policies, I detected her name. It was on an insurance certificate that was going to be delivered to her home by our messenger the next day. I held it nervously in my hands for a brief moment and thought, “This document will probably by touched by Margot Fonteyn in person”.
I never knew if she held the document in her own hands, or maybe somebody from her staff did, but the possibility that we both touched the same document brings back pleasant memories of a legendary ballerina that once lived in Panama. We were very lucky for having her with us until her final departure. Good Day.
Read Full Post »