The Ballet Jardin Aux Lilas

Jardin Aux Lilas (The Lilac Garden) is a one-act ballet that was choreographed by Anthony Tudor. The music was done by Chausson and the scenery and costumes by Hugh Stevenson. It was choreographed to a composition by Ernest Chausson entitled Poème, Op. 25 written in 1896.

The Ballet Jardin Aux Lilas was first performed by Ballet Rambert at the Mercury Theatre in London on the 26th of January 1936. It was then revived for the American Ballet Theater, Center Theater, New York on the 15th of January 1940 and for the Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden on the 12th of November 1968.

the ballet jardin aux lilas

Jardin Aux Lilas Synopsis

The characters in this ballet are Caroline, the Bride-to-be, Her Lover, The Man she must marry and The Woman in his Past.

The scene is set in the lilac garden at Caroline’s house. Tudor’s way of naming his characters explains exactly the motivation of the ballet.

It is set in the Edwardian period when marriage was sacrosanct. Caroline’s marriage is one of convenience, therefore she and her lover seek desperately a moment together in the garden to make a last farewell.

The husband equally insists that the woman in his past must end their former relationship. In the end, Caroline must leave on the arm of her fiance without having had an opportunity to take the last farewell of her lover, which was her principal reason for giving a party. It is a ballet of meetings soon disturbed with hurried partings and imploring glances.

Caroline ultimately bids Her Lover a halted farewell as The Man She Must Marry takes her on his arm and leads her away in their betrothal of convenience. Her Lover, having secretly given Caroline a gift of lilacs at the last possible moment, is left alone as the curtain closes.

More About This Ballet

His ballet about unrequited love is about the necessity of people of the British upper classes to suppress their emotions and yield to the constraints of social convention. 

Tudor’s ballets are usually presented through the choreography which is more cerebral than Ashton’s choreography. Each work is the result of a search for some style of movement particularly applicable to the subject and the music. 

In this ballet he uses classical technique to indicate the aristocracy of his characters, modifying it with the gestures and images necessary to indicate their tension and frustration underlying perfect manners.

The characters are carried along on an endless belt of movement which arises from their conflict with one another. 

The ballet is interesting too for the insight it gives into Tudor’s way of working. He tended to choose one or two dancers, who were normally principal dancers. In this case, he used Maudel Lloyd as Caroline, Peggy van Praagh as the woman from his past,  or Hugh Laing as her lover to find a dance style before transferring it to the rest of the cast.

jardin aux lilas

This is a portrait of Hugh Laing in the 1940 American premiere of Jardin Aux Lilas

Often his whole ballet will be worked out in this way. He has always depended very much on sympathetic collaboration, not only with the dancers, but his designer. Hugh Stevenson, for example, was the author of The Planets, Tudor’s first lasting success for Rambert in 1934, and played an equally significant part in the birth of Jardin Aux Lilas, ultimately suggesting its title.

Jardin Aux Lilas is an early example of Tudor’s mastery of conveying profound psychological meaning and nuance through ballet vocabulary. Among his earlier works, it is also one of his most beloved. It has been danced by numerous companies around the world, including the American Ballet Theatre and the Paris Opera Ballet, and it continues to be performed today.

Here Sylvie Guillem performs Antony Tudor’s choreography Jardin aux Lilas or the Lilac Garden.

5 thoughts on “The Ballet Jardin Aux Lilas”

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