Your story is our history! Share your treasured National Ballet memories.
"La Fille mal gardée was the first ballet, so beautifully danced by Frank Augustyn and Karen Kain, that I introduced to my then-boyfriend. Ballet was one of my favourite interests. He introduced me to baseball. We've been happily married for 30 years with 7 children and in that time he's been to many ballets... and I've never been to another baseball game!"
- Billie Ferrell Harrigan, Audience Member, 25+ years
"Early on in my career as the Wardrobe Assistant for The National Ballet of Canada I spent my days in the basement of old St Lawrence Hall on King Street doing fittings, mending and altering costumes and doing loads of laundry. It was not yet my job to work backstage. I vividly remember attending a performance of La Fille mal gardée in the 1980’s with Widow Simone being danced by Principal Character Artist Jacques Gorrissen. As the Widow reached into the drawer on stage left to get her hanky she used her hip to quickly shut the drawer, but her hem got caught in the drawer too. Unfortunately, the ruffled hem ripped away from the dress as she began to move to stage right. As soon as she felt the tug - half way across the stage - she turned, assessed the situation and quickly retraced her steps, bundling the torn ruffle hem. When she got back to the drawer she opened it, easily tore off the ruffle from the dress, threw it in the drawer and again closed it with her hip… Ta da!!
All I could think was, “Well, I guess I know what I’m mending tomorrow!”"
- Ms. Barbara de Kat, Wardrobe Coordinator, 1985 to present
“In 1976, at 17, I bought tickets for my sister and I to see La Fille mal gardée. On the night of the ballet, my sister was ill and couldn’t attend. My father, seeing my disappointment at going alone, accompanied me! We were astonished and thrilled!”
- Susan, Audience Member, 30+ years
“My favourite memory of The National Ballet of Canada was when Karen Kain danced Lise in La Fille mal gardée. I was so impressed that she conveyed the youth and innocence of the role through amazing acting and dancing.”
- Josy, Audience Member, 30+ years
“One of the ballets I love the most is Sir Frederick Ashton’s La Fille mal gardée, in which I played Lise, a mischievous country girl with an undertone of sweetness, and Frank (Augustyn) as her lover, Colas, full of country-bumpkin swagger and exuberance. Ashton coached us in this ballet in 1976, and although it had been created sixteen years earlier, I always felt it had really been made for us. We just hadn’t been around at the time. With a plot full of minor spats that are overcome by good humour and love, that gem of a ballet conveys more joy to the audience than almost any other I could name, and what Frank and I did on-stage reflected exactly how we felt about each other. We didn’t have to think about acting or try to be cute; we just regressed to our mid-teens and were ourselves.”
- Karen Kain, Artistic Director, from Movement Never Lies: An Autobiography (1994)
“Alexander Grant, as a close friend of Sir Frederick Ashton, had access to some of the greatest choreographic works of the twentieth century. One of the pieces he brought in for us was one of my all-time favourite ballets, Sir Fred’s La Fille mal gardée. I had seen the first-act pas de deux at the Moscow competition, but I had never seen the whole ballet. It was like reading a great script. Fun, difficult, but so brilliant: and when you are working on anything brilliant you automatically rise to the occasion. There is such a will to master it well and do justice to it.
It was also a work that was almost perfect for Karen and myself at that stage in our careers. To do it well, you have to be young in spirit and have good comedic timing. It is almost impossible to destroy this ballet in performance, it is so well constructed, but to do it really well, you need these things, along with a pretty strong technique and a temperament that is not phased by lots of business with props. We both really enjoyed the ballet – we had the same sense of humour, and we could really show off how good our comedic timing was. It showed another side of us.
For me, Fille was every bit the accomplishment that any of the great dramas were. There was a different kind of satisfaction to it – which was none the less real or intense. It’s a great ballet, so full of character and humanity. That was Ashton’s great strength – his humanity. He loved people and he loved to be able to tell stories.”
- Frank Augustyn, Alumni, Principal Dancer 1970-1990, from Dancing from the Heart: A Memoir (2000)
By: Cristina Franchi. Theatre Communications Group, 2005.
The year 2004 marked the centenary of the birth of Frederick Ashton, founder-choreographer of The Royal Ballet, whose work defined the English style of ballet. Ashton’s career as a dancer, choreographer and director spans the company’s history from its earliest days.
Secret muses: the life of Frederick Ashton
By: Julie Kavanagh. London: Faber and Faber, 1996.
Frederick Ashton, one of the greatest choreographers in the history of dance, forever changed the landscape of English ballet, defining what we now know as the English classical style. Julie Kavanagh is the first person to have been given complete access to Ashton's papers, and with Secret muses she has written a brilliant account of his life and work, from his colorful childhood in Lima to his prolific career as a dancer and choreographer, first with the Ballet Rambert and then as Resident Choreographer of the Vic-Wells Ballet (later known as the Royal Ballet), the company that Ashton directed from 1963 to 1970.
La Fille mal gardée
By: The National Ballet of Canada. A CBC Television production, 1979.
The National Ballet of Canada's production of the comic ballet based on the original stage production by Sir Frederick Ashton. Set in a peasant village in the French countryside, La Fille mal gardée is a delightful tale of the difficult path of young love. Widow Simone is determined to betroth her willful daughter Lise to the eccentric son of a rich farmer, but Lise and her love Colas conspire to thwart the widow's plans.
Frederick Ashton Archive
Website of the Frederick Ashton Archive.