The Royal Ballet Celebrates Founding Choreographer Frederick Ashton With Two Special Programmes

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By: May. 15, 2024
The Royal Ballet Celebrates Founding Choreographer Frederick Ashton With Two Special Programmes
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This summer, The Royal Ballet will celebrate the genius of its Founding Choreographer Frederick Ashton with two mixed programmes demonstrating the remarkable range of his theatrical imagination. Wit, charm and sophistication abound in this selection of ballets that also offers the opportunity to see some of his less frequently performed work. The programmes across the Main Stage and Linbury Theatre launch ASHTON WORLDWIDE 2024-2028, the Frederick Ashton Foundation's international festival celebrating the choreographer's work and legacy. 

Frederick Ashton's relationship with The Royal Ballet was profound and transformative. From his appointment by Ninette de Valois in 1935 as Resident Choreographer to his subsequent directorship and the creation of over 100 works, he helped establish The Royal Ballet as a world-class ballet institution. Ashton's distinctive ‘English style' of ballet combines elegance with technical precision, and his artistic legacy continues to influence and inspire dancers and audiences alike. 

The first programme opening 6 June presents three works to music by Auber, Mendelssohn, and Rachmaninoff. It opens with the buoyant Les Rendezvous (1933), a fizzy succession of dances following a group of friends who meet in a park. This revival of Les Rendezvous features new costume and set design by Jasper Conran who has previously designed ballet costumes for Christopher Wheeldon's Within the Golden Hour and David Bintley's Tombeaux. The programme also includes The Dream (1964), Ashton's witty and tender reimagining of Shakespeare's A Midsummer's Night Dream – a work that, in a single act, charts the tale of two pairs of mortal lovers and their fates at the hands of Oberon and Titania, the King and Queen of Fairies. The programme concludes with Ashton's lyrical masterpiece, Rhapsody (1980), created for the stellar talents of Mikhael Baryshnikov and Lesley Collier, its explosive jumps and fleet footwork a bravura match for Sergei Rachmaninoff's virtuosic Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. 

Making their debuts this Season include Principal dancers Reece Clarke, Fumi Kaneko, and Vadim Muntagirov in Les Rendezvous; Lauren Cuthbertson, Vadim Muntagirov, William Bracewell, Yasmine Naghdi, and Calvin Richardson make their debuts in The Dream. Taisuke Nakao, Sae Maeda, Daichi Ikarashi, Mayara Magri and Luca Acri make their debut in Rhapsody. 

The second mixed programme, which opens on Friday 7 June, shares two works from the first: The Dream and Rhapsody. Completing the mixed programme is a series of Ashton's short works. The selection comprises Five Brahms Waltzes in the Manner of Isadora Duncan (1975), Ashton's homage to the legendary dancer; and Hamlet and Ophelia (1977), a restaging of the Hamlet Prelude choreographed originally for Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev and restaged for an Insight with The Royal Ballet and the Frederick Ashton Foundation in 2021 with new designs by Sarah Armstrong-Jones. The programme also includes The Walk to the Paradise Garden (1972) performed by Sarasota Ballet – a company acclaimed for its performances of Ashton's ballets under the directorship of former Royal Ballet dancers Iain Webb and Margaret Barbieri. 

This Season, Principal dancers Francesca Hayward, William Bracewell, Sarah Lamb, and Cesar Corrales make their Main Stage debuts in Hamlet and Ophelia. Principal dancer Mayara Magri makes her debut in Five Brahms Waltzes in the Manner of Isadora Duncan

Ashton's profuse creativity will also be demonstrated in a presentation of works from Sarasota Ballet in the Linbury Theatre comprising Valses nobles et sentimentales, Dante Sonata, Sinfonietta and Façade. The mixed programme will also feature a gala performance including dancers of The Royal Ballet. 


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