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Uliana Lopatkina seconds before going in for the headbutt. Screenshot via @cloudandvictory Instagram.

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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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