Dame Margot Fonteyn, the ballerina who enchanted audiences for 45 years and formed a legendary partnership with Rudolf Nureyev, died of cancer Thursday at age 71.

She died in a Panama City hospital after eight months of hospitalization in Houston and Panama.Born Peggy Hookham in Reigate, Surrey, Britain, she spent much of her childhood in China with her family.

Discovered in the early 1930s by Dame Ninette de Valois, she joined the Vic-Wells Ballet, now the Royal Ballet, at 14. After two years, she was dancing lead roles and became prima ballerina.

In 1962, she teamed up with Nureyev, launching a partnership with the Russian defector 20 years her junior. The pair starred in the Royal Ballet's premiere of "Romeo and Juliet" in 1965.

The ballet helped set the stage for Fonteyn-Nureyev fever: The pair became the darlings of dance and, in America, helped popularize ballet.

She met Roberto Arias, son of a president of Panama, in Cambridge, England, in 1937. They married in 1955, and Queen Elizabeth II gave her the title of dame, the female equivalent of a knight, the following year.

She spent the years after her 1979 retirement helping Arias manage his cattle ranch near in Panama. He died in 1989.