A large corps de ballet whirls across the stage and three couples dance pas de deux, evoking a nostalgic vision of a 19th-century ballroom.
By the 20th century the Viennese waltz was a fading art form. Maurice Ravel’s score was commissioned by dance impresario Serge Diaghilev for the Ballets Russes company. Although Diaghilev never used the score – claiming it was not a ballet but ‘the portrait of a ballet’ – both Bronislava Nijinska and George Balanchine choreographed powerful works for it. Having danced in Nijinska’s 1929 version, Frederick Ashton created his own evocative interpretation in 1958.
Ashton’s La Valse depicts the distant world of 19th-century Imperial Vienna. The stage is filled with dancers in tailcoats and ball gowns, who whirl beneath golden chandeliers and elegant drapes. A driving, visceral rhythm underlies the swooping waltz melodies, gradually growing in intensity and ultimately overwhelming the music – interpreted by some critics as a representation of the destruction wrought by World War I and of the decline of the Imperial world.
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10 January 2014
The association between dancing and death stretches well beyond Hilarion's horrifying demise in Giselle.
1 September 2013
As a The Royal Ballet releases an all-Ashton programme on DVD, we publish an Insights event about the choreographer’s early career.
15 July 2013
Mixed programme stars Edward Watson, Marianela Nuñez, Federico Bonelli, Sergei Polunin and others.
5 April 2013
UK audiences can relive Tamara Rojo's final ROH performance on 15 July.
18 February 2013
What being in the studio with Frederick Ashton was really like.