**An old article, just for fun. ♥
By David WiggDaily Mail
26 Novemeber 2009The setting was a discreetly fashionable London restaurant, the haunt of the great and the good, from international stars to royals, models and politicians.
I was sitting at my favourite table under the stairs waiting for my guest, when Lord Snowdon, who was also lunching there that day, asked who I was expecting. I told him that Dame Margot Fonteyn was on her way to meet me.
'Oh, do treat her with care,' he said, clearly impressed. 'She is a very special lady.' Passion: The electricity between Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn was evident when they performed Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet
A few minutes later she made her entrance. I would not have been surprised if she had demanded attention like a true prima ballerina - grand, haughty, serious, spoiled, and very self-important.
Instead, she slipped shyly into her seat without fanfare and over the next two hours I was enchanted by this petite dark-eyed beauty with a fine sense of the ridiculous, a zest for life, a talent for merciless mimicry, a good line in self-deprecation and a genuine interest in everyone and everything.
She loved to laugh almost as much as she loved dancing. And that lunchtime - the start of our great and enduring friendship - she confided to me over her veal cutlets and salad the truth on the subject about which everyone was gossiping: her relationship with Rudolf Nureyev.
A major ballet star in Russia at the age of only 22, in 1961 he had defected at Le Bourget airport in Paris and been given political asylum in the West.
He had turned up on the doorstep of Fonteyn, 20 years older and the star of the Royal Ballet, who had invited him to stay at her London home.
When they danced together, the electricity between them was palpable. 'It is the world's most exciting dance partnership', said the choreographer Sir Frederick Ashton. 'They were made to work together'.
'But it almost didn't happen', giggled Fonteyn to me. 'Well, I thought, what am I doing at my age dancing with this boy? When it was first suggested I should dance with him at Covent Garden, I really didn't want to do it.
'But I came to realise that it's much better to dance with somebody who is very strong, in personality and presence on stage, because they lift the audience up.
'Rudolf would do a solo and there would be tremendous excitement. The audience would all be up on their feet. Then I would dance my solo and I would get much more applause simply because he had already warmed them up.
'I knew it was better to go where the excitement was. Without him, I might have just been in the dull performances. So I thought, better to go with it. With him there was always an excitement that I could never resist.' Chemistry: Nureyev and Fonteyn share a joke during rehearsals for Romeo and Juliet in London in 1964
However, the decision to pair up with him was not an easy one, she admitted to me. She worried that it would be too much of a challenge. After all, at 42 she had been expected to retire from ballet.
'He was a very strong, fantastic dancer, but remember I was 20 years older. So I thought: "If I'm going to go out there and dance with this boy, I'm really going to have to make a colossal effort."
'That really, in a way, was the basis of our success together.'
With a petite, slim figure, she couldn't have contrasted more with Nureyev and his powerful neck, broad shoulders and muscular body. He mesmerised audiences by the way he could lift ballerinas into the air longer than anyone else and his lightning leaps across the stage.
She, meanwhile, danced Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, Giselle and Romeo and Juliet, performing astonishing fouettes en tournant - spinning on one toe for longer than any other ballerina of her day.
So much for their working partnership, but, I asked her, what does Rudolf actually mean to you? She suddenly became coquettish and for a moment seemed like a lovestruck young girl. 'I admire him tremendously as a person. I think he has enormous courage.
'He's very direct and doesn't go in for falseness or hypocrisy. If I talk to him about anything, he says exactly what he feels. I have to be careful what questions I ask, in case I can't handle the very honest and direct response I will get.
'I think somebody who cuts himself off from their home, as he has, is very brave. I always feel he didn't really like the separation from his family, but it had to be done.
'He wanted to dance, and he knew he could only flower, develop, learn, and be appreciated, in the West.'
It was clear that Dame Margot was in thrall to her partner. Were they lovers? Who can say for sure - nothing she said to me made me think they were any more than two very highly charged and talented people making the most of their astonishing chemistry together.
It's something that is dwelt on at great length by a BBC4 drama next week, based on Meredith Daneman's biography of Fonteyn, with Anne-Marie Duff playing the title role and Dutch actor Michiel Huisman as Nureyev. One scene which may shock the many ballet devotees who revered her is where Dame Margot is shown in bed, making passionate love to Nureyev.
Nobody really knows what went on in their private life, but she was fully aware of Rudolf's obsession with sex; that he was gay with a penchant for good-looking, strong young males, and known to be promiscuous with difficulty in committing to anyone.
She herself had had a chequered history with men, losing her virginity at 16, seducing the dancer Michael Somes and embarking on a long affair with her svengali - composer Constant Lambert. She was 18 and the married Lambert 20 years her senior.
In Paris in 1948 she and young choreographer Roland Petit, four years her junior, had a brief affair, during which they swam naked across the Seine.
Petit introduced her to couturier Christian Dior, who would dress her for the rest of her life and persuaded her to have plastic surgery on her nose.
Petit said that despite the demure, regal image she displayed to the stagedoor fans, she was a woman who really needed to have sex. There followed a liaison with the bisexual dancer Robert Helpmann and another lover, the film director Charles Hasse, who described her as 'insatiable'.
But in her mid-30s Margot married the Panamanian diplomat Roberto de Arias, whom she called Tito, turning a blind eye to his constant infidelities.
Nureyev meanwhile, claimed to have slept with very few women, and said that he was 'bored and repelled' by sex with them. But he adored Fonteyn. 'Our relationship works very well,' he told me one night in his dressing room. Passion: Choreographer Sir Frederick Ashton said the pair was 'made to work together'
'I know that she says she felt she had to make a big effort if she was going to dance with me, but that's how I felt about dancing with her, too.'
With his sensual good looks, Nureyev never had any trouble attracting partners. He once said, though, that he had only ever loved three people - two of them were men and the other was Fonteyn.
However, he made it clear to me, as Dame Margot did, that all the magic and fireworks between them were confined to the stage.
'Anything that goes against my work, anything that stops me on the way, they have to be bulldozed.
'Romance is nice. But my romance is my dance. It is everything to me; my past, present and future. It is like my religion.'
Nureyev was known not to suffer fools gladly and I had been warned he was a man of extreme moods. 'No, I only explode when it brings results,' he told me.
But he admitted he had little time for developing long-term and solid relationships. 'I think work creates a man. Everything else is secondary. My motto is: "Everything betrays you sooner or later - only your work betrays you last."'
His work ethic matched Fonteyn's. She finally retired at 60, after a 17-year dancing partnership with Nureyev. She devoted her time to caring for her husband Tito, who had been left a quadriplegic by a bullet in the spine after an assassination attempt in 1964.
On that night, Fonteyn had again been dancing with Nureyev. Although she was aware of her husband's unfaithfulness, and at the time was contemplating a divorce, she remained devoted to him and would arrive at smart parties, determinedly pushing him in his wheelchair.
She nursed him in between fulfilling arduous dancing engagements, bankrolling first his political ambitions and then paying his private medical bills, which almost financially broke her.
'It was a good thing that I had my career to keep me going,' she told me, 'because it took a certain amount of concentration, which is a help if you are in a crisis.'
She had no regrets about anything, she told me, not even that she had no children. 'It would not have been fair on them. What if I had a little girl and everybody said: "Are you going to be a dancer like your mummy?" That's terrible pressure.'
Tito died in 1989, after Dame Margot had spent all her savings on nursing care for him, and she died two years later, aged 71, having fought cancer for more than a decade.
Nureyev died of Aids in 1993. Certainly it would never have bothered Dame Margot that her Russian partner was gay - she enjoyed such company, particularly as she had grown up with so many homosexual male dancers.
Towards the end, he said of her: 'We danced with one body, one soul. Margot is all I ever had, only her.'
The Fonteyn that I knew would have agreed with that, but with her fine sense of humour she would have shrugged it away.
'Rudolf?' she said to me once. 'I was just his London nanny.'