A series of solos, duets and ensemble pieces celebrate the dancers' distinctive qualities and the unique heritage of The Royal Ballet.
Frederick Ashton created Birthday Offering in 1956 to celebrate The Royal Ballet’s 25th anniversary. The Company was about to receive a royal charter and change its name from Sadler's Wells Ballet to The Royal Ballet. In tribute to the company's founder, Ninette de Valois, Ashton choreographed Birthday Offering in the style of Marius Petipa and the Russian Imperial Ballet, from whose traditions de Valois had nurtured the roots of British ballet. Glazunov's lyrical music provides the setting for this classical celebration piece.
Against a handsome setting of drapes, chandeliers and standing candelabra, seven couples make their entrance, sweeping grandly around the stage. A series of solo variations follow, in which the qualities of each individual dancer are showcased. A powerful mazurka for the male dancers ends in bravura style. An expressive pas de deux – originally created for Margot Fonteyn and Michael Somes – is accompanied by a ravishing cello solo. The work culminates in an elegant, celebratory finale, which is danced by the entire ensemble.