REVIEW: It is said that if you can have only one cigar, one vodka or one ballet, best make it a Russian.
For an art perfected, Russian ballet takes the biscuit.
On Saturday night ballet dancers - an odd combination of beauty and sheer athleticism - filled the shining Civic Theatre stage with humour, romance, intrigue, and eventual triumph of good over evil, love overcoming deception, treachery banished.
The heartbreaking flutter of swan ballerinas sheltering their own, the malevolent presence of the black clad evil one and his seductive partner, the kitten-heeled Queen anxious to find love for her young prince - all the ingredients of the beautiful fairy tale are familiar and dear.
It is 135 years since Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake was first performed on the stage of the Bolshoi Theatre, a day remembered as the birth of classical Russian ballet.
Little has changed since then, the legend of a wicked magician changing a girl into a bird becoming a story in which an evil spell turns girls into swans who can reappear in human form only at night.
The Imperial Russian Ballet Company presents this masterpiece in three acts with a happy ending after close on three hours during which the stage is vibrant with life and beautifully coloured costuming the whole time.
Most of the cast were not born when Swan Lake celebrated its 100th birthday in February 1977.
Several were born after 1990, graduates of new schools of Russian ballet .
Their fitness on stage and elsewhere is evident.
The company performs 17 shows between now and October 17, the only days off being Mondays for travel and practice.
What we watched was perfection, always achieved at some cost.
Next year they bring The Nutcracker, Bolero and the Dying Swan in one three- part programme.
Worth the wait.
The Swan Lake Imperial Russian Ballet Company performed at the Invercargill Civic Theatre.
- The Southland Times