Film/Ballet Review: Ashton Triple Bill

Film/Ballet Review: Ashton Triple Bill

A filmed staging of three one-act ballets from the Sir Fredrick Ashton repertoire of over 100 ballets, by Sir Frederick Ashton and The Royal Ballet.


Sir Frederick Ashton and The Royal Ballet have created the perfect marriage of dance and acting with their production of Ashton Triple Bill.

This balletic delight comprises three one-act ballets from the Sir Fredrick Ashton repertoire of over 100 ballets.

The Dream is a one-act ballet based on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with music by Mendelssohn, arranged by John Lanchbery.

I must confess to being a Stephen McRae fan and he certainly did not disappoint in The Dream. A virtuosic role, Oberon is dreaded by many male dancers because of its technical difficultly. McRae’s trademark lightness, ballon and ability to hold any attitude derriere made the role look effortless.

The standard required by all the dancers in this ballet is extremely high and the precision of the corps was impressive.

Another highlight for me was Bennet Gartside who danced the role of Bottom en pointe when transformed into a donkey. There are few roles that require men to dance en pointe and this was particularly impressive considering Gartside was also wearing a large donkey head.

Symphonic Variations is an abstract ballet by Frederick Ashton set to the music of César Franck. It is a 20-minute marathon for six dancers. Seemingly simplistic, it demands each dancer to perfectly match the others in port de bras and extension. The three ballerinas managed this to a higher degree than their male counterparts.

The two principal dancers Marianela Nunez and Vadim Muntagirov were exceptional. They were perfectly teamed both in technique and timing.

The set and costumes, somehow Grecian and somehow starkly modern, highlighted the abstract nature of the ballet.

Marguerite and Armand, first created for the legendary Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev, is a love story that relies as much on the acting skills of the dancers as it does their dancing. It tells the story of Marguerite Gautier, a Parisian courtesan who, lying on her deathbed, gravely ill with tuberculosis, recalls her love affair with a young man named Armand. It is danced to Franz Liszt’s B minor piano sonata.

In her final performance before hanging up her point shoes, Zenaida Yanowsky gave an emotional and flawless performance. She was poetry en pointe.

She was ably partnered by Roberto Bolle, a true danseur noble in every way. Both dancers also made impressive quick changes during the blackouts between scenes.

The bows for this ballet brought home the emotional investment by Yanowsky as she collapsed sobbing into Bolle’s arms, a tear jerking moment for the cast and we, the audience, as well.

Ashton Triple Bill is a feast of truly beautiful choreography and dance that is not to be missed!

Reviewed by Barry Hill
Twitter: @kinesguy

Rating out of 10: 10

Ashton Triple Bill will screen again on 12 July 2017 as part of the Palace Opera & Ballet cinema season, presenting The Royal Opera House, La Scala and Opéra national de Paris – exclusive to the Palace Nova Eastend cinemas.

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