Features September 2006
On Frederick Ashton’s Sylvia.
The more one loves ballet, the more one loves Ashton. There he was in South America, a thirteen-year-old boy struck in the heart by Anna Pavlova’s arrow, a flash of fire through a snow flurry of pirouettes. So many of us struck by the same arrow, not necessarily Pavlova’s, but pulled from a classical quiver, Fonteyn’s perhaps, or Shearer’s, Tallchief’s or Makarova’s or Farrell’s. Frederick Ashton desired, breathed, reached for ballet for seven years once wounded. It wasn’t until twenty that he took his first ballet classes—with the great Léonide Massine no less, part pasha, part Puck, his eyes like the Fayoum portraits, and his temper so intense he broke things when angry. Ashton was unfazed. He next joined Ballet Club, where he was insulted daily by its impresaria Marie Rambert—“Frrrrreddie, pull in your great bottom. You flaunt your bottom like a...
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