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Please dance ‘Swan Lake’ in your bathtub

Boston Ballet's Viktorina Kapitonova is one of 27 elite dancers worldwide who make it look easy for this unusual short BBC Arts film

Boston Ballet's Viktorina Kapitonova is one of 27 dancers from around the world appearing in the new short film, "Swan Lake Bath Ballet."
Boston Ballet's Viktorina Kapitonova is one of 27 dancers from around the world appearing in the new short film, "Swan Lake Bath Ballet."Ryan Capstick

Water ripples and feathers fly in a new take on “Swan Lake.” However, this splashy little confection doesn’t unfold across performance stages but in the bathtubs of 27 elite dancers from 18 renowned companies from around the globe, including Boston Ballet principal dancer Viktorina Kapitonova.

Since quarantine began, companies and independent artists around the world have put together a variety of videos inspired by the classic ballet, including a Boston Ballet collaboration with the Boston Pops, and Misty Copeland’s “Swans for Relief.”

BBC Arts, as part of the broadcaster’s Culture in Quarantine program, commissioned award-winning choreographer/filmmaker Corey Baker to take a stab at reimagining movement for an iconic segment of Tchaikovsky’s beloved score, and his new short video is an eye-popping charmer. Disembodied limbs peek out above bathtub rims with glorious articulated motion, quirky movement phrases filmed from above multiply into fractured kaleidoscopic images, and one quick dip in a pool offers a delightful audio surprise.

Initially released in the United Kingdom and quickly going viral, the three-minute video is now making a big splash around the world via a wide range of social media platforms. (It was released Thursday on the BBC’s YouTube channel. )


To contribute content to the project, dancers filmed themselves, or enlisted help from housemates or partners. They used mostly cellphones and all manner of innovative tripods and stabilizers, from a child’s scooter to a toilet plunger. Baker and a small production team, including director of photography Nicola Daley, worked with the dancers as they filmed via Zoom, choreographing and directing the ballet segments from their own separate bathrooms in the UK, an experience Baker likened to “trying to hang a picture with your eyes closed from five miles away.”

Kapitonova is featured in the opening and closing segments, performing in a standalone tub (specially delivered for the project) in her Back Bay living room surrounded by 100 candles. Her husband, Ryan Capstick, was her cameraman during the four-hour shoot, with their son Henry and new dog patiently standing by. For the final shot, Kapitonova says Capstick came up with an idea that required a feat of “engineering adventure” — creating a special box to rig his iPhone to the ceiling.


Kapitonova, who had been feeling the effects of quarantine when she connected with Baker via Boston Ballet artistic director Mikko Nissinen, was grateful for the opportunity to do more than take online classes to practice her art form. “We need that feeling of performing and expressing ourselves,” she says. “It was a really fun project. You can actually do more than you think, with a bit of imagination.”

Karen Campbell can be reached at karencampbell4@rcn.com.