Margot Fonteyn, the subject of biographer Meredith Daneman, fits this mold in some ways as well. Although she never professed any great love for dance and she went on to dance well past her prime (with her most famous partner, Rudolf Nureyev), in part because of medical bills which mounted following the assassination attempt on the life of her husband, Panamanian politician Roberto Arias, those who saw Fonteyn dance were mesmerized by her beauty and grace. She brought seemingly effortless characterizations to roles created for her by British choreographer Frederick Ashton, for whom she was a muse. Like Balanchine, she worked tirelessly and constantly despite social upheaval, personal troubles, monetary and political considerations and physical pain. The honor was in working, and even if she did not think about dance (she is quoted as saying she didn't think ballet "ever caught my imagination. . . . I just danced. I don't think I ever thought about it very much."), she created an aura that captivated those who witnessed her firsthand.

The two books also demonstrate the incredible cross-fertilization in ballet during the 1920s, '30s, and '40s, and for that reason, too, they are hard to put down. At the Imperial School of Ballet and Theater, it is prima ballerina Olga Preobrajenska whose eye Balanchine catches as worthy of admission to the school. Later, she becomes one of Fonteyn's favorite teachers in Paris. Ninette de Valois, who nurtured Fonteyn into becoming the first great British ballerina at the Sadler's Wells Ballet, worked in the corps of the Ballets Russes while Balanchine was its resident choreographer. Fonteyn herself worked with Balanchine in 1950 as he staged Ballet Imperial for Sadler's Wells. Bonnie Arant Ertelt is a writer in Nashville.


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