The fast pace and vigor of Alicia Alonso's new "Swan Lake" production give this first and most Wagnerian of Tchaikowsky's ballet scores the seamless form he intended, but that is so seldom realized in our theaters. For the white acts she uses the Cuban Ballet's remarkably drilled corps, with its vertical drive, to generate the nervous excitement of powerful birds in flight. The total choreography of these sections takes its cue from the clipped phrasing and speed of the cygnets' pasde quatre, which usually stands in metronome contrast to the continuum of the dominant dancing. Unexpectedly, it is the Black Swan act that becomes poetically brooding as sheer curtains isolate Prince Siegfried and Odile from the Court, and they dance their virtuoso duet in a world of their own.
Loipa Araujo was Odette and Odile, and Jorge Esquivel was the prince last night, in the first of the ballet's several performances at Kennedy Center. Both are tall dancers whose considerable technique is not hard, but their movement didn't seem to flow last night because of Alonso's abrupt concept of choreographic and musical measures. Araujo didn't contrast the two women's characters; and black. Nor did Esquivel psychoanalyze the prince's role. He too was nobly remote, but without a trace of hiding any thoughts or feelings.
There were fine jumpers in the first act's pas de trois - Maria Elena Llorente, Ofelia Gonzalez and Lazaro Carreno. In the Black Swan act's balletic Spanish dance, Mirta Garcia and Fernando Jhones provided fine, clean footwork; his beats were unusually smooth and strong.
The colors of Julia Castano's sets were restrained by Cuban standards, and neither the orchestration nor Jose Ramon Urbay's conducting distorted Tchaikowsky. Apart from speed, energy and form, Alonso's "after Petipa and Ivanov" choreography served to keep the cast busy - sometimes too busy.