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Frederick Ashton


Founding Choreographer of The Royal Ballet Frederick Ashton (1904–88) was one of the most influential dance figures of the 20th century. In his work with the Company 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.

Ashton was born to British parents in Ecuador. He first saw ballet when Anna Pavlova performed in Lima in 1917, later claiming 'from the end of that evening I wanted to dance'. In England Ashton was tutored by Leonid Massine and made his choreographic debut for Marie Rambert in 1926. After working with Rambert and Ida Rubinstein, in 1938 he was appointed principal 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 from De Valois as Director of the Company and introduced several significant works, including Nijinska's Les Noces and Balanchine's Serenade, and commissioned MacMillan's Romeo and Juliet. He retired in 1970 but continued to choreograph throughout his life, producing his last major work, Rhapsody, in 1980.

Ashton's style is distinctive for its épaulement (the way the head and shoulders are held) and fleet footwork. All are notable for their combination of elegance and breathtaking technical demands.

Upcoming productions

  • The Dream

    Frederick Ashton’s delightful interpretation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a classic of The Royal Ballet.

    credited with Choreography

  • The Firebird / Marguerite and Armand / Concerto DSCH

    The Mariinsky dances a spectacular mixed programme with works by Fokine, Ashton and Ratmansky.

    credited with Choreography 2

  • Scènes de ballet

    Frederick Ashton's chic and brilliant ballet delights in a dazzling Stravinsky score.

    credited with Choreographer

  • Five Brahms Waltzes in the Manner of Isadora Duncan

    Ashton celebrates a great pioneer of modern dance in five atmospheric vignettes set to Brahms's piano waltzes.

    credited with Choreography

  • Symphonic Variations

    Ashton's seminal masterpiece celebrates the pure beauty of movement.

    credited with Choreography

  • A Month in the Country

    Ashton captures the mood of Turgenev's play through exquisite dance in this poignant tale of unrequited love.

    credited with Choreography

  • Swan Lake

    Anthony Dowell's production of the greatest romantic ballet draws upon the opulence of 1890s Russia.

    credited with Additional choreography

  • La Fille mal gardée

    Frederick Ashton's joyful ballet contains some of his most brilliant choreography.

    credited with Choreography


News and features

  1. Recommended recordings: Ballet DVDs

    Recommended recordings: Ballet DVDs

    Recent releases include the Royal Ballet programme featuring Tamara Rojo's final performance with the Company, and a duo of Sadler's Wells recordings.

  2. The Royal Ballet Dances Frederick Ashton broadcast in cinemas tonight (15 July)

    The Royal Ballet Dances Frederick Ashton broadcast in cinemas tonight (15 July)

    Mixed programme stars Edward Watson, Marianela Nuñez, Federico Bonelli, Sergei Polunin and others.

  3. Editathon offers a chance to improve ballet
 entries on Wikipedia

    Editathon offers a chance to improve ballet
 entries on Wikipedia

    An ROH Student Ambassador joins event focusing on Frederick Ashton.

  4. Dancing for Fred

    Dancing for Fred

    What being in the studio with Frederick Ashton was really like.

  5. Your Reaction: Ashton Mixed Programme

    Your Reaction: Ashton Mixed Programme

    Tweets from the opening night of The Royal Ballet's programme of works by Frederick Ashton.

  6. Russian literature on the stage

    Russian literature on the stage

    One to five: operatic and balletic adaptations of famous Russian works.

View more news and features