Ethel M. Fistere, 73, owner and operator of local Arthur Murray dance studios for nearly 25 years, died of cancer Saturday at George Washington University Hospital.

Mrs. Fistere had worked as a dance instructor for Arthur Murray in New York before moving here in 1932. She taught ballroom dancing and ran her own dance studio before opening the first Washington franchise of Arthur Murray studios in 1939.

At her retirement in 1963, she owned studios in Arlington, Bethesda, Silver Spring, Baltimore and in Frankfurt, West Germany. In 1952, she was appointed southeastern regional director of the Arthur Murray dance studios.

Among her Washington students were Eleanor Roosevelt and former Secretary of the Treasury and Mrs. Henry Morgethau.

Mrs. Fistere also taught ballroom dancing to students at Sidewell Friends School for a number of years. After World War II, she worked with patients at Bethesda Naval Hospital, using dance therapy techniques she had developed for working with the handicapped and mentally disturbed.

Active in the business community here, in 1958 she was elected president of the Connecticut Avenue Association, the only woman to serve in that position. She also was a member of the Federation of businessmen's Associations, a past president of the local Soroptimist International and had served on the board of Central Charge Service before its acquisition by Riggs National Bank.

Mrs. Fistere was born in New York City and earned a bachelor's degree in economics from the old New Jersey State College for Women in 1928.

She had lived in Georgetown and Chevy Chase until last year, when she moved to another home she maintained in New Jersey. She had returned to Washington because of her illness.

Survivors include two sons, Michael S., of Chevy Chase, and Daniel M., of Potomac.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Warwick Memorial Cancer Clinic, George Washington University Hospital.