Pennsylvania Ballet 'Swan Lake': Beauty without passion

Dayesi Torriente in Pennsylvania Ballet's "Swan Lake."

Ballet is woman, George Balanchine famously said, and on International Women’s Day, the Pennsylvania Ballet premiered one of the most woman-oriented (if not particularly feminist) ballets.

Angel Corella’s new Swan Lake opened Thursday night at the Academy of Music, the latest of the story ballets the artistic director has been reimagining. Corella chose to replace the Degas-inspired Christopher Wheeldon version the company commissioned for its 40th anniversary in 2004 with a more traditional take he preferred.

This one, based on the classic Marius Petipa choreography and set to the romantic Tchaikovsky score, is a feast for the eyes. But it is harder to spot Corella’s touches than in it was in his Don Quixote, Le Corsaire, or Sleeping Beauty.

Camera icon ALEXANDER IZILIAEV
Dayesi Torriente and Arian Molina Soca in the black swan pas de deux of Pennsylvania Ballet’s “Swan Lake.”

Dayesi Torriente danced the dual role of Odette (the white swan) and Odile (the black swan). Technically, her dancing was precise, from feathery fingers to delicate partnering with Arian Molina Soca as Prince Siegfried to her impressive series of fouettés.

Her acting was less nuanced than her dancing, though.

“If it doesn’t make Barbara Weisberger cry, it’s not good enough,” the Pennsylvania Ballet founder once told me. Swan Lake should be an obvious tearjerker, but Thursday night it wasn’t.

At first, it seemed  Torriente was playing Odette as more self-assured than most dancers would, and less fearful and naive. That would have been her right. But her Odile — who should have been a cruel trickster — came across in the same cool manner, with little intent or facial expression.

Molina Soca was a handsome prince, and his technique was precise through most of the ballet. But as the two-hour-plus production went on, his turns both on the ground and en l’air became messier. His acting had more depth than Torriente’s but it was hard to feel for his Siegfried, as he didn’t sell the romantic tragedy.

Peter Weil as Siegfried’s friend Benno is normally a calm, reliable dancer, but he had trouble with air turns, as well, falling once and then taking the rest more tentatively.

Camera icon ALEXANDER IZILIAEV
The Pennsylvania Ballet in “Swan Lake.”

The corps de ballet is as important to Swan Lake as the principal roles, and Pennsylvania Ballet’s corps was breathtaking as a flock of fluttering white swans moving in and out of geometric formations, and protecting one of their one — Odette.

The Little Swans were adorable, and the Big Swans (Alexandra Hughes and Holly Lynn Fusco) added much-needed dramatic flair.

Divertissements — dances that interrupt the narrative — are also a big part of story ballets, and Swan Lake has many. Alexandra Heier was a charming Peasant Lady. Fusco and Marjorie Feiring had just the right flair in the Spanish dance. And Zecheng Liang and Ashton Roxander were fun as they competed to do the most impressive pirouettes as the Neapolitans.

Corella’s Swan Lake is an enjoyable and beautiful diversion, but for a world premiere, there’s not a lot new here. Turning up the passion would go a long way.

DANCE REVIEW

Pennsylvania Ballet 'Swan Lake'

  • Performances through Sunday, and March 16-18, Academy of Music, 240 S. Broad St. Tickets: $35-$199. Information: 215-893-1999 or paballet.org.