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Posted on Monday 16/01/2012 January, 2012 by Francesca Rudkin

To a young girl obsessed with ballet Dame Margot Fonteyn was a legend, who thanks to her professional partnership with Rudolf Nureyev was regarded as one of the greatest classical ballet dancers of all time.

It’s apparent, after watching the BBC’s Margot (Monday 16th January, 8.30pm), that Fonteyn’s life was a lot more complicated and scandalous than I’d been lead to believe aged seven. Amazingly, at 40 she experienced a career revival that turned her into a global star; at the same time as her turbulent personal life was falling apart. It’s a truly remarkable story.


To a young girl obsessed with ballet Dame Margot Fonteyn was a legend, who thanks to her professional partnership with Rudolf Nureyev was regarded as one of the greatest classical ballet dancers of all time.

It’s apparent, after watching the BBC’s Margot (Monday 16th January, 8.30pm), that Fonteyn’s life was a lot more complicated and scandalous than I’d been lead to believe aged seven. Amazingly, at 40 she experienced a career revival that turned her into a global star; at the same time as her turbulent personal life was falling apart. It’s a truly remarkable story.

Ann-Marie Duff (The Magdalene Sisters, The Last Station) does a wonderful job portraying this petit and dark-eyed beauty who was groomed by her mother and the Royal Ballet to be a prima ballerina.

The film kicks off with Margot in her 40s and contemplating retirement to spend more time with her husband Tito Arias (Con O’Neill), a Panamanian diplomat. When young Russian defector Rudolf Nureyev (Michiel Huisman) visits the Royal Ballet she invites him to stay at her residence, and the two begin dancing together. The chemistry between them on stage is electric, and together they delight audiences in the UK, Europe and, eventually, America.

Fonteyn was 20 years Nureyev’s senior, and she kept dancing until she was 60, largely to pay for her husband’s medical bills after he was shot in Panama. Her marriage was a miserable affair as her husband used her money to attempt a coup in Panama, and openly slept around. What Margot does very well is show how Fonteyn used her art to insulate herself from the world around her - not only from her husband, but also from the media, her stage mother and even Nureyev.

The question people have always been curious about is whether Fonteyn and Nureyev ever slept together. This film, written by Amanda Coe, has quite a definitive view, but it’s worth noting that as much as Margot is based on real life characters some “scenes are the invention of the writer”.

Margot will obviously appeal to art lovers, especially ballet fanatics, but if you’re not a big ballet fan don’t let that put you off; the ballet scenes are sensibly kept to a minimum. This is a character drama driven by a riveting lead performance and, as far as characters go, you’d be hard pushed to find one as extraordinary as Dame Margot Fonteyn.

Enjoy.


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Thursday, 19 January 2012 4:00 p.m.
I'm impressed. You've really raised the bar with that.

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