Margot Fonteyn

Image Details

Title Margot Fonteyn
Artist Lee Miller
Year 1944
Location Vogue studio
Town/City London
Country England
Format Vintage
Contact Sheet
Description Margot Fonteyn, photographed here by Lee Miller in 1943, was prima ballerina assoluta with the Royal Ballet, with whom she danced from the mid-1930s until her retirement in the 1970s The Second World War proved transformative for British ballet. Before the war, ballet in Britain had been the domain of the great Russian companies, who would visit London to great acclaim from the so-called ‘tiara set’. The Royal Ballet, then known as the Sadler’s Wells Ballet (and previously the Vic-Wells Ballet), was in its infancy. In 1940, under the steer of its founder Ninette de Valois, an Irish dancer who’d danced with Diagilev’s Ballet Russe, the company set off on a propaganda tour of the Netherlands, France and Belgium. When German paratroopers began landing in the streets of The Hague, the company ended up trapped in a hotel for three days, before fleeing by boat back to Britain. During the Blitz, the company continued to perform as 100 flying bombs hit London every day – the dancers recalled the bombs falling particularly close to the theatre during a performance of Les Sylphides. Lacking a permanent home, de Valois took the company on a UK tour – bringing ballet to the masses for the first time and inspiring new fans nationwide. At the end of the war, the economist John Maynard Keynes helped to secure the company’s future by suggesting it take up residency at the Royal Opera House. On their first night in their new home, the company performed Sleeping Beauty, with Fonteyn in the lead role of Princess Aurora

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