A dream project that began years ago has finally come to fruition — the Margot Fonteyn Academy of Ballet has moved its headquarters to Prescott.
Ken said, ‘stop the car,’ and just stood there, and then said,‘This is where I am meant to be.’
Dame Margaret Evelyn de Arias DBE, better known by as Margot Fonteyn, was a British ballerina. She spent her entire career as a dancer with England’s Royal Ballet, eventually winning appointment as the company’s prima ballerina assoluta by Queen Elizabeth II. Fonteyn performed in televised broadcasts of ballet performances in the UK, and in the early 1950s appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, personally increasing the popularity of ballet in the US. In 1961, at the same time Fonteyn was considering retirement, Rudolf Nureyev defected from the Kirov Ballet while performing in Paris. Fonteyn was reluctant to partner with him because of their great age difference, but she agreed and danced with him in his début with the Royal Ballet in Giselle in 1962. The duo immediately became an international sensation.
The Academy has programs in South Africa, Latvia, New Zealand, Australia, Japan and the UK in addition to the US. A mentee and close friend of Fonteyn, Ken Ludden, is the artistic director and co-founder of the Margot Fonteyn Academy of Ballet. Executive Director Tara Tate says, “Ken was traveling here back in 2015 or 2016 and said, ‘stop the car,’ and just stood there, and then said, ‘This is where I am meant to be.’” At the time its home was in New York, but due to legislative changes the company was looking for a new location. The principals considered Florida, but it wasn’t the right fit. Ludden made the decision to move to Prescott and commute to wherever the Academy set up. Says Tate, “They thought that the support would be here if we do decide to set the Academy up here, and that was how it all came about.”
Margot Fonteyn’s vision was for an international fine-arts institution in which all the performing arts would be studied under one roof. Tate explains, “We don't just teach our dancers to dance, we think that they will become more rounded artists if they study all the fine arts under the one roof. And so our kids take drama classes, our kids take music classes, our kids take visual-arts classes. They do photography, they do sculpture, they do technical arts, they learn how to operate lights and sound and everything that would help them to understand their performance when they actually get on the stage. Because [in] a ballet you don’t have your voice, you just have your body and the stage.”
With support from the Prescott Unified School District, Jim and Linda Lee, the James family and the business and general community, the Margot Fonteyn Academy of Ballet has found its home. Dancers who wish to study with the Academy audition at the beginning of each calendar year. It has established relationships with local dance schools including Summer’s Dance Works, Lessons by Lexie and The Movement Studio. Says Tate, “We're not in competition with the local dance schools. What we’re offering is for their students to come in and just get a taste of Academy method and the training that our ballet students get. We don’t see ourselves as exclusive or exclusionary in any way, shape or form. We’re very much about the community and trying to find ways in which we can serve the community and integrate with what’s already here.”
With the company’s coming Open Day the public will have an opportunity to experience this variety of coursework. On September 30 the group is inviting everyone to walk the halls, view the facilities, meet the instructors and even take a workshop. Workshops are free, requiring only a reservation, which can be made on the web page. Additional coming events include the annual Ranier and Friends Ballet Gala on the evening of September 30, and the company’s presentation of The Nutcracker in December. Details and tickets for all these events can be found at mfab.org.
Lizabeth Rogers covers the local-theatre beat.