Discussions started in 2012 when Ekman was making Resin for the second stage. The idea was mooted that he should create a major work for the House. ‘Then I walked into the auditorium. I saw all this wood and had such a strong feeling of nature; I imagined the stage covered with water’. Searching for a concept, his train of thought went from water to ballet before arriving at its natural conclusion in Swan Lake.
The work is in three acts. The first, ‘A Play’, looks back to the original, and not very successful, creation in 1877 and involves actors and dancers. The second, ‘A Lake’ is Ekman’s contemporary version of the ballet set in water, followed by a short third act, ‘A Future’. There is nothing of the story as we know it, there is no Siegfried, no Rothbart but the battle between good and evil remains in Odette and Odile, the white and the black swan. Ekman describes it as ‘more like a mirror of life.’
The watery scene in act two is where the company had to learn to dance on water. ‘It’s been a crazy process. You could almost call it slideography. It’s a whole new way of moving. You have to control and hold your muscles in a way that is different than when you run around. On Friday afternoons I couldn’t even walk sometimes because I was so sore in new places’.
‘It has been so much fun to make this work. I started trying out the water in a 3m x 3m pool and worked up to the big studio and a 16m x 16m lake. We learnt a lot in the process of finding out how to do it and the dancers were sliding around and calling out “Hey, this is so cool!” Then one fell, two days later another went down. It was the moment when I thought we would have to cancel because there was so much falling in the creation process’.
‘I had to sit down with the dancers and talk, to remind them to be responsible and take care of their bodies. I became very strict – “no more goofing around, we have to treat this with respect”. The outcome is that we are wearing cycle helmets.’ It was a steep learning curve in leadership skills for Ekman. ‘I felt really responsible every time someone fell and it was impossible to create when there was blood in the studio. It was a challenge also to bring back the excitement and move from fear back to creation. But we coped and I’m proud of my management skills for this.’