Makers and artists, as well as brands and their agencies, are proving every day that creativity can survive, and even thrive, during lockdown.
But a short film commissioned by the Arts Council England and BBC Arts as part of the ongoing “Culture in Quarantine” project takes that truism to a whole new, hypnotic level.
“Swan Lake Bath Ballet” is, as the name indicates, a Swan Lake-inspired dance performed in a bathtub. Many bathtubs, in fact. And you just have to see it to be sucked in by it. (Bet you can’t watch it just once.)
The mesmerizing 3-minute piece, set to Tchaikovsky’s iconic music, stars 27 elite ballet dancers who shot the footage themselves or with help from a partner or family member. Renowned choreographer Corey Baker created the dance and directed remotely, from his own bathroom in the U.K., with an assist from director of photography Nicola Daley.
“It was like trying to hang a picture with your eyes closed from 5 miles away,” Baker said in a statement. “Dancers became camera operators, stage managers, as well as costume and prop department, not to mention performing tricky choreography at the same time.”
Those performers, by the way, represent the world’s most prestigious dance companies (Royal Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet and American Ballet Theatre, to name a few). And they’re not only stunningly talented and athletic, but also ingenious and resourceful. They used piles of books, a child’s scooter, a toilet plunger and other ad-hoc props to stabilize their smartphones and capture the watery action.
Baker and his collaborators relied on Zoom and the Filmic Pro app, along with makeshift tripods to get the shots and angles they wanted. There’s also the strategic use of rubber ducks, inflatable pools, food coloring and bird feathers. Tons. Of. Feathers.
As innovative as it is, “Swan Lake Bath Ballet” isn’t entirely unique on Baker’s resume. He and his crew at Corey Baker Dance have a reputation for breaking away from the traditional ballet stage, aiming to appeal to a broader, younger audience by using real-world backdrops.
In 2018, they debuted “Antarctica: The First Dance,” a five-minute video shot on that icy continent, followed by “Spaghetti Junction” (as seen from under the infamous British highway intersection) and “Lying Together” (filmed against urban and rural green spaces in Hong Kong). The latter two mini-movies aired on the BBC for the recent World Earth Day.
Director/Choreographer: Corey Baker
Director of Photography: Nicola Daley, ACS
Editor: Travis Moore
Music: Tchaikovsky, Audio Network, Duncan Grimley
Colorist: Jodie Davidson
Online: Dani Jacobs
Corey Baker Dance: Claire Crowley
Executive Producer, The Space: Natalie Woolman
Line Producer: Guy Trevellyan
Producers: Anne Beresford, Corey Baker