From the lion’s den to the pool


Two zookeep­ers are trad­ing car­ni­vores for cozzies as they pre­pare to per­form a wa­ter bal­let in this year’s Auck­land Fringe fes­ti­val.

Since Septem­ber El­lie Stringer and He­len Wat­son have been train­ing with Wet Hot Beau­ties, an Auck­land wa­ter bal­let com­pany.

The all in­clu­sive retro group was founded nine years ago by two women who were want­ing to pur­sue syn­chro­nised swim­ming but told they were too old.

Wat­son and Stringer have joined the com­pany for Sea Change, a wa­ter-based per­for­mance with 80 dancers that ex­plores the role fe­males play in to­day’s so­ci­ety by chal­leng­ing the de­mands and ex­pec­ta­tions placed on them. Wat­son said join­ing the troupe came about when her and Stringer were look­ing for a new chal­lenge after hav­ing swum the Auck­land har­bour to raise money for the en­dan­gered Su­ma­tran tigers.

Em­brac­ing the glam­our of wa­ter bal­let has been a con­trast from their day job as zookeep­ers work­ing with car­ni­vores, she said.

‘‘It’s a pretty nice op­por­tu­nity for us, as you can imag­ine it’s a fairly heavy duty, unglam­orous role that we work within.’’

Wet Hot Beau­ties aim to in­clude women of all body types, which Wat­son said was pos­i­tive given the im­age stan­dards pushed upon women.

‘‘There’s women of all dif­fer­ent ages, walks of life, ev­ery dif­fer­ent shape and size and we all just get to­gether and have so much fun and sup­port each other,’’’ Wat­son said.

Stringer said nei­ther her or Wat­son were nat­u­ral dancers.

‘‘Ev­ery­one does make mis­takes and you can laugh about how se­ri­ous you’re be­ing in each move be­cause you’re try­ing to learn all these things.’’

The per­for­mance has been de­scribed as ’’syn­chro­nised wad­ing’’ as op­posed to syn­chro­nised swim­ming, she said. ’’If just one of you is off [time] it af­fects the look of the whole thing.’’ Wat­son said it’s all about be­ing per­fectly syn­chro­nised.

‘‘Even if we have nerves and even if we can’t see things com­ing to­gether at this stage we just have to have to have faith in the peo­ple who are run­ning it and the chore­og­ra­pher.’’

The Wet Hot Beau­ties per­form Sea Change from Fe­bru­ary 21 to 26 at the Par­nell Baths.


Auck­land zookeep­ers He­len Wat­son and El­lie Stringer have found a new pas­time in wa­ter bal­let.

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