Symphonic Variations

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Ballet in one act with choreography by Ashton, music by Franck, and design by Fedorovitch. Premiered 24 Apr. 1946 by Sadler's Wells Ballet at Covent Garden, London, with Fonteyn, May, Shearer, Somes, Shaw, and Henry Danton. It is set to Franck's score of the same title. The horrors of the Second World War and the death of his mother had inspired Ashton to undertake a study of mysticism during the 1940s and though this ballet has no plot its defining atmosphere is one of transcendence and calm. It was also the first work he choreographed for the Royal Opera House stage (after the company moved there from the smaller Sadler's Wells) and he exploited its scale in choreography of a profoundly spacious quality. Its six dancers seem to move on the ebb and flow of Franck's music, and though the choreography is pared to essentials it requires precise musicality and transparently pure technique. The ballet has since been revived by Dutch National Ballet (1979) and American Ballet Theatre (1992).

Subjects: Dance.

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