Something Essentially English

“There exists in my imagination a life in the country of eternally late spring, a leafy pastorale of perpetual sunshine and the humming of bees—the suspended stillness of a Constable`s landscape of my beloved Suffolk, luminous and calm.” – Sir Frederick Ashton

Photo via the Telegraph

This spring, the Royal Opera House has included in its program the unforgettable La Fille Mal Gardée. At the same time, Opus Arte has exhibited in London’s screens on May 16 a live recording of Roberta Marquez and Steven MacRae‘s, performance.

Although Dauberval has produced his first version in 1791, Sir Frederick Ashton recreated this ballet in 1960. Despite the French title, this piece is an homage to the English culture. Among chickens and wheat harvest, Lise and Colas’ love story takes place in rural and bucolic Suffolk; and the hand-painted scenery reminds us  of children’s tale books illustrations.

The added charm to this ballet is due to the unsuccessful attempts of strict Simone (Lise’s mother) to separate the couple and clumsy Alain who is literally swept off the ground during the storm that falls over the maypole dancers at the end of the first act.

Light-hearted and fun, this ballet is a declaration of love from Ashton to England. Through the constant use of satin ribbons, Ashton had the opportunity to show his romantic side to the audience. And those who know England very well can clearly identify the essential elements of its folklore.

Quite popular in Lancashire, the clog dance was originated during the industrial revolution. While operating the machinery, labourers would beat the soles of their shoes on the floor to the rhythm of the machines. And during breaks they would hold competitions where judges would assess dancers’ rhythm and technique.

Maypole dance is part of European folk tradition since the eighteenth century. Dancers form a circle around a pole decorated with flowers, flags and ribbons. In England, the performances usually take place in spring during the  May Day Festival. While the dance evolves, a web is created by the ribbons around the pole.

Morris dance influences are also clear in the second act, when the harvesters arrive at Simone’s and perform a choreography using handkerchiefs and sticks.In 1600,  William Kempe performed morris dance from Londres to Norwich for the Nine Days Wonder event.

Other elements of popular culture appear in the bottle dance and the pas de deux with a pink satin ribbon, which ends with a beautiful cat cradle that always tear applause from the audience.

For those who do not know this ballet, this piece is simply delightful to watch. The love story sealed by satin ribbons, has a happy ending and make you leave the theater with a feeling of lightness and joy wanting to come back.

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