Frederick Ashton’s final full-length ballet is inspired by his love for the Suffolk countryside and is celebrated as one of his most joyous creations.

Based on an 1828 French ballet, La Fille Mal Gardée tells the story of Lise, the only daughter of Simone, a widow and owner of a prosperous farm. She loves Colas, a young farmer, but her mother has far more ambitious plans and decides Lise should marry Alain, the son of a wealthy landowner.

A resounding success on its 1960 premiere, La Fille Mal Gardée has long been a firm favourite in the Royal Ballet’s repertory. It displays some of Ashton’s most virtuoso choreography, is laced with good humour and sees a whirl of dancing chickens, grouchy guardians and a halfwit suitor take to the stage.

Incorporating elements of national folk dance into its choreography, from a Lancashire clog dance to a maypole dance, the piece – despite its title – is the Royal Ballet’s most emphatically English work.

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