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Ferri to dance Ashton’s Marguerite

Posted on January 25, 2017

The Royal Ballet has announced casting for its forthcoming triple bill of ballets by Frederick Ashton. Alessandra Ferri, Zenaida Yanowsky and Natalia Osipova will share the role of Marguerite in Marguerite and Armand, Ashton’s version of La Dame aux camélias.

After brief retirement, Ferri has made an acclaimed return to the stage as a mature ballerina, performing both roles created for her – such as Wayne McGregor’s Woolf Works and Martha Clarke’s Chéri – and dramatic roles she had danced earlier in her career, such as Kenneth MacMillan’s Juliet.

The role of Marguerite is designed to show off a mature dramatic ballerina. Ashton created the ballet in 1963, to show off the partnership of Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev. Fonteyn, who was 43 when the role was made for her, went on dancing it on stage until 1977 (and filmed it with Nureyev in 1979). It was not performed by any other dancers during Fonteyn’s and Nureyev’s lifetimes, but was revived in 2000 for Sylvie Guillem.

Ferri had expressed interest in the ballet in a September 2015 interview with Paul Arrowsmith for Dancing Times:

“Ferri is clear, however, that the tendency towards abstract works ‘is not sufficient. We need content.’ She is impatient with the notion that ballet is about ‘pretty ballerinas expressing first love.’ …While she is tantalisingly silent about what roles may tempt her back to the Co vent Garden stage, Ferri is clear she has left Anastasia, Onegin and The Lady of the Camellias behind her. She does light up at the suggestion of Natalia Petrovna in Frederick Ashton’s A Month in the Country. ‘And Marguerite and Armand is the other one!’”

Ferri, now 53, will dance the role with Federico Bonelli as Armand. Yanowsky, who will be giving her final Covent Garden performances in this ballet before retiring at the end of the season, will be partnered by Roberto Bolle. Osipova’s partner has yet to be confirmed.

The Royal Ballet will dance Marguerite and Armand alongside Ashton’s ballet’s The Dream and Symphonic Variations from June 2 to 10, 2017.

Picture: Alessandra Ferri with Gary Avis in Woolf Works. Photograph: ROH/Tristram Kenton

Zoë was born in Edinburgh, and saw her first dance performances at the Festival there. She is the dance critic of The Independent, and has also written for The Independent on Sunday, The Scotsman and Dancing Times. In 2002, she received her doctorate from the University of York for a thesis on “Nationhood and epic romance: Ariosto, Sidney, Spenser”. She is the author of The Royal Ballet: 75 Years and The Ballet Lover’s Companion.

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