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
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.
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.
To be announced
2019. 'Ashton Rediscovered' masterclasses 2019-20
2019. 1st Frederick Ashton Lecture, given by Sir Nicholas Hytner on 25 June 2019
2018. 'Ashton Revisited' masterclasses 2018-19
2017. 'Ashton Rediscovered' masterclasses 2017-18
2017. Fundraising event
2016. 'Ashton Rediscovered' masterclasses 2016-17
2014. Masterclass event
2013. Ashton Symposium
2013. 'Introduction to the Foundation' event.
2012. 'Introduction to the Foundation' event.
2011. Recreation of Foyer de danse
2011. Press release announcing establishment of the Foundation.
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."