In summarizing Sir Frederick Ashton’s oeuvre in 1961, celebrated critic Clive Barnes writes, “For all this his ballets are best seen from above.” In Covent Garden, Barnes continues, his favorite seat from which to view Ashton’s work is “from gallery right at the top of the house.” Although New York City audiences had the chance to catch a rare glimpse of Ashton’s choreography last week, thanks to Sarasota Ballet, the venue—the Joyce Theater—lacked the depth and perspective to really do his ballets justice. With its unadulterated sight lines, the intimacy of the Joyce is usually a joy for viewers. But when it comes to bejeweled costumes, intricate formations, and complex footwork, a little bit more space between the audience and performers (and the performers themselves, who often seemed at risk of tour jeté-ing into one another) might have helped to smooth out the kinks, and bring the entirety of Ashton’s vision to life.
Macarena Gimenez and Ricardo Graziano in Frederick Ashton's “Birthday Offering.” Photograph by Steven Pisano
One way to get to know the history of a company is through the “liner notes” of its “Swan Lake” production, and for those of us continuing to build an admiring familiarity with Pacific Northwest Ballet via its digital season offerings, Kent Stowell and Francia Russell’s “Swan Lake” provides an interesting glimpse into PNB prior to Peter Boal’s leadership.FREE ARTICLE