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Well-plaid: Ashley Page can take another bow

New Year's Day and more than 50 million television viewers from Austria to Zambia - by way of China, Chile and the Cook Islands - watched in delight as tartan-garbed dancers from the Vienna State Ballet kicked up their heels in an entertainingly frisky-risque polka.

The occasion? The worldwide broadcast of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra's New Year's Day Concert, conducted this year by Daniel Barenboim with choreographic episodes created by Ashley Page and costumed by Vivienne Westwood.

It is the second year in a row that Page, artistic director at Scottish Ballet from 2002 until 2012, has been the guest choreographer for this now-legendary event.

Last year, he sent dancers on a mischievous outdoor frolic through a garden maze. This year the action was indoors - in the opulent setting of Vienna's Palais Leichtentein - but, again, there was a wittily flirtatious edge to the shenanigans he set to the Pizzicato Polka from Sylvia (by Delibes). Cue peek-a-boo popping out from behind pillars, with the girls looking especially minxish in Westwood's mini-crini-kilts. Hijinks ended on a marble staircase with a wicked flourish - and a naughty hand trying to reveal what is worn (or not) under a dashing laddie's kilt.

It all looked as if Page had spent ages crafting every last detail of this, and the earlier ensemble piece where six couples - in elegant Westwood, with 19th-century accents - were swooningly caught up in the lush swirl of Joseph Lanner's Die Romantiker waltz.

"We did it all in two days," laughs Page, recalling how - as had happened the year before - the tight schedule was drawn up by the production company that films and broadcasts the New Year's Day concert.

"Everything is decided by them and by the orchestra," he explains. "The orchestra chooses the music, the production team comes up with location and designer. It's a package where your challenge is to make it work, choreographically. And it is quite a challenge.

"Not only are you working with music that ordinarily you might never think of using - but the television people are keen to show off as much of the location, or the historic architecture, as possible.

"When it came to the Delibes's Polka they already knew that they wanted to have that staircase not just in the shots, but actually in the dance... So you go away, listen over and over to the music CD they gave you back in March, study the layout of the locations they want to use - and then, over two hectic days in September, you pull it all together with the dancers."

Meanwhile, Manuel Legris, artistic director of Vienna State Ballet was clearly impressed by Page's resourceful flair last year - he promptly commissioned him to make a new, full-length ballet that will be premiered in April.

"I started work on it in November," says Page. "It's based on Schnitzler's play, La Ronde, Antony (McDonald) is designing it and we've come up with a concept where all the characters are taken from real life, 19th-century Vienna. Zemlinsky, Alma Schindler, Mahler, Walter Gropius... A bit like in La Ronde, people were actually changing partners against this wonderful back-drop of Vienna's cafe society and cultural milieu - researching it has been fascinating."

Looking back across 2013 - he choreographed a new piece for Rambert, one for Polish National Ballet, two short pieces for the Royal Ballet of Flanders (part of their Britten centenary programme) as well as setting the dance for Glyndebourne's production of Rameau's Hippolyte et Aricie - he murmurs that the only thing in short supply was time at home with the family in Glasgow.

"I probably made more new work in that one year than I had in the previous decade. And all of it very different. It really opened me up to skills that I had developed during my time with Scottish Ballet, and that I think has proved a very positive step forward for me.

"As for 2014 - I'm already planning a new work with Joffrey Ballet Chicago, and I'll be directing and choreographing at Scottish Opera."

Manners dictate that he won't reveal exactly what the work is before the company announces it itself.

"It's unlikely, however, that he'll do a third New Year's Day concert. "They'd never asked anyone back to do two in a row before," he says. "I take that as a tremendous compliment, but perhaps some-one else should try their hand at the waltzes and polkas."

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