The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0912  Wednesday, 21 April 2004

From:           Hardy M. Cook <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, April 21, 2004
Subject:        Frederick Ashton's 'Dream' on PBS

With Frederick Ashton's 'Dream,' PBS Offers the Moon and the Stars
By Sarah Kaufman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 21, 2004; Page C01


There are few choreographers who do moonlight as well as Frederick
Ashton did, and few ballerinas who dance in it as beautifully as
Alessandra Ferri. How marvelous it is that Ashton, Ferri and moonbeams
are united in the hour-long ballet "The Dream," a gorgeously poetic
abbreviation of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," which airs
tonight on PBS (Channel 22 at 8 and Channel 26 at 11).

The ballet world has been busily celebrating the centennial of George
Balanchine this year, but Britain's Ashton, who would have turned 100
this fall, is getting much less attention. This production of his
"Dream," an ingenious distillation of midnight confusion and knotted and
untangled love, must suffice for the dearth in our area of live
performances of Ashton works. The "Dance in America" special, featuring
the dancers of American Ballet Theatre, is a worthy substitution.
Leading the cast are principal dancers Ferri and Ethan Stiefel as the
impassioned fairy monarchs Titania and Oberon, and Herman Cornejo as the
blundering sprite Puck, whose jump is as high and effortless as a

Ashton created "The Dream," accompanied by Felix Mendelssohn's sweet and
tuneful music, for the Royal Ballet in 1964 to mark Shakespeare's 400th
birthday. With it he launched one of the great ballet partnerships of
the 20th century. Antoinette Sibley and Anthony Dowell were his original
Titania and Oberon, and the roles have been indelibly linked to Sibley's
purring sexiness and silk-soft spine and Dowell's aristocratic remove.
The pair embodied the hallmarks of Ashton's work: suppleness and warmth
in the upper body, fleet footwork, keen musicality and unforced
elegance. His ballets don't have the chiseled, showstopping moments of
virtuosity that one sees, for example, in Russian-style classical ballet
(and in Balanchine's works). But in requiring the dancer to do two
things at once -- keep the neck, arms and shoulders soft and languid
atop swift legs and feet -- Ashton's ballets are exceedingly difficult
to dance.

[ . . . ]

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