In the season's final "Swan Lake" last night, Josefina Mendez made her Kennedy Center debut as Odette and Odile, the true and false swan queens. She danced with welcome continuity as Odette and was able to sustain tension in the long, slow Act 2 adagio with Prince Siegfried. Mendez's line can be supple and heroic, and she holds stationary balances decently. There is not enough strength in the legs, though, to give her footwork any snap.
Odile's role calls for moving balances, brilliant legwork, and this Mendez didn't have. Instead, she showed the character's cruel edge in the upper body, her torso leaning forward at a wicked angle and her arms crossing with the force of a vise. Tight pique turns were her substitute for the whip snap of the fouettes.
As the prince, Orlando Salgado looked noble and leaped high, but sometimes forced his dancing and the result was heavy. Fernando Jhones, his companion, has a classically even drive without that common Cuban spurt of energy. His beats were vigorous, multiple and capped by clean landings.
There is a fine line between interpretation and alteration. This version of "Swan Lake" which the Cuban Ballet has brought us keeps jumping back and forth across the line. Alicia Alonso, who staged the production, has been faithful to the original idea in giving the work a unified form and vital pace, but she exaggerates the tempi and the dance textures, and has included too many visually busy bits of stage action.