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Sink or Swim by choreographer Charlotte Edmonds Photo by Zac Macaulay

Sink or Swim

In her short film, Charlotte Edmonds explores the effects of mental health and depression in a mesmerising underwater ballet.

Sink or Swim is a poetic depiction of depression through underwater ballet, developed with the support of the mental health charity Mind. With choreography by Charlotte Edmonds, directed by Louis-Jack and featuring Royal Ballet Principal Francesca Hayward, it delves into the mind of someone battling to keep their head above water.

“I have always used dance to express my emotions and concerns. I use it as a vehicle to portray a vivid topic in my mind. When training, I went through phases where I had hit rock bottom. I found myself suffering in silence and never felt encouraged to speak out. This is why I am passionate about this film—there should be no shame in admitting you can’t keep your head above water.” - Charlotte Edmonds

The film was inspired by Ian Cumberland’s 2015 BP portrait ‘Sink or Swim’, a self-portrait of Ian in a bath depicting the strain of mental stress. The configuration of the body, and its conflicting surroundings, paints a potent visual representation of a state of mind.

Sink or Swim, an Oil on Linen self portrait from Ian Cumberland depicting him lying fully clothed in a bath full of water.Sink or Swim by Ian Cumberland, 2014 © Ian Cumberland

‘This painting reflects a period when I was feeling low. I feel it is pretty honest, but I see it more as a wake up call to try and change the things you have control of.’ - Ian Cumberland


Directed by filmmaker Louis-Jack Horton Stephens and developed with the support of the mental health charity Mind, the new film features Principal dancer of The Royal Ballet, Francesca Hayward, dancing to Charlotte’s choreography, captured underwater with an underwater camera.


‘A poetic depiction of depression through underwater ballet’ - Royal Opera House

The film went on the be featured by Nowness and screened at the Royal Opera House. In a blog with the mental health charity Mind, Charlotte explains how she used dance to express her emotions and aimed to reduce the stigma around mental health issues with the underwater film.

A Photo of Charlotte with the caption 'There should be no shame in admitting you don't feel you can keep your head above water''There should be no shame in admitting you don't feel you can keep your head above water' Photo by Alice Pennefather

Watch the film on YouTube Sink or Swim: an underwater ballet about depression or Nowness Just Dance: Sink or Swim. Read Charlotte's blog Our underwater dance film tackling mental health stigma from mind.org.uk and follow her on twitter for updates: @CharlotteEdmon9.

Watch the film on Charlotte Edmonds YouTube Channel