Frederick Ashton’s glorious take on Shakespeare’s timeless and hilarious comedy will dazzle Philadelphia audiences. The quarrelsome lovers Oberon and Titania, dancing fairies, a braying donkey, and Mendelssohn’s incandescent music make for a magical evening. This dream world is paired with the powerful realism of Balanchine’s Prodigal Son, which showcases some of Balanchine’s most daring choreography, set to equally daring music by Prokofiev and astonishing sets by the great painter, Georges Rouault.
It is difficult to overstate the depth and breadth of the artistry and influence of choreographer, George Balanchine. Called the ‘Father of American Ballet,’ he combined a reverence for the classical training he received as a boy in St. Petersburg with ferocious originality and commitment to modernism. He and his many brilliant collaborators, including Sergei Diaghilev, Igor Stravinsky, Georges Rouault, and Karinska, among many, many others, transformed ballet into a 20th century artform. Balanchine’s influence as a teacher is every bit as paradigm-changing as the repertoire he created. When our own founder, Barbara Weisberger (herself a protégée of Balanchine) conceived of Philadelphia Ballet, Balanchine insisted, “But first, a school.”
Founding Choreographer of The Royal Ballet Frederick Ashton (1904–88) was one of the most influential dance figures of the 20th century. He developed the distinctive ‘English style’, and left a vast corpus of works that are regularly performed by The Royal Ballet and companies around the world, among them La Fille mal gardée, Marguerite and Armand and Symphonic Variations. He was tutored by Leonid Massine and made his choreographic debut for Marie Rambert in 1926. After working with Rambert and Ida Rubinstein, in 1935 he was appointed Resident Choreographer of Vic-Wells Ballet (later The Royal Ballet) by Ninette de Valois. With De Valois Ashton played a crucial role in determining the course of the Company and The Royal Ballet School. In 1963 he took over as Director of the Company. In addition to choreographing, he introduced several significant works, including Nijinska’s Les Noces and Balanchine’s Serenade, and commissioned MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet. He retired in 1970.