You can’t beat a classic, and ‘Swan Lake’ is testimony to this.

There’s something about Tchaikovsky’s swelling, dark score and the floating, ethereal swans that transports the audience to another time and place like no other production can.

The famous Swan Lake is over 100 years old and yet is still one of the most-loved and frequently performed classical ballets.

It’s also seen as one of the most challenging, both artistically and technically, not just for the principal ballerina who completes the impressive 32 fouettes and plays the dual role of Odette and Odile (two characters that are polar opposites), but also for the entire ensemble due to the range of emotions portrayed on stage – joy, anguish, love, betrayal, the list goes on.

American Ballet Theatre (ABT) principal dancer James Whiteside says the rigorous dancing in the third act will test any dancer’s stamina while the artistic demands present their own set of challenges.

“You just keep going, you dance-dance-dance, and then you feel like you’re going to die,” he says with a laugh. “It’s always hard dancing something that people have seen before many times because we have to bring something fresh to it. That’s our responsibility as dancers, to bring ourselves to the roles and make them new.”

While the dancers may be charged with finding freshness in the roles, the production that ABT is bringing to Brisbane in August is all about tradition.

“ABT is known for having some of the best classical works of ballet out there and our Swan Lake is no exception,” says Whiteside. “It’s exactly what you think Swan Lake should be. I think audiences really enjoy our version.”

It will be the first trip to Australia for the company in its 75-year-long history.

“Everyone’s super pumped up about going ‘Down Under’,” says Whiteside, attempting an Aussie accent. “It’s very refreshing for the dancers to feel a new appreciation from a new audience with the different ways that audiences react, whether that be applause or hooting and hollering. It’s just fun for the dancers.”

It’s not the first visit for Whiteside, who made the journey earlier this year on a promotional trip.

“I’m looking forward to spending more time in Brisbane and just enjoying the culture a bit – everyone was so nice and the coffee was so good. I didn’t get to cuddle a koala last time so that’s number one on my list.”

And as for what Whiteside would be doing if not living the dream as a principal dancer?

“I’d be making music or in chemistry or something – I really like the sciences! But I can’t imagine myself not doing any form of ballet or art or dance or anything like that,” he says.“I’ve known that I wanted to be a dancer since I was about 12, and to finally be in my dream company – I’m over the moon.”

American Ballet Theatre’s Swan Lake will be performed at QPAC from 28 August to 4 September. For more info, visit our Event Guide.