A Month in the Country
Between them, Frederick Ashton and George Balanchine shaped ballet in the 20th century. In New York, Balanchine built a reputation on bold, sometimes brash, highly athletic works. Over the other side of the Atlantic, Ashton developed the lyrical, expansive style of The Royal Ballet, all fluttering feet and subtle emotion conveyed with the lightest touch. When Ashton saw Turgenev's A Month in the Country on the West End, he found it melodramatic. But something in the story of a handsome young tutor who upends the lives of three women in a country house appealed to him (he was, in his own life, no stranger to unrequited love). His one-act ballet transforms the play into a hothouse flower of lustful undercurrents, missed connections, melancholy and regret. Chopin music flows underneath its yearning pas de deux.