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.
The Sleeping Beauty
Journey with The Royal Ballet to an enchanted world of princesses, fairy godmothers and magic spells in Petipa’s classic ballet.
credited with Additional choreography
Frederick Ashton’s delightful interpretation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a classic of The Royal Ballet.
credited with Choreography
News and features
Mixed programme stars Edward Watson, Marianela Nuñez, Federico Bonelli, Sergei Polunin and others.
Opera and ballet screenings include Rigoletto, La fille mal gardée, Macbeth and The Royal Ballet dances Frederick Ashton.
An ROH Student Ambassador joins event focusing on Frederick Ashton.
As our mixed programme comes to an end on stage we look ahead to a release in cinemas and on DVD.
What being in the studio with Frederick Ashton was really like.
Tweets from the opening night of The Royal Ballet's programme of works by Frederick Ashton.