Music: Sea Sprites & Demons

The hero and heroine stepped aboard, the sailors cast off the hawsers, the ship glided away from the jetty. The sky glided with it. Seconds later, with the ship supposedly in open ocean and the waves quartering in on the windward rail, the crew started swaying fore and aft. The attempted stage illusion, like the ballet to which it belonged, was handsome, arresting—and just short of convincing. The occasion: the U.S. premiere last week of Ondine, Choreographer Frederick Ashton's most ambitious work to date.

A hit in Britain before the Royal Ballet brought it...

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