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Tuesday, 12 December, 2000, 16:06 GMT
Fonteyn's ballet treasures make 640,000
Dame Margot Fonteyn
Margot Fonteyn: "The world's only valid legend"
Items belonging to Dame Margot Fonteyn, one of Britain's best loved dancers, have fetched 640,000 at auction - six times more than expected.

Auction house Christie's had originally put a guide price of 100,000 on the pieces ahead of Tuesday's sale.

But in the event, pieces ranging from her Christian Dior designed wedding outfit to a white swan tutu worn in Swan Lake proved highly desirable.

Two Yves-Saint Laurent dresses were particularly sought after, raising more than 140,000.

London's Royal Opera House said it bought three items from the Fonteyn collection in a private sale which will please Fonteyn admirers who worried the collection would end up abroad.

Dame Margot Fonteyn is considered one of the most gifted ballerinas of the century both in classic roles and in new roles created for her.

Dame Margot Fonteyn
The white swan Odette in Swan Lake

She was born Margaret Hookham in Reigate, Surrey in May 1919.

She spent much of her childhood in China but returned to live in England when she was 14.

In 1934, at the age of 15, she joined the Vic-Wells corps de ballet becoming its youngest member.

By 1940 she was prima ballerina of the Royal Ballet, and notable performance of The Sleeping Beauty in 1946 made her an international star.

Fonteyn's famous partnership with Rudolf Nureyev, who was twenty years 20 younger than her, began in 1962, at a time when she had been considering retirement.

The partnership with Nureyev revived her career and she carried on dancing for another two decades.

Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn
Memorable partnership: Nureyev and Fonteyn in 1990

A peach chiffon sleeveless dress she wore while dancing with Rudolf Nureyev in the 1965 ballet Romeo and Juliet was part of the auction.

Her contribution to English ballet was officially recognised when she was made a Dame of the British Empire in 1956.

Also popular in the auction was a range of photographs of the ballerina with celebrity admirers including former Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill.

In 1979 the Royal Ballet granted her the rare title of Prima Ballerina Assoluta.

She gave her last performance in the early 1970s before retiring to Panama to live with her husband Roberto de Arias.

She died of cancer in 1991.

See also:

19 Apr 99 | Entertainment
'Stocky' ballerinas left at home
09 Oct 98 | Entertainment
No happy ending in sight for Sadler's Wells
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