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The Two Pigeons

Ashton’s two-act ballet on the nature of love is a masterpiece of gentle humour and pathos.

Most recent performance

There are currently no scheduled performances of The Two Pigeons. It was last on stage 16–30 January 2016.

The Story

The Young Man, a painter, feels trapped by the Young Girl, his model and mistress. His eye is caught by a Gypsy Girl, and he takes up his sketch-pad to follow the gypsy troupe.

Read more… (Contains spoilers)


Frederick Ashton, Founder Choreographer of The Royal Ballet, created Les Deux Pigeons for The Royal Ballet Touring Company in 1961. He restaged the work for the main company later that year as The Two Pigeons. He and his regular collaborator John Lanchbery (La Fille mal gardée) worked together to adapt André Messager’s 1886 score, created for a ballet by Louis Mérante at the Paris Opéra. Like Messager and Mérante, Ashton turned to La Fontaine’s fable of the same title for inspiration – but Ashton tells quite a different story. He explores the nature of love in a work that has deft comic lightness and soulful pathos in equal measure.

Lynn Seymour and Donald Britton created the roles of the central pair (though in the premiere Christopher Gable danced the male role, taking over for an injured Britton). Ashton was drawn particularly to Seymour’s vivacity and effervescence; together they created a personality for the Young Woman that is charming, impetuous and lively, adding character to the ballet’s charming humour. Ashton’s choreography draws a strong distinction between the uninhibited sensuality of the gypsies and the lovers’ interactions, which often – to both comic and heartfelt effect – suggest the movements of birds.

Frederick Ashton created more than one hundred works during his lifetime (1904–88). For further information, please visit

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