The other choreographic great celebrating a centenary in 2004 finally gets the attention he deserves. Frederick Ashton, the founding choreographer of the Royal Ballet and one of the defining architects of 20th-century classicism, is being honored for two weeks at the Metropolitan Opera House; four companies performing in nine different programs pay tribute to an artist remembered for the wit, elegance, and underlying expression of romance found in even his most abstract works.
Born in Ecuador, Ashton fell in love with dance after seeing Anna Pavlova perform in 1917. He moved to London, studied with Leonide Massine and began choreographing for what became the Royal Ballet, creating dances for such luminaries as Margot Fonteyn and Antoinette Sibley. He served as the company’s leading choreographer from 1935 to 1970.
This week features the Joffrey Ballet performing in New York for the first time in 10 years, the Birmingham Royal Ballet reviving three classics not seen here since the ’60s, and K-Ballet, a Japanese company founded by former Royal Ballet stars, making its North American debut with Ashton’s late Rhapsody. Next week: the Royal itself.