In the review of the Royal Ballet performance of Frederick Ashton's "A Month in the Country" at the Kennedy Center Opera House last Friday evening, which appeared in Saturday's late editions and yesterday's early editions of the Style section, the cause of the fall that injured Anthony Dowell was wrongly attributed to the Opera House stage floor. Spokesmen for the Royal Ballet and the Kennedy Center have attested that Dowell's fall was in fact caused by a residual slick spot on the Royal's floor cloth. Dowell's fall, which aggravated an earlier leg injury, was first thought not serious enough to prevent him from dancing last weekend, but later he canceled his one remaining scheduled appearance here.
The crowning glory of last night's mixed repertory program by the Royal Ballet at the Kennedy Center was Sir Frederick Ashton's "A Month in the Country," but a pair of accidents almost turned the triumph into calamity midstream. The notoriously perilous Opera House floor struck again, claiming yet another illustrious victim.
During one of the choreographic high points of the ballet -- a duet between Beliaev, the dashing tutor (Anthony Dowell), and the infatuated adolescent, Vera (Karen Paisey) -- Dowell slipped and tumbled backwards, pulling Paisey with him. In a subsequent duet he slipped again, though he kept his feet, and later in the evening, Wayne Eagling slid precariously for a moment in MacMillian's "Gloria," but recovered instantly. Reports from backstage after the Ashton had it that Dowell indeed injured himself (to an undetermined extent); after his second slip, he dropped out of character for a second and glowered fiercely.
If Dowell was hurting it wasn't very apparent. He was in superb form as the charismatic youth whose arrival plunges the ballet's rustic Russian household into emotional turmoil.The unconscious gallantry of Dowell's dancing and of his whole characterization make it easy to understand why every woman is sight should be falling at his feet.
"Month" also happends to be Ashton at his most ingenious and subtle, transcribing the romantic entanglements of the plot into dance action of amazing swiftness, economy and grace. The choreography becomes a fully equal partner with Turgenev's play and the music of Chopin (arranged by John Lanchbery). The darkly beauteous Marguerite Porter isn't the ideal Natalia Petrovna (the mature woman whose amorous status quo is so upset by the tutor); her interpretation tends to extremes of flightiness and Camille-like despondancy. But she danced well, and joined smoothly, like all the others, into a typically seamless Royal Ballet ensemble.
The evening began with another much esteemed Ashton opus, "Daphnis and Chloe," seen here for the first time. The fascination of the tale, however, has ever eluded me and still does -- a love ruptured by pirate abduction and restored by the intervention of the god Pan. Ashton gets high marks, as usual, for his imaginative treatment of the material, which shows such diverse influence as those of Bronislava Nijinska and Isadora Duncan. But the mixture of eras in the costuming -- the lovers in modern dress, the pirates looking like operetta refugees, the nymphs like something from Baroque opera -- throws you for a loop. The cast -- including Dowell, Merle Park, Julian Hosking and Genesia Rosato -- danced with such conviction and finesse the absurdities almost passed unnoticed.
MacMillan's "Gloria," set to the music of Poulenc, is a grim abstraction about the horrors of the First World War. MacMillan is such an assured and resourceful choreographic craftsman that he can manage such a theme without becoming lugubrious. But, unlike the case with his sublime, closely related "Requiem," the imagery of "Gloria" looks forced and calculated, despite some genuinely striking passages. The principals, however -- Eagling, Hosking, Jennifer Penney and Wendy Ellis -- gave it their splendid all.