FOLLOWING a stunning 50th anniversary season which included Helen Pickett’s remarkable reinvention of The Crucible and shimmering festive spectacular The Snow Queen, Scottish Ballet had spent much of 2020 readying the return of David Dawson’s sleek take on one of the world’s best-loved titles Swan Lake.

But among the avalanche of cancellations and postponements this past week came news that Swan Lake’s opening runs in Edinburgh and Aberdeen next month would no longer go ahead.

Cancelled too are the remaining performances of their edgy double bill This Is My Body at The Joyce Theatre in New York and in London, where Scottish Ballet were set to make their Royal Opera House debut.

Though tickets currently remain on sale for the Inverness and Glasgow performances of Swan Lake, Scottish Ballet’s artistic director and chief executive Christopher Hampson – the man who originally challenged Dawson in 2016 to create a contemporary version of the iconic ballet – says that may change.

“Like everybody else in these very uncertain times, we’re obviously just reacting to news and new directives as they come in,” says Hampson, before hitting the nail squarely on the head: “Isn’t this the irony, that in the time when we really need the arts and culture in our lives, we’re not able to congregate?”

Thankfully, Scottish Ballet has a rich programme of content already online, thanks to work amassed from their two digital seasons to date. In 2019, the company worked with choreographers including Morgann Runacre-Temple and Jessica Wright of Company Wayne McGregor, San Francisco Ballet dancer Myles Thatcher and Glasgow-based sculptor Zachary Eastwood-Bloom in creating dance pieces for the screen, whether the cinema or the hand-held device.

This is in addition to work created for Scottish Ballet’s inaugural digital season back in 2017.

“When we presented our first digital season, no-one really knew what we were doing,” says Hampson. “But we knew that there was a space online and on digital platforms for dance. Dance is so universal. It doesn’t rely on linguistics to communicate what it needs. We wanted to see, I guess with a sense of prophecy in hindsight, was what dance in this area might look like.”

Rather than a stream of a live stage productions like the BBC’s Christmas Eve broadcast of Hampson and designer Lez Brotherston’s sumptuous Snow Queen, these works were intended to be experienced digitally from the off.

“While capturing works on the screen that we’ve put on the stage is wonderful and there’s definitely a place for that, I like to think we go beyond that,” says Hampson. “One question we often ask ourselves at Scottish Ballet is: ‘How are we distinctive?’ And I think we are distinctive digitally. We commission work that can only ever be seen through the digital platforms and the digital space. That really excites us as it’s taking the art form into a new realm and catapulting us into a new era.”

Particularly forward-thinking was the appointment in 2019 of Eastwood-Bloom as Scottish Ballet’s first digital artist in residence. An artist who transforms traditional sculptures with modern digital technologies, Eastwood-Bloom collaborated with musicians such as Ben Chatwin and Ash Koosha as well as artist-choreographers from the company to create three works inspired by Greek myth. The powerful trilogy exists both in the real world as live performances and in the virtual world as films.

The National:

AND rather than feeling removed from the action, films such as Thatcher’s Frontiers (above), a kinetic, graceful exploration of gender norms shot under the M8 motorway, and Wright and Runacre-Temple’s Tremble, which features 26 performers dancing to a track by SAY award-winning composer Anna Meredith, make for exciting, intimate experiences.

“They created this really fascinating world where the people at a restaurant suddenly become the people serving than the people being served,” Hampson says of the latter. “It’s a piece which can only work online. It’s a really fun work and shows the company in a really different light.”

He continues: “I think it’s different to experience work digitally rather than on stage. And I use that word ‘experience’ quite pointedly. You’re not just watching it like when you go to the theatre, you are engaging in an experience. What you find is the viewer, the participant, is much closer to the work. We can be accenting very specific parts of the work or focusing on one dancer, and that can give a very visceral and physical experience. Also we’re able to set the dance in some very obscure environments. We’ve used the inside of a disused swimming pool, moorland up in the highlands and everything in between.”

In Swan Lake, outsider Siegfried, having betrayed his true love, is once again left by himself. Now the swans have disappeared into the darkness he must navigate an uncertain future alone.

And though watching dance performances in your living room may not match the glamour of some of Scotland’s biggest theatres, you’ll be far from the only folk enjoying the company’s work online. As Hampson notes, Scottish Ballet’s digital work has fans from across the planet.

Times may be unprecedented, incomes precarious, but like most creative organisations, Scottish Ballet asks that you bear with them along this unknown road.

In the autumn, their 2020/21 season is set to continue with the first production outside London of Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s dramatic The Scandal At Mayerling, followed by Christmas favourite The Nutcracker by Peter Darrell, the dancer-choreographer who founded Scottish Ballet in 1969.

“Performing and sharing our love of dance with the people of Scotland is what we do,” says Hampson. “And when we’re not able to do that in any live sense, we’re not bringing in any revenue. If people want to support us, they could consider that, if they have booked to see Swan Lake, rather than get a refund, they could donate their ticket back to the theatre and Scottish Ballet. Or they could transfer that ticket to come and see something later on in the year.

“I would say to people, if they can’t come to see us at Swan Lake, do come to see us in one of our wonderful productions in the near future.”

Swan Lake: April 23 to 25, Eden Court, Inverness; April 29 to May 2, Theatre Royal, Glasgow. Book at

Watch Scottish Ballet’s digital work at