Frederick Ashton’s La Fille mal gardée, being shown about town in the Ballet in Cinema series, creates a world of delight. The beloved 1960 ballet is set in a peaceable countryside, back when wheat was harvested with scythes. Yet even this bucolic wonderland is threatened—by greed. A farm owner intends to marry off her delicious daughter to the simpleminded son (pathetically fond of his red umbrella) of a wealthy neighbor. After many amusing and touching tangles and resolutions, the spunky young woman sees to it that she weds the fresh-faced Mr. Right, who is besotted by her. The ballet is filled with challenges of classical and character dancing (brilliantly met by the Royal Ballet). What’s more, it’s replete with pink satin ribbons that, in the deft hands of the dancers, perform their own choreography, from geometric tricks like cat’s cradle patterns to lyrical transformations into rippling waves. One merely has to visit Ashton’s vision to repossess joy.
© 2012 Tobi Tobias