These two short, non-narrative ballets each present an extended pas de trois that is perfectly matched to Satie’s haunting piano music.
Frederick Ashton distilled the exquisite tranquility of Erik Satie’s pieces in Monotones I and II, which display some of his most modernist choreography. Monotones II was created first and given its premiere at the Royal Opera House in 1965, accompanied by Satie’s Trois Gymnopédies. Ashton created a second piece to Satie’s Trois Gnossiennes (Monotones I), and the two were presented together the following year. Satie’s Préludes d’Eginhard was played as an overture.
Monotones I opens with a slow, serene pas de trois in a wonderful example of adagio classicism. The dancers remain on stage throughout the entire work, with their smooth lines of movement unbroken. Monotones II features another pas de trois that mirrors the controlled movements of the first. Satie’s delicate music, coupled with Ashton’s beautiful choreography, is wonderfully haunting.
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