Remembering the revolutionary ballerina

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She was Britain’s prima ballerina, an international idol of dance whose performances, with Rudolf Nureyev in particular, entranced and dazzled her audiences.

But she was also a plotter alongside her Panamanian husband, seeking the support of Fidel Castro to overthrow the Panamanian government in 1959 in a conspiracy that one British official called “highly reprehensible and irresponsible” and another likened to a comic opera at sea aboard her yacht.

In its broad detail, the episode has been known about for some time, but confidential British documents declassified on Friday offered new insight into the extent of Dame Margot Fonteyn’s efforts to support her husband, the lawyer, diplomat and journalist Roberto Arias, in a seaborne — and ultimately bungled — attempt to overthrow the Panamanian government with the help of 125 Cuban revolutionaries.

“She gave me to understand that quite a large-scale operation had been planned but that it had gone wrong at the last moment,” the former British government minister John Profumo — himself embroiled and disgraced in a sex scandal four years later — said of the escapade in 1959.

Mark Dunton, a historian at Britain’s National Archives, which released the documents, said the scale of Ms. Fonteyn’s personal involvement had not been publicly known until the release of the documents, especially “the fine detail” of her role....

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