The premiere was April 24, 1946, one year after the surrender of Nazi Germany. The music is César Franck’s Symphonic Variations (1885). The six dancers—three women and three men—are dressed like young classical gods and goddesses, gently draped in white. Whether they dance as a group or in smaller configurations, they are always bound by a subtle symmetry. Frederick Ashton, the ballet’s choreographer, had studied the score during the war and devised an intricate scenario, which he eventually chucked. Instead, he made an abstract ballet that seems to balance on a single line from his scenario: “Art and Faith United in one unseverable bond.” Symphonic Variations is pure, sculpted, selfless. It is mysteriously contained, possessed of a secret knowledge about classicism and what it means to us. A great, great work of art, it could have come from no one but Ashton. This stream celebrates the 75th anniversary of the ballet’s premiere at the Royal Opera House. —L.J.
Royal Opera House Bow St, Covent Garden, London WC2E 9DD, UK Get Directions »