Sir Frederick William Mallandaine Ashton OM, CH, CBE (17 September 1904 – 18 August 1988) was a leading international dancer and choreographer. He is most noted as the founder choreographer of The Royal Ballet in London, but also worked as a director and choreographer of opera, film and theatre revues.
Early life 
When he was 13 he witnessed a life-changing event when he attended a performance by the legendary Anna Pavlova in the Municipal Theater in Lima, Peru. He was so impressed that from that day on he was determined that he would become a dancer.
In 1919 he went to England to attend Dover College and then to study under the famous Léonide Massine and established a working relationship with the ballet troupe belonging to Marie Rambert and Ninette de Valois. His aim was to become a great dancer, but his late introduction to dancing and slight physique made this a highly difficult ambition to fulfill. However, Rambert discovered Ashton's aptitude for choreography and allowed him to choreograph his first ballet, The Tragedy of Fashion, in 1926, starting a tremendously successful career as a choreographer.
He began his career with the Ballet Rambert which was originally called The Ballet Club. He rose to fame with Vic-Wells Ballet (later to become the Sadler's Wells Ballet before it was designated The Royal Ballet), becoming its resident choreographer in the 1930s. Work from this decade that has stayed in repertory includes Les Patineurs, Les Rendezvous, and A Wedding Bouquet.
World War II inspired Ashton to create some works along more sombre lines, including Dante Sonata (recently reconstructed after having been thought lost), and after the war he turned to plotless ballet, with such works as Symphonic Variations and Scènes de ballet.
The end of the war saw his first major three-act ballet for a British company, his version of Sergei Prokofiev's Cinderella (1948), which was followed by Sylvia (1952), and Ondine (1958), with choreography created especially to display Margot Fonteyn's unique talents and music by Hans Werner Henze. While Ondine was a vehicle for Fonteyn, Marguerite and Armand displayed the excellence of Fonteyn's partnership with Rudolf Nureyev. His version of La fille mal gardée was particularly successful, and his broad travesti performances as one of two comic Ugly Stepsisters in Cinderella, the other being Robert Helpmann, were annual events for many years.
Ashton was Director of the Royal Ballet from 1963 to 1970. He brought new works by Antony Tudor to the company, as well as guaranteeing the survival of several of Bronislava Nijinska's ballets by having her mount Les noces and Les biches. Two important revivals of George Balanchine's works also marked Ashton's time as Director.
He also enjoyed a productive career away from ballet as a choreographer for films, revues, and musicals. His work in opera included, in 1953, directing Kathleen Ferrier in Gluck's Orpheus and Eurydice at Covent Garden. In 1971, Ashton performed the role of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle in the Royal Ballet film The Tales of Beatrix Potter, which he also choreographed. Ashton was also responsible for choreographing the dance sequences in "The Jealous Lover" segment of the film The Story of Three Loves.
He died in 1988 at his home, Chandos Lodge, in Eye, Suffolk, England.
Personal life 
According to biographies such as Secret Muses: The Life of Frederick Ashton, Sir Frederick Ashton was gay.
Ashton was a great friend of the Paget family and was a frequent visitor to the family seat at Plas Newydd; it was there that one of the Paget daughters, Lady Rose, fell hopelessly in love with him; he rebuffed her advances and at one point returned her letters - after having corrected her spelling. Despite this, they remained friends.
Ashton received the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Award from the Royal Academy of Dance in 1959. In 1962, he was knighted for his services to ballet. He was admitted into the French Légion d'honneur in the same year. He was made a Commander of the Order of the Dannebrog in 1963, and was awarded the Gold Medal from the Carina Aria Foundation in Sweden in 1972.
- Yeatman, Linda (15 March 1971). "The Tale of Beatrix Potter's Ballet". The Times. p. 9. Issue 58122.
- Frederick Ashton (1904-1988 Founder Choreographer of The Royal Ballet. John Percival, for Royal Opera House's magazine produced for December 2007 production of Les Patineurs and Tales of Beatrix Potter.
Further reading 
- Frederick Ashton: a choreographer and his ballets by Zoë Dominic and John Selwyn Gilbert. London: Harrap, 1971. ISBN-X
- Frederick Ashton and his ballets by David Vaughan. London: A. and C. Black, 1977. ISBN-X
- Secret Muses: The Life of Frederick Ashton by Julie Kavanagh. London: Faber, 1996. ISBN
- Following Sir Fred's Steps: Ashton's Legacy edited by Stephanie Jordan and Andrée Grau. London: Dance Books, 1996. ISBN (also available in an online edition - see below)
- A network of Styles: Discovering the Choreographed Movement of Frederick Ashton by Geraldine Morris. University of Surrey, 2000.
- Sorley Walker, Kathrine (2008) . "Ashton, Sir Frederick William Mallandaine (1904–1988)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/39922. (subscription or UK public library membership required)
- Ballet.co Ashton pages
- Following Sir Fred's Steps
- Frederick Ashton's "Cinderella" ballet
- David Vaughan's chronology of Ashton ballets
- Notes on the 'Fred Step' by Alastair Macaulay
- Dover College
- Danceview's Ashton Archive
- Tutu Revue essay by Clive Barnes
- Rambert Dance Company's Ashton pages
- London Theatre Museum's Ashton pages
- Archive film of Frederick Ashton's Thais Pas de Deux performed by Nina Ananiashvili and David Ananeli in 2010 at Jacob's Pillow