Is there anything worse than a top ballet about alienation and angst? Dance guru Maurice Bejart's "Symphonie pour un homme seul," performed for the first time Friday night by the Berlin Ballet as part of a mixed bill, really pulls out all the stops. Rugged, bare-chested guy (Jean-Pierre Liegeois) struggling against forces of evil (malevolent-looking horde of barechested men), grappling with a tormenting temptress (Heibrun Schwaarz), hanging from a rope suspended from the ceiling, opening his mouth wide in a silent scream.
"He" -- the name assigned to society's victim -- moves in terribly schizoid ways, alternating between pirouetts, body-beautiful poses, frenzied crouches and all manner of modern dance dilutions. "She," the romantic/antagonistic femme fatale, exhibits similar tendencies; during the course of the dance she plays coquette, mechanical doll, viper, leader of the robot pack.
All of this visual horror finds its aural counterpart in a score that consists of clattering percussion, spoken French gibberish and maniacal screams. Bejart's message is clear, but his methods are noisy, muddled and false.
Russian ballerina Galina Panova is the Olga Korbut of the dance world. Technically gifted, she finishes each of her tricks with a smug flourish, with her small muscular body held proud and her blond polytail bobbing. Panova's gay and buoyant portrayal of Clara in Rudolf Nureyev's version of the "Nuttcracker" Saturday night brought a much-needed lightness to an incredibly somber production. She began as an inquisitive child (she looks about 19), trotting about like a young filly, and as the evening progressed, she bloomed into a mature, self-satisified woman.
Panova fared best when dancing solo. Her partner, Vladimir Gelvan, playing the dual role of Drosselmeyer/Prince in a particularly cardboard and distant fashion, rarely matched her in either dramatic or technical ability.