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Glimpses #7: Ashton’s Pastoral

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


  1. Mindy Aloff says

    This is a gem, Tobi!

  2. I am besotted with this ballet. ABT must bring it back!

  3. Robert Lee Norton says

    Who are the great character dancers of modern-day ballet?

      Granted, few and far between. But among the sublime is Vladimir Pomonarev, a senior artist with the Bolshoi Ballet.

  4. If you blinked, you missed it:

    One of the guys in the maypole dance failed to grasp his ribbon, but continued to circumambulate the pole along with the other dancers. Principal Steven McCrae darted into the middle, retrieved the ribbon, handed it to the hapless dancer, then dashed off stage.

    What a commendable display of teamwork!

    In live performances anything can – and will – happen.

  5. joanna ney says

    This Royal Ballet production of “La Fille Mal Gardée” is something to cheer about. Your review totally captures its blithe spirit. How beautifully these dancers deal with ribbons, scythes, clogs, umbrellas, at the same time seeming spontaneous and in the moment. A rural romance as only Ashton could bring off.

  6. Sandra Hammond says

    As always, Tobi, I value your reviews. They are way above anything else being written these days. This one, on Ashton’s Fille, is right on. Our local ‘arts’ theatre featured it, and what a joy it was to see again. Ashton gives such credence to the wit and rhythmic delight that is inherent in ballet’s technical vocabulary—its STEPS. Sadly, most of that is missing in much of today’s choreography.

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