Today marks the 90th anniversary of Margot Fonteyn’s birth, a bittersweet occasion for me because I miss her to the extent that having to go through the rest of my life without her dancing makes me feel not just regret, but an almost unbearable sense of loss. In my lifetime I’ve seen a number of ballerinas that I’ve considered great, but none cast upon me the spell that Margot did.
When I first saw Fonteyn I was a teenager and she was already middle aged but I was privileged to watch her dance for fifteen years and artistically they were the happiest fifteen years of my life. Of course I can’t mention Fonteyn without Nureyev, her unlikely but ultimately perfect partner: together they became the stuff of legends. Both these dancers were based in Britain; Margot was born here and Rudolf lived here for many years, their fame jointly and separately was immense, so to me at least it seems clear that London, the city with which they were both inextricably linked, should take pains to preserve their memory.
Here in London we mark the homes of the great and the good with Blue Plaques on the walls of the houses where they once lived, they are scattered throughout London and are popular with residents and visitors alike. At present neither Fonteyn nor Nureyev qualifies for one as the rules state that before erecting a plaque the person honoured must have been dead for twenty years. Fonteyn died in February 1991 and Nureyev just under two years later meaning that Fonteyn will be eligible for a plaque in 2011 and Nureyev in 2013: those dates are not so far off. Full details of how the scheme works can be found on the English Heritage website. http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/server/show/nav.1497
Fonteyn lived a particularly nomadic life from early childhood and lived at quite a number of locations in central and west London, so settling on an address might be less straightforward in her case, but the property she occupied in Long Acre would be ideal because of the proximity to the Royal Opera House.
How many of us are now left that remember Fonteyn I wonder, enough I hope to bear in mind that in just over eighteen months Margot will qualify for her blue plaque, so please take note of English Heritage’s e mail address and on her next birthday start making approaches to that organization to get Britain’s greatest dancer recognized by a Blue Plaque.