Voices of Spring

Voices of Spring
Yuhui Choe and Alexander Campbell
© ROH/ Tristram Kenton

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The Frederick Ashton Foundation today announces details of Ashton Worldwide 2024-2028, an international festival conceived by the Frederick Ashton Foundation to celebrate the work of Frederick Ashton (1904-1988), and to be launched at the Royal Opera House next month.

Bookended by the 120th anniversary of Frederick Ashton's birth in 2024 and the 40th anniversary of his death in 2028, the festival aims to highlight the universal appeal of Ashton's ballets across the globe, foster the spread and influence of his legacy and encourage companies worldwide to perform Ashton works – whether as revivals or for the first time. Companies involved come from around the world, including from Australia, Canada, Chile, Europe, Japan, South Africa, New Zealand and the USA as well as the UK.

Read the full press release

21 May 2024


A new documentary on Frederick Ashton and the work of the Frederick Ashton Foundation;

A revival of Ashton's Hamlet and Ophelia (formerly Hamlet Prelude)

The Frederick Ashton Foundation marks its tenth anniversary by commissioning a film from dance film-maker Lynne Wake and a revival of Hamlet Prelude, staged by Wayne Eagling in new designs by Sarah Armstrong-Jones.

The 42-minute documentary Frederick Ashton: Links in the Chain throws light on how the choreographic steps and intentions of one of the country's greatest choreographers, who died in 1988, are handed down from one generation to the next, with participants ranging from past luminaries of the Sadler\'s Wells Ballet and The Royal Ballet to today's Marianela Nuñez, Vadim Muntagirov, Francesca Hayward, Gary Avis, Fumi Haneko and William Bracewell, and choreographers David Bintley and Wayne Eagling. The film receives its premiere at an Insight evening focusing on Ashton and the work of the Frederick Ashton Foundation in the Royal Opera House's Linbury Theatre on Wednesday 27 October.

The first performance of a new production of Hamlet and Ophelia, formerly Hamlet Prelude, will also be given at the Insight on 27 October. Created by Ashton in 1977 for Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev, the piece has not been seen for well over 40 years, and only once in this country. The revival is staged by Wayne Eagling, on whom Ashton created much of the role of Hamlet (Nureyev not being available) and who subsequently danced several performances with Fonteyn on an overseas tour. The work is presented in new designs by painter Sarah Armstrong-Jones, her first designs for ballet. The roles of Hamlet and Ophelia will be danced by William Bracewell and Francesca Hayward.

The Insight evening, featuring Royal Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet dancers, also includes extracts on film and in live performance of the Foundation's popular Ashton Rediscovered masterclasses of rarely-performed Ashton works.

The Insight, sponsored by the Ballet Association, forms part of ROH Insights supported by Rolex and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and will be streamed on ROH digital platforms in due course.

22 October 2021

Frederick Ashton Foundation marks Sir Frederick Ashton's birthday on 17 September 2020

As the current Covid-19 pandemic lockdown rules out any live events, including Ashton Rediscovered masterclasses, the Frederick Ashton Foundation marks the anniversary of the birth of Frederick Ashton on 17 September 1904 this coming Thursday with four, Ashton-related online films.

THE DYING SWAN, Anna Pavlova

Here Anna Pavlova is dancing The Dying Swan, her signature, and most well-known, solo choreographed for her in 1905 by Mikhail Fokine. Frederick Ashton was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador on 17 September 1904 and when later the family moved to Lima, Peru, he saw there, aged 13, a performance by the world-famous ballerina Anna Pavlova. He said many times in later life that from that moment on he was "injected by her poison" and was determined to dance. Although he was a gifted dancer it was for his genius as a choreographer that he became known worldwide. Pavlova's influence was to remain with him for the rest of his life. Ninette de Valois, Founder of The Royal Ballet, wrote about Ashton: "Often in our many private conversations we would discuss influences. We always came back to our joint love and admiration of Pavlova. He saw her dance first when he was a young boy in South America, I saw her when I was a young teenager in London... and wrote copious notes recording The Dying Swan - with the musical phrasing carefully noted - as Pavlova danced it at that time. All my life I have remembered her intrinsic head movements, and in Ashton\'s choreography there is often to be seen that electrifying and magnetic flow of movement that belonged to the Pavlova he saw in South America. Ashton can be regarded as the English choreographer who responded from the beginning to the lyrical quality that smooths out the delicate precision to be found in our English classical style. His choreography has the same fundamental approach. Throughout his career there has been this true partnership, where sympathy and understanding have been equally divided."

THE SWAN, Céline Gittens

This second film, prompted by Anna Pavlova's Dying Swan, features Birmingham Royal Ballet Principal Céline Gittens, who was filmed at home during the 2020 lockdown, in a version by BRB Director, Carlos Acosta, who also introduces and closes the film. With Jonathan Higgins, Principal Pianist, Birmingham Royal Ballet and António Novais, Cello, Royal Ballet Sinfonia.
With thanks to Birmingham Royal Ballet

THE SWAN, Calvin Richardson

This film, also prompted by Anna Pavlova's solo, is a very different, contemporary take on The Dying Swan, choreographed during his time as a student at the Royal Ballet Upper School by Royal Ballet Soloist Calvin Richardson, who was also inspired by seeing Lil Buck, the American street dancer, performing to the same music, accompanied by the cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Here, Calvin is shown dancing the solo at a Royal Ballet gala in Cairns, Australia during the Company's tour there in 2017. With Kate Shipway, Pianist, The Royal Ballet and Patrick Murphy, Cello, Queensland Performing Arts Centre.
With thanks to The Royal Ballet and Queensland Performing Arts Centre

ASHTON'S CHOREOGRAPHY, Gerard Charles, Anthony Dowell and Marianela Nuñez

Finally, a film from the Royal Academy of Dance which features Gerard Charles, RAD Artistic Director, in conversation with Sir Anthony Dowell, former Principal Dancer and Director of The Royal Ballet, and Marianela Nuñez, Principal Dancer, The Royal Ballet, about working with Ashton and dancing his choreography. The film is part of the RAD's online 'Zoom in on The Fonteyn' series which was made available to dance students and their teachers from all over the world who were to have taken part in the 2020 Margot Fonteyn International Ballet Competition ('The Fonteyn', formerly 'The Genée'), the Final of which was scheduled to take place at the Royal Opera House earlier this month.
With thanks to the Royal Academy of Dance

September 2020

Ashton to be performed in Guayaquil, Ecuador, the city of his birth

The Frederick Ashton Foundation is supporting a 'Tribute to Frederick Ashton' to be given by the En-Avant Dance Company in Guayaquil, Ecuador as part of their programme at the Teatro Sánchez Aguilar on 25 and 26 October 2019. The company comprises young dancers and this is reflected in the divertissements which have been selected for the programme: two extracts from Les Patineurs, the Fonteyn solo from The Wise Virgins, an extract from Valses nobles et sentimentales and the Tango from Façade.

The extracts are to be taught, rehearsed and staged by Ashton Repetiteur Lynn Wallis, assisted by Isabel McMeekan, a former First Soloist with The Royal Ballet and a participant in the Foundation\'s shadowing scheme to train up future Ashton Repetiteurs.

September 2019

See Dancing Times article (January 2020) on the visit and on the unveiling of a statue of Sir Frederick Ashton outside his birthplace

Inaugural Frederick Ashton Lecture

In 2019 the Frederick Ashton Foundation established a FREDERICK ASHTON LECTURE, to be given every two years by a distinguished member of the arts community to honour the memory of Sir Frederick Ashton and to advance public understanding and debate about the arts.

Ashton\'s understanding of the human condition, his knowledge of historic style and the influences of artists with whom he collaborated, fed his genius. He was inspired when creating his ballets not just by music and movement but by a range of interests, including the visual arts, architecture, design, literature and poetry, and thus the subject matter of each lecture will be selected from the arts in their widest sense.

The first Lecture, presented by the Frederick Ashton Foundation in association with the Wallace Collection, was given by Sir Nicholas Hytner, former Director of the Royal National Theatre and joint founder of the Bridge Theatre, in front of an invited audience and the general public at the Wallace Collection, Hertford House, Manchester Square, London W1 on Tuesday 25 June 2019. Titled We must leave the killing out, Hytner's lecture focused on keeping the classics of the stage alive.

April 2019


Ashton Rediscovered masterclass 2024-25:

Monday 2 September: an event focusing on Ashton's Romeo and Juliet (1955)
Royal Ballet Upper School, 46 Floral Street, London WC2E 9DA
Further details to be announced.

More information regarding autumn and spring masterclasses coming soon.


'Ashton Rediscovered' masterclasses 2023-24

'An Evening with Ashton'
On 24 January 2023, 'An Evening with Ashton' was given at Elmhurst Ballet School, Birmingham, presented by the Frederick Ashton Foundation in association with Birmingham Royal Ballet and Elmhurst Ballet School. The event comprised a masterclass on the Rhapsody pas de deux given by original cast member Lesley Collier with BRB2 dancers Freida Kaden and Oscar Kempsey-Fagg, and a showing of Lynne Wake's film Frederick Ashton: Links in the Chain.
Video Link: https://vimeo.com/807890506/01bb6972d4

'Ashton Rediscovered' masterclasses 2022-23

'Ashton Rediscovered' masterclass 2021-22

'Ashton Rediscovered: Past, Present and Future' Insight Performance at Linbury Theatre, Royal Opera House on 27 October 2021 to mark the Foundation\'s 10th anniversary. The Insight comprises Part 1 (live performance) and Part 2 (a new 42-minute film by Lynne Wake, 'Frederick Ashton: Links in the Chain'). Programme and cast sheet pdf
• Part 1, 'Ashton Rediscovered: Past, Present and Future'. ROH Video Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWfIJilWvII
• Part 2, 'Frederick Ashton: Links in the Chain'. Video Link: https://youtu.be/9BDNX79JwkQ

2nd Frederick Ashton Lecture, given by Lord Berkeley of Knighton CBE, the composer and broadcaster Michael Berkeley, on 13 September 2021.
Video Link: https://youtu.be/4PhH5HrehG8

'Ashton Rediscovered' masterclasses 2019-20

1st Frederick Ashton Lecture, given by Sir Nicholas Hytner on 25 June 2019

'Ashton Revisited' masterclasses 2018-19

'Ashton Rediscovered' masterclasses 2017-18

Fundraising event

'Ashton Rediscovered' masterclasses 2016-17

Masterclass event

Ashton Symposium

'Introduction to the Foundation' event.

'Introduction to the Foundation' event.

Recreation of Foyer de danse

Press release announcing establishment of the Foundation.

La Fille mal gardee

La Fille mal gardée
The Clog Dance
© ROH/ Tristram Kenton

Marion Tait CBE, former Principal, Sadler\'s Wells Royal Ballet:

"As a member of Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet, I had the great privilege of working with Sir Frederick Ashton on numerous occasions throughout my career, as many of his ballets were regularly in SWRB\'s touring programme. He was not particularly 'vocal' in rehearsals, but with one small move or gesture was able to transmit exactly what he was after (usually more body and speed!).
Today Birmingham Royal Ballet still maintains many Ashton ballets in the staple repertoire. As I find myself responsible for passing on some of the wonderful roles in his ballets, it has become apparent to me that today\'s young dancers find the "Ashton style" quite hard to master - the musicality, the use of epaulement, the speed of footwork - all are great challenges to their technique. Ashton's ballets never rely on athleticism, but require a sound technique, one that can be 'manipulated' to show every nuance of style."