Dance at the deep end: Ballet at Hampton Pool
Vicky Wong talks to Susanne Thomas, Artistic Director of the Seven Sisters dance troupe, ahead of her group’s special collaboration with the English National Ballet at Hampton Pool
The Seven Sisters have danced at both the Royal Opera House and Kings Cross Station. Now, they take the girls from the English National Ballet to Hampton Pool for a very special performance.
Like a Fish Out of Water forms part of 2012’s Cultural Olympiad. It centres on elderly woman who has regularly visited the lido since childhood and is “like a fish out of water” when on land.
Myths and legends, mermaids and selkies; all are explored in this multi sensory performance about growing up and revisiting forgotten places around London. It was performed at Uxbridge Lido in Hillingdon last week and comes to Hampton Pool from July 12 to 14.
Involving dancers, actors, swimmers and divers, the show combines pre-filmed sequences with live performances. Audience members are given an mp3 player and told to walk through the public baths as the story unfolds.
Behind this multi-faceted performance is Susanne Thomas, Artistic Director of the Seven Sisters Group.
For Susanne, one of the challenges was dealing with the conflicting dance styles of Seven Sisters and English National Ballet.
“Our warm up was a ballet class, which is unusual for the contemporary dancers and we had a creative workshop for the contemporary dancers, which was different for the ballet dancers.”
It’s not the first time the ENB dancers have broached unfamiliar territory; they recently performed with breakdancing group Flawless of Britain’s Got Talent fame.
Susanne believes the experience was beneficial for all the dancers involved – describing it as “a knowledge exchange”.
Another challenge was making the dance work in the two locations. Suzanne said: “Both lidos had different needs in relation to the architecture and the layouts of both are different.
“Hillingdon has a refurbished, bright beautiful space but hardly any people. Hampton is the opposite, it’s more of a community pool and is visited a lot.”
So did that make rehearsing at Hampton Pool more difficult because there were more people?
“Not really,” says Suzanne, “if anything, the opposite. It makes it very lively and relates beautifully to the show.
“When you’re performing during opening hours you want to make something that will blend in and stand out. People were integrated with the performance and were curious about what was happening.”
“Yesterday one of the visitors came up to us and said she was really moved and said that it took her all the way back to her childhood.”
The dance is part of the Mayor of London’s Secrets, which sees artists performing in underexposed locations around the capital in a bid to reinvigorate the sites.
That both these public pools are hidden gems of London is also quite poignant for Suzanne. “We did research into lidos in London and found that they had a troubled life.
“They were popular in the 30s and 40s and then went into a bit of a down time.”
In fact, Richmond Council closed Hampton Pool in 1980 for financial reasons while Uxbridge Lido was closed and reopened during the 80s, with vandalism a persistent menace.
Here is hoping that events like these will encourage more people to treasure these beautiful baths.
Like a Fish Out of Water will at Hampton Pool in Richmond Upon Thames from July 12-14. Performances start at 10:30am and 3pm.