Sir Frederick Ashton
Founding Choreographer of The Royal Ballet Frederick Ashton (1904–88) was one of the most influential dance figures of the 20th century. In his work with the Company he developed the distinctive 'English style', and left a vast corpus of works that are regularly performed by The Royal Ballet and companies around the world, among them La Fille mal gardée, Marguerite and Armand and Symphonic Variations.
Ashton was born in Ecuador to British parents. He first saw ballet when Anna Pavlova performed in Lima in 1917, later claiming 'from the end of that evening I wanted to dance'. In England Ashton was tutored by Leonid Massine and made his choreographic debut for Marie Rambert in 1926.
After working with Rambert and Ida Rubinstein, in 1938 he was appointed principal choreographer of Vic-Wells Ballet (later The Royal Ballet) by Ninette de Valois. With De Valois Ashton played a crucial role in determining the course of the Company and The Royal Ballet School. In 1963 he took over from De Valois as Director of the Company and introduced several significant works, including Nijinska's Les Noces and Balanchine's Serenade, and commissioned MacMillan's Romeo and Juliet. He retired in 1970 but continued to choreograph throughout his life, producing his last major work, Rhapsody, in 1980. Ashton's style is distinctive for its épaulement (the way the head and shoulders are held) and fleet footwork. All are notable for their combination of elegance and breathtaking technical demands.
Anthony Dowell, English dancer, director and designer
He was Director of The Royal Ballet 1986–2001. As a dancer he was one of the great danseur nobles of the 20th century. In his time with the Company he created many roles for leading choreographers, and forged an acclaimed dance partnership with Antoinette Sibley.
While Director, he staged new productions of Swan Lake (1987) and The Sleeping Beauty (1995) for the Company. Dowell was born in London and trained with June Hampshire before entering The Royal Ballet School aged ten. In 1960 he graduated into the Covent Garden Opera Ballet, transferring to The Royal Ballet the following year. He was promoted to Principal in 1966.
Dowell created his first role in 1964, with Frederick Ashton's Oberon (The Dream). The ballet also saw the beginning of Dowell's partnership with Sibley, who created Titania. Further significant role creations included Des Grieux (Kenneth MacMillan's Manon) and Beliaev (Ashton's A Month in the Country). International appearances included dancing as a guest artist with American Ballet Theatre from the 1978/9 season on, and appearing in Ken Russell's film Valentino (1977). As a costume designer Dowell has created designs for The Royal Ballet's productions of In the Night, Thaïs pas de deux and Symphony in C. He has also appeared as a narrator for companies including The Royal Ballet, Joffrey Ballet and the Metropolitan Opera, New York. Dowell was made a CBE in 1973 (becoming the youngest dancer to be so honoured) and was knighted in 1995.