NO-ONE ever says, "What? Swan Lake, again?". It returns to theatres again and again because, frankly, it is THE ballet, the most famous and most beautiful of all classical ballets with the most beautiful, tragic music by Tchaikovsky.

In the words of David Nixon, Northern Ballet's artistic director: "Swan Lake remains an essential work for any ballet company, regardless of whether or not it is completely traditional or, as in our case, it takes a new direction," he says. In doing so, he "pays homage to the original and is true to the Leeds company's inventive and interpretive identity".

Nixon has danced in many versions and seen countless others, and in his programme notes, he posits that perhaps part of the magic of Swan Lake is each choreographer's interest in reinvention, finding new meanings and adaptations within the original.

York Press:

Northern Ballet in Swan Lake. Picture: Emma Kauldhar

In his case, Nixon and dramatic associate Patricia Doyle have sought to create a "more contemporary story, while retaining the traditional elements", and so this Swan Lake is set in the last, long, lazy, romantic summer days of La Belle Epoque before the world changed circa 1914.

It becomes a doomed psychological drama, forged in Young Anthony (Filippo DiVilio) losing his beloved Brother (Gavin McCaig), who drowns in the lake after Young Anthony urges him to join him in the water. A darkness descends on Anthony (Tobias Batley), riven with guilt and fixated by water's powers, who seeks recourse to intense romantic imaginings fraught with danger.

Most strikingly, in response to his assertion of "young people not yet being sure of who they are or what they want", Nixon has constructed a love triangle, introducing a homoerotic dimension to the story of sexual awakening, but different again to Matthew Bourne's ground-breaking all-male corps de ballet of swans.

Odette (Martha Leebolt) and her black swan foil, Odilia (Ayami Miyata), and indeed the swans remain female roles, but again Nixon's notes are revealing, "She [Odette] is simply a manifestation of a swan. Is the swan Anthony's ideal of women, his true love, his lost brother, or himself? These are questions I leave for you to answer." Your reviewer will do likewise.

York Press:

Northern Ballet in Swan Lake. Picture: Emma Kauldhar

What rises to the surface most strongly is Nixon's notion that "for a true romantic, love is never a happy ever after tale but is always full of pain and ultimate tragedy". There, in a nutshell, is the timeless allure of Swan Lake, whatever the setting, whatever the new reinventions, and in this heartbreaking, utterly beautiful, emotionally bruising production, it elucidates why Anthony's dark romantic nature destroys his friendships.

From bicycles to Oxford bags, from Dave Gilian's gorgeous designs to swans emerging from the reeds, from the corps de ballet's magical grace to Peter Mumford's moon-lit lighting, this is a very special Swan Lake, all the more remarkable for a spate of injuries requiring adjustments to the cast.

Should you miss out on this week's remaining Leeds shows, Sheffield offers a second Yorkshire chance to dive into the lake.

Swan Lake, Northern Ballet, Leeds Grand Theatre, until Saturday; Sheffield Lyceum Theatre, March 15 to 19. Box office: Leeds, 0844 848 2700 or; Sheffield, 0114 249 6000 or