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MacMillan was knighted in 1983. Photo by Anthony Crickmay, courtesy of Dance Magazine archives

As principal choreographer and later director of The Royal Ballet in London, Kenneth MacMillan reinvigorated classical ballet by using dramatic narrative to investigate the human psyche. He believed dance should reflect the realities and hardships of people's lives, rather than just depict fairy tales. His works were emotionally intense and often featured harsh themes: fear, isolation, oppression, war, violence and loss.

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After Le Corsaire pas de deux, with The Royal Ballet. Photo by Ron Galella, courtesy of Dance Magazine archives

Royal Ballet prima ballerina Margot Fonteyn and celebrated Russian ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev created one of the most magnetic and beloved partnerships in ballet history. Appearing together throughout the 1960s and '70s, they brought a special chemistry and artistry to their roles, propelling them to superstar status at The Royal Ballet and worldwide.

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As artistic director of The Royal Ballet in London, Frederick Ashton was a highly influential 20th-century choreographer. His distinct style—technically refined yet highly expressive—soon became a hallmark of English classical ballet.

By developing individualized movement motifs, Ashton created memorable characters. Love, friendship, humor and loyalty were frequent themes in his ballets, most notably in La Fille mal gardée (“The Wayward Daughter”), which he choreographed in 1960.

A 1986 production of La Fille mal gardée

For this comedic pastoral love story, Ashton experimented with challenging overhead lifts, a quintet clog dance and divertissements with props, like garlands, ribbons, a maypole and an umbrella.

Here, Royal Ballet dancers Carlos Acosta and Marianela Nuñez dance the ribbon pas de deux from Act I.

Want to know more about the inspiration behind Ashton’s most famous ballet? Check out this Royal Ballet feature on Ashton and the making of La Fille mal gardée. Be sure to watch TRB principals Steven McRae and Roberta Marquez rehearsing the ribbon pas de deux at 5:14.

Photo by Herbert Migdoll, courtesy of the New York Public Library

For a history lesson plan on Ashton, subscribe to Dance Teacher and download the December issue.

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