Why This Wacky Water Ballet Is a Baltimore Summer Tradition

Fluid Movement's synchronized swimmers jump in for their routine.
Fluid Movement's synchronized swimmers jump in for their routine. | © gavin heck / Flickr

A water ballet about Alfred Hitchcock? In Baltimore, it’s not that strange—just another wacky and wonderful performance from Fluid Movement, which brings communities together through art and celebrates what makes the people and the city unique.

When you think of water ballet or synchronized swimming, you may picture the Summer Olympics or a scene from a 1930s movie musical, full of young women in sequined swim caps. But aside from the glitter and coordinated choreography, everything else about Fluid Movement’s water ballets defies expectations.

Fluid Movement turns local pools into performance spaces each summer in Baltimore. | © gavin heck / Flickr

Founded in 1999, Fluid Movement is a Baltimore-based performance group that, in its words, “juxtaposes complex subject matter with delightful and unexpected mediums.” While those mediums also include roller-skating musicals and interpretive dance numbers, the annual water ballet is the group’s largest production of the year. With nearly 100 Baltimore residents involved and sellout crowds lining the pool at each performance, it has been highlighted as a must-see event for newcomers in Baltimore Magazine.

Along with 2018’s Alfred Hitchcock Presents: The Water Ballet, inspired by the psychological thrillers of Alfred Hitchcock, past water ballets have tackled themes like “Sharkespeare,” the War of 1812, film noir, sci-fi, and Jeff Goldblum. The video clip below showcases a routine from 2016’s Science Fair! The Water Ballet, centered around Baltimore icon Mr. Trash Wheel.

These tongue-in-cheek concepts may seem incompatible with the typical grace of water ballet. But the dedicated volunteer cast and crew of Fluid Movement make it work and have plenty of fun while doing it.

Since the only requirement to participate is to have basic swimming skills, Baltimore residents of all ages, genders, and types can join in—even if they’re pregnant! Co-producer Rachel Kassman, in an interview with WYPR, said, “It’s a lot like seeing the end of the theater camp play, except with folks of all ages, sizes, and from all over Baltimore.”

Colorful costumes are a staple of Fluid Movement's water ballets. | © gavin heck / Flickr

Productions are made up of five to six swimming routines strung together by wacky scripted scenes, performed on the rear deck of the pool. With sets, props, swimmable costumes, and lots of glittery, waterproof makeup, these are full-scale productions that truly transform Druid Hill Park and Patterson Park’s pools into performance venues—which is part of the point.

Playing one weekend at each venue, the water ballets also function as a way to showcase the city’s urban spaces. Producer and founding member Valarie Perez-Schere said in an article for The Baltimore Sun, “A lot of folks in Baltimore don’t realize that [the pools] are there. They don’t come to these pools. They don’t see how beautiful they are, so we’re trying to bring more people.”

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