When a dancer like Aleksandar Antonijević leaps soundlessly through the air with the coil of panther, his powerful thighs beating like eagles’ wings, Balanchine’s fabled declaration that ballet is woman is easily drowned out by all the virile excitement erupting like fireworks up on the stage.

It’s not just that the 6-foot tall, brown-eyed dancer with a smile that could melt butter is devastatingly handsome. Or that the body belonging to this human torpedo with the agility of a tightrope walker rivals that of Michelangelo’s David.

It’s more that at age 43, Antonijević [pronounced Anton-ee-yay-vich] is something of a rarity: a mature artist dancing as fast as he can in a profession where the average age of retirement is 29.

“Ballet is a career measured in dog years,” says the National Ballet of Canada principal dancer who this year is celebrating 20 years with the Toronto-based company.

“I am 43 but in ballet terms I am double that age. Except right now I am dancing the best I have ever danced. I truly feel blessed to have lasted this long.”

Longevity in an art nourished by the suppleness of youth is hardly a given.

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