Natalie Portman may have won an Oscar for playing a wacko ballerina in Black Swan, but that movie will fade with time—unlike the real Swan Lake, which has lasted more than 130 years already. Ballet San Jose presented its elegant version in a strong production that reveals why this ballet continues to capture our imaginations.

The improbable story finds Prince Siegfried (Maykel Solas) falling in love with a swan, Odette (Karen Gabay); that is, a beautiful enchanted maiden—one has to presume she appears more maidenly than swan. She and other maidens were transformed into swan slaves by an evil sorcerer, Baron Von Rothbart (Maximo Califano). When Rothbart sees the Prince’s love for Odette, he plots to gain power through engineering an unholy alliance between Siegfried and Odette’s dark alter ego, Odile (also Gabay). True love, however, is not so easily subverted, and Siegfried and Odette find a way to thwart Rothbart. The ending, while tragic, still has redemption and the power of love.

Artistic director Dennis Nahat has carefully restored, preserved, and restaged this classic, aiming to create an original production that honors the best of its traditions while making it resonant for contemporary audiences. The result is a fresh evocation of all that makes Swan Lake great and memorable, with less “fluff” than usual. Ballet San Jose shows a depth of talent and technique that beautifully meets the challenge of this demanding work. The principal roles rotate, but the dancers on Sunday afternoon were excellent. Solas, Gabay and Califano were wonderful and carried the bulk of the show, with numerous solos, pas de deux and trios, including innovative “fight” choreography. Gabay was riveting in her exquisite interpretation of Odette, and transitioned brilliantly into the wicked Odile, her long-suffering melancholy turning to malevolent grins.

The company demonstrated fine training throughout. Of special note were the four princesses—Amy Marie Briones, Cynthia Sheppard, Mallory Welsh, and Jing Zhang—marvelous in their several numbers. Akira Takahashi delighted with his hijinks and superb leaps as the Court Jester. The leading swans—Harriet McMeekin, Kaleena Opdyke, Beth Ann Namey and Jing Zhang—also got to display their superior skills. The production was quite long—three intermissions to accommodate set and costume changes adds 45 minutes in a show that clocks in at more than three hours. Acts 1 and 3 could do with some trim to bring in a tighter show. The costumes and scenery by David Guthrie are attractive and spectacular; the color palette for Act 1 alone is smartly coordinated. Minor quibbles: Gabay’s tutu in Act 2 suited the tradition but fit oddly; and the staging of Rothbart’s demise was not as impressive as one would like. Ballet San Jose is a true gem for our region, for the quality and vision of its productions, and Swan Lake was no exception.