Last night's "Swan Lake," opening the third and final week for American Ballet Theatre at the Kennedy Center, brought still another pairing of principals. Alexander Godunov, as Prince Siegfried, partnered Natalia Makarova as Odett-Odile this time, and though he was seen to decidedly better advantage than in his appearance with Martine van Hamel during the first week, the evening left one with essentially the same perturbing questions about his artistic capacities.
Makarova's performance was uneven, but it had passages of genuine sublimity.
Her dancing in the ActII pas de deux respoke a tremulous, trancelike sensuality, expressed in every maximally stretched line of her figure. Somehow the intensity didn't sustain itself through her solo in the same act, but it was regained and then some in her brilliant opening sequence as Odile in Act III.
The understandable nervousness that marked Godunov's performances early in the run has by now vanished. This Siegfried was unquestionably a more self-possessed hero than his first one. His dancing, too, was steadier, stronger and cleaner, though not all of his interpolated virtuoso flourishes came off as planned. The match with Makarova was also far more satisfactory, on both temperamental and dramatic ground, than the one with van Hamel.
On the other hand, Godunov seemed as far as ever from giving any hint of the deeper emotional and symbolic import of his role. His playing to the audience and posing for applause may be remnants of his Bolshoi Ballet days. Perhaps the stereotyped look of his acting -- what opera buffs call the "clutch-and-stagger" school -- can be ascribed to the same source. Whatever the reasons, his portrayal still seemed callow whenever it wasn't just mechanical.
In other respects this was a humdrum "Swan Lake," redeemed only by Makarova's artistry and, occasionally, the corps de ballet.