Sir Frederick Ashton

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Ashton, Sir Frederick,

1904–88, British choreographer and dancer, b. Guayaquil, Ecuador. He grew up in Peru and was drawn to dance after seeing (1917) a performance by Anna PavlovaPavlova, Anna Matveyevna
, 1881–1931, Russian ballerina. In 1892 she entered the Imperial Ballet School, St. Petersburg. She made her debut in 1899 at the Maryinsky Theatre, but it was only after tours to Scandinavia (1907) and to Berlin and Vienna (1908) that she gained
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 there. Traveling to London in the early 1920s, he studied dance with Léonide MassineMassine, Léonide
, 1896–1979, American choreographer and ballet dancer, b. Russia. Massine attended the Imperial Ballet School, St. Petersburg, and became principal dancer and choreographer for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes (1914–20) and for the Ballet Russe de
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 and Marie RambertRambert, Dame Marie,
1888–1982, a founder of the English ballet, b. Warsaw as Miriam Rambam. Trained by Jacques Dalcroze in eurythmics, Rambert joined the Diaghilev's Ballets Russes as an instructor in 1913.
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, staged his first work there in 1926, and danced (1928) with Ida Rubinstein's experimental troupe in Paris. Ashton joined the Vic-Wells Ballet, later the Sadler's Wells Ballet (now the Royal BalletRoyal Ballet,
the principal British ballet company, based at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London. It is noted for lavish dramatic productions, a superbly disciplined corps de ballet, and brilliant performances from its principals.
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), in 1935 as chief choreographer, and later became associate director and then director of the company. Many of his ballets were created for its prima ballerina, Margot FonteynFonteyn, Dame Margot
, 1919–91, English ballerina. Fonteyn was for many years prima ballerina assoluta of the Royal Ballet. Her original name was Margaret Hookham.
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. Ashton is largely responsible for the elegantly reserved style of English classical dance, and his mature works are noted for their lyricism, quiet charm, wit, and precision. They include abstract ballets, such as Symphonic Variations (1946), Scènes de Ballet (1948), and Monotones (1965–66); short dramatic works, such as Daphnis and Chloë and Tiresias (both 1951); and full-length traditional story ballets, such as Cinderella (1948), Sylvia (1952), Ondine (1958), and The Dream (1964). His last major works as a choreographer were La Chatte Metamorphosée en Femme (1985) and Fanfare for Elizabeth (1986). He also appeared as a dancer in comedy and character roles. He was knighted in 1962.

Bibliography

See biographies by D. Vaughan (1977) and J. Kavanagh (1997).