A Tragedy of Fashion

The world of fashion is littered with victims, not all of them sartorial.

Taken from Rambert’s programme of the 2004 revival of A Tragedy of Fashion.

‘The creation of this piece has involved working in close collaboration with the designers, drawing from visual, biographical and archive material from the 1920s up until the present.

‘Research led us to a circle of connections linking fashion and tragedy. The first perhaps minor one is that Ashton’s father (whose mother was a milliner) committed suicide two years prior to Ashton making A Tragedy of Fashion. One of the dancers in the original production, Frances James, was the sister of Charles James the famous couturier, who died penniless in the Chelsea Hotel. James went to school with fashion photographer Cecil Beaton, who was later to design for Ashton. The couturier Ossie Clark, also designed fro Ashton (Ossie was to tragically die at the hands of his lover). The milieu whom Beaton photographed and Ashton entertained (with his witty impersonations) is similar to the wealthy clients who frequented Duchic’s salon and inspired Bronislava Nijinski’s 1924 ballet Les Biches, which in turn provided Ashton’s stylistic model.

‘Marie Rambert (who danced the sexually deviant Orchidée in Ashton’s original) was a leading force in Ashton’s early creative career as was Nijinska (Ashton had first-hand experience of Nijinska’s demanding ballet classes) and also Léonide Massine, whose extraordinary character roles no doubt struck a chord with Ashton’s Latin Amercian roots.’

Ian Spink, Antony McDonald and Juliette Blondelle

Frederick Ashton (original, 1926)
Ian Spink (reworked, 2004 revival)
Eugene Goossens (original, 1926)
Elena Kats-Chernin (composed new music for the 2004 revival)
Set and costume design:
Sophie Fedorovitch

Tragedy of Fashion first premiered 15 June 1926. The ballet starred Marie Rambert and Frederick Ashton and was performed at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, London. It was a pivotal moment in the birth of British ballet.

In 2004 the piece was revived as part of a celebration of Ashton's birth centenary and was reinterpreted and restyled by choreographer Ian Spink. The revival premiere was at Sadler's Wells, London, 25 May 2004.

Marie Rambert and Frederick Ashton in A Tragedy of Fashion © Rambert (1926)

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