Illustration: David Andrassy

Peacock Lake is Balbir Singh’s ice spectacular, developed and first performed as part of Billingham International Festival of World Dance in 2017. Having opened the previous year’s festival with a highly successful sell-out performance of Synchronised, Balbir was keen to see where his collaboration with the festival could go next.

Balbir worked closely with festival director Olga Maloney, whose career background in professional skating brought a deep knowledge of Russia’s ice-skating traditions to complement Balbir’s own cultural interests and experience.

From this starting point Balbir embarked on a wide-ranging creative development process, immersing himself in the history of ice-skating and exploring the rich folk traditions of Russia and India. Along the way he discovered a number of key motifs and ideas that both traditions shared in common.

genesis of the concept


From here it was a short, if creative leap to consider revisiting a western ice-skating classic through the diverse eyes of a different cultural tradition.

The resulting work is a modern take on Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. It draws on the narrative and musical legacy of that great work, to create a contemporary piece reflecting the diverse musical and choreographic traditions of East and West.

Below we reproduce some of the rich visual material, created as part of that development process.

Produced to share with partners and collaborators, they acted as both creative stimulus and promotional aid, articulating the ideas behind the piece and giving tangible form to what was, at least in the early stages, little more than a choreographic glimmer in Balbir’s creative eye.

genesis of the concept


Explore the process

A lost art?
A bridge to India
Immersed in music
When Worlds Collide
The Idea (learning to dance)
Natural curiosity and questions (learning to dance)
Composer thoughts on Learning to Dance
In the presence of geniuses
The story (love and spice)
A dancer reflects on The Strategists (1)
Overview of The Strategists
Breakdown of The Strategists
Roundness of 12: a breakdown of the piece
Breakdown of the piece (love and spice)
Script (12)
Painter research
A dancer reflects on Love and Spice
Full Contact – highlights from the script
Dancer notes performance (flatlands)
Peacock Lake – genesis of the concept
Firing up the Mehfil Machine
The Collaborators
Creative Case – challenges along the way
The Guru-Shishya relationship
What is Kathak?
Life blood
Collaboration: Balbir & Gary
Colouring your emotions
Covid-19 Update on Monday, April 6th, 2020
Creative Case in action – July to September 2019
Finding my way in The Creative Spirit of John Curry
Talent Development – Abirami Eshwar
Talent Development – Kimberley Hardy
Collaborators: Lorna Brown and Gary Beacom
The Work: Act 1
The Work: Act 2
Planning the show
The 8 Dances
Who was Hans Krebs?
The Citric 
 Acid cycle
Balbir’s thoughts behind the work
Balbir on developing the work
Amrita Sher-Gil & Frida Kahlo
My favourite painting is. . .
Balbir reflects on The Two Fridas
Cast one
Devising in lockdown
Las dos Fridas
‘Alas Para Volar (Wings to Fly)’
Amrita – a story that lives in Art