Swan Lake Still Floats
The classic remains a beacon in the world of dance

The unusual shape of the arm as a wing, the cocked head with a halo of feathers, and one beautiful leg crossed languidly behind the other — almost 300 years later this image of a ballet dancer transposed as a swan is still resonant, and Nina Ananiashvili with her State Ballet of Georgia put on a magical mini-version of this favorite ballet.

Even the classics need editing, and in this rendition the past blends with the present, and the story comes alive in a vibrant production featuring 40-plus dancers, magnificent costumes, and impressive sets. The original four acts are cut to two, the dancers begin as themselves in a rehearsal studio, where they work on their turns and try on costumes for the ballet master. This first scene is almost insignificant with the exception of meeting Prince Siegfried.

After a frustrating moment while learning his role, he falls asleep to dream about the ballet’s most important scenes with Odette on the lake where he falls in love and later at a castle ball where he falls for Odile, who he confuses with Odette. This seems a simple mistake in the world of make-believe, but after being dumped by the evil swan/girl he returns to the lake to vow his true devotion to the white one. The flock of attending swans obstructs his quest and he collapses, only to awaken in the studio again with his role fully realized.

The Company is dazzlingly polished, strong in technique and appearance. The corps of swans is beautiful and immaculate in their footwork and lines, creating a breathtaking effect. The prince, too, danced by Sergei Filin, is expressive in the dramatic role and proficient in the turns and jumps which constitute his variations. As a partner for Ms. Ananiashvili, he is capable and compassionate as he supports her in the several pas de deux that have become standards for most principal dancers.

But it’s really Ms. Ananiashvili who magically transported us to the grandeur of this famous ballet. Her arms were expressive and articulate — liquid at times and steely sharp at others. Her torso poured with emotion in every direction, her back awesomely strong and her front soft and graceful. Her legs moved at rapid speed as they followed the familiar Tchaikovsky score aptly played by our own Charleston Symphony Orchestra. She played the dual roles to perfection, ranging from the vulnerable longing of Odette to the maniacal power of Odile — a balance hard to achieve by any human woman. Ananiashvili commanded the stage and the action around her, enchanting the audience and brought them to their feet for a standing ovation which the ballerina graciously accepted.

Swan Lake: The State Ballet of Georgia • Spoleto Festival USA • $10-$70 June 8, 9 at 8 p.m.; June 9 at 1 p.m., June 10 at 2 p.m. • Gaillard Auditorium, 77 Calhoun St. • 579-3100