I remember the first time I saw the Swan Lake Ballet in a gorgeous artificial lake at Parque Alcalde back in my hometown Guadalajara, it was amazing. During this lockdown, I will have the opportunity to see a new version of it…”The Swan Lake Bath Ballet“.
The Swan Lake premiered at Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre on March 4, 1877. It was unsuccessful after its first year of performance. Conductors, dancers, and audiences alike thought Tchaikovsky’s music was far too complicated and the ballet dancers, in particular, had difficulty dancing to the music. The production’s original choreography by German ballet master, Julius Reisinger, was criticized harshly as uninspiring and unoriginal. But after Tchaikovsky’s death that Swan Lake was revived and over the years it has been performed by ballet companies in the grandest of opera houses around the world.
Now a new take on Swan Lake, commissioned by the BBC, is to be performed in the confines of dancers’ own bathtubs. The Swan Lake Bath Ballet, has been choreographed by Corey Baker who says the idea came to him, appropriately enough, in the shower. Baker wanted to create a piece uniting dancers who are in lockdown and he asked himself what they might all have in their home. “Everyone has a bath or a shower,” he said. “And I love choreography with water. We thought about recreating The Rite of Spring and then Swan Lake came to mind. I turned the music on and had a splash around.”
Baker created the choreography in his own bathroom and made tutorial videos for a global lineup of dancers, some of who also improvised their own moves. Baker found that he had to direct and rehearse with the dancers from his toilet seat, so he could appreciate the confines they were performing within. When he tried to direct from his roomier kitchen, he would be moving around too much and asking them to execute moves that were impossible in their bathrooms.
Each performer has been filming themselves on cameraphone, using an app from Filmic Pro that upgrades the quality of the footage. Baker is keen for the film to have a professional finish. Some dancers perform in coloured water; one uses the feathery fillings of 20 pillows. “It’s a bit wild,” he says, laughing. “It’s been like hanging a picture blindfolded, a mile away.”
The three-minute film will be available to watch online as part of the BBC’s extensive Culture in Quarantine programme. The dancers involved are yet to be announced, but they come from a range of international companies and include a few performers Baker has worked with in the past. “Some of the dancers I’d never met before,” he says. “We are meeting and working for the first time over Zoom, and we’re in our bathrooms. It’s crazy how normal it becomes.”
Originally from New Zealand, Baker started out in ballet and joined the British company BalletBoyz before forming Corey Baker Dance. The company has often performed in unexpected locations, rather than theatres and opera houses, as Baker is keen to bring dance to new audiences. A lot of his work has concentrated on climate change, such as the dance film Spaghetti Junction, featuring dancers from Hong Kong Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet, which was released on Earth Day as part of Culture in Quarantine.
Baker is grateful to have been busy with commissions, and draws attention to how many of his friends in dance and theatre have suffered during the coronavirus outbreak. One upside of the Covid-19 lockdown, he says, is that “the environment is going to benefit from a break and it will give climate scientists a chance to get real data that’s not speculative”. This current period, he suggests, allows “time for us all to think about what is essential, what we need to live and to make our society thrive”.
I am looking forward to watch the at my house. I am stick in love with the Swan Lake after watching recently Natalie Portman’s movie The Black Swan.
- Wiegand, Chris, “Swan Lake to be Performed in dancers’ own bathtubs“, The Guardian, May 26, 2020. Consulted on May 27, 2020 at https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2020/may/26/swan-lake-bath-ballet-bbc-corey-baker-lockdown-bathtub .
- Green, Aaron, “History of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake“, Liveabout, March 12, 2018. Consulted on May 27, 2020 at https://www.liveabout.com/history-of-tchaikovskys-swan-lake-724173