DAME MARGOT Fonteyn, who became an international ballet idol as the prima ballerina of the Royal Ballet in Britain, died yesterday in Paitilla Hospital in Panama City. She was 71 and lived on a farm near La Quinta Pata, Panama.
Jane Hermann, the director of American Ballet Theater, said that she had been informed of Dame Margot's death by telephone by Querube Brillenbourg, the ballerina's stepdaughter. Brillenbourg said that Dame Margot had been ill for 2 1/2 years but gave no further details.
The impact of Dame Margot's career was so strong that successive generations of viewers identified her with distinct phases in their own dancegoing experience.
Most associated her with one of the greatest ballet partnerships in history when she and Rudolf Nureyev dazzled audiences in the 1960s and 1970s. Performing regularly, sometimes annually, in the United States for 15 years, the team was unsurpassed in critical acclaim, box office success and public adulation.
But Dame Margot was a superstar in her own right long before the term came into use. She sealed the reputation of the young British company that became the Royal Ballet when she conquered New York in 1949 as the radiant Princess Aurora in "The Sleeping Beauty."
The English-born ballerina was associated with the growth of British ballet since 1934, and her effortless artistry was equated with a British style.
Dame Margot was also known as the muse of England's great choreographer, Sir Frederick Ashton.