Men and women in Hans Van Manen ballets just don't get on. The men tend to pout and swagger, looking murderously at the icy, hungry bitches who stalk haughtily about the stage. All of Van Manen's ballets aren't this unsubtle, but his "Grosse Fugue," centerpiece and most popular work, which was danced by the Pennsylvania Ballet last night at the University of Maryland's Tawes Theatre, leaves little to the imagination. Manipulative, competitive pas de deux and solos, a partnering section in which the four women hang on to their partners' belts, sexually explicit poses, deliberately ugly in a fascinating sort of way -- the dancers performed them all precisely, with exacty the right amount of menace and tension.
"Swan Lake" is about predators, too, but in this ballet from a gentler age, true love tames the hunters. Benjamin Harkarvy's staging of "Swan Lake's" second act differs considerably from the traditional version, whatever that may be. That the prince has a solo, that there is a pas de cinq instead of the usual dance of the two big swans, that some of the groupings for the corps are different -- these are probably wise choices when a small company is faced with staging a work that has grown familiar with repetition. But the grafting of music from the fourth act, written to accompany dying owls and falling castles, onto the usual dramatic ending of the second act(Odette, about to be turned into a swan again, has to part from her lover), seems unnecessary.
Tamara Hadley danced strongly and musically as Odette, particularly in her second solo, and was well supported in the pas de deux by William DeGregory. Dana Arey led the well-drilled corps of swans.
"Divertimento No. 15," one of Balanchine's most delicately beautiful and difficult ballets, tells of a world where men and women dance in gracious harmony. Sylviane Bayard was brilliant and playful and the most individual of the five female soloists; Edward Myers was her courtly partner. i