From 18 October until 12 November The Royal Ballet will present a glorious mixed programme of four of Frederick Ashton’s finest ballets, celebrating not only his vast and impressive body of work but also the distinctive English balletic style he shaped.
Frederick Ashton was the founding choreographer of The Royal Ballet and is now widely regarded as one of the world’s greatest and most distinctive choreographers of the 20th century. His career spanned over 40 years (1938-1980) and during that period he created many masterpieces for Royal Ballet which still dominate the repertoire, including Cinderella, La Fille mal gardée, Symphonic Variations and Scènes de ballet.
The current programme opens with Scènes de ballet, originally performed in 1948 and was Ashton’s own personal favourite of all his works. It has a score by Stravinsky, and Ashton described the piece as “just an exercise in pure dancing”. An elegant and complex piece, it was choreographed with the aim that it could be viewed from any angle and still ‘work’. Role débuts will be made by Steven McRae, Yuhui Choe and Valentino Zucchetti.
The programme also includes the bewitching Five Brahms Waltzes in the Manner of Isadora Duncan created for Lynn Seymour in 1975 on which Ashton drew on his own recollections of the great American dancer. This solo piece will have two casts over the run of performances: First Soloist Helen Crawford and First Artist Romany Pajdak.
Symphonic Variations is undoubtedly one of Frederick Ashton’s greatest works and is notoriously difficult to dance with its precise choreography and unyielding pace. Symphonic Variations premièred at the Royal Opera House in 1946 with an opening cast including Margot Fonteyn, Pamela May, Moira Shearer, Michael Somes, Brian Shaw and Henry Danton. For this revival role débuts include Marianela Nuñez, Matthew Golding, Melissa Hamilton and Vadim Muntagirov.
To conclude the programme is A Month in the Country, which premiered in 1976 and is one of Ashton’s last works. Based on the play by Turgenev, it is a minutely observed domestic drama of unrequited love, set to music by Chopin. Its final pas de deux is one of the most beautiful and passionate that Ashton ever created. Role débuts for this piece include Natalia Osipova as Natalya and Francesca Hayward as Vera.
Scènes de ballet / Five Brahms Waltzes in the Manner of Isadora Duncan / Symphonic Variations / A Month in the Country
18 October at 7pm / 22, 28 October and 4, 5, 11, 12 November at 7:30pm
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.