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Synchronized swimmers transform public pools into 'Science Fair' ballet

BALTIMORE, MD -- 7/30/16 -- Fluid Movement, a Baltimore-based performance art group known for offbeat water ballets, roller skating musicals and disco workouts, performs its 15th annual synchronized swimming ballet at Druid Park Pool. Caitlin Faw/Baltimore Sun staff
BALTIMORE, MD -- 7/30/16 -- Fluid Movement, a Baltimore-based performance art group known for offbeat water ballets, roller skating musicals and disco workouts, performs its 15th annual synchronized swimming ballet at Druid Park Pool. Caitlin Faw/Baltimore Sun staff (Caitlin Faw / Baltimore Sun)

The deep end at Druid Hill Park Pool became a stage Saturday night, filled with about 80 synchronized swimmers covered in glitter, paint, neon gauntlets and recycled trash — not one of them ever touching the bottom.

Fluid Movement, a Baltimore-based performing arts group known for its water ballet, roller-skating musicals and disco workouts, put on a water ballet at the public pool to raise awareness about city aquatics and bring together the community.

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The nonprofit plans to put on its 15th annual production, called "Science Fair," at the Druid Hill Park and Patterson Park pools several times over the next week.

"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," said the show's producer, Valarie Perez-Schere. "Artists can kind of do that."

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Perez-Schere, 43, helped found the Fluid Movement in 1999, turning young and old, often inexperienced and even some pregnant residents into synchronized swimmers.

"They can help raise the visibility of things, of issues, of resources that need help and attention of the entire city," she said.

Previous themes have been "Film Noir" and "Star Spangled Summer." This year, with the tagline "Hypothesis: It's Gonna Be Awesome!" the water ballet features scenes based on middle school science projects, exploring how energy is generated from wind and solar, what it would take to grow plants on Mars and one of the Inner Harbor's biggest cleanup efforts — Mr. Trash Wheel.

The show pays homage to the solar- and water-powered water wheel, which collected 19 tons of trash in one day in April of last year and 55,000 cigarette butts over a six-month period, according to city officials.

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"Trash dazzled" swimmers with trash bag flowers, recycled Old Bay labels and shiny beer can pendants attached to their swimsuits are swept up into a replica wheel during show.

Claire Hanway, 30, who goes by "Claire Force One," joined Fluid Movement this year and made her debut during the Mr. Trash Wheel scene after being thrown into the air by her fellow cast members.

"It feels like summer camp," said Hanway. "I've never done this before, but it's a great reason to get outside after work and make some friends."

It's also given her a boost in confidence.

"I've learned to just have fun and not care what people think," she said.

Perez-Schere said that being part of Fluid Movement has been rewarding for her and the other swimmers.

"They come to the first rehearsal, and some say 'I'm going to throw up,'" she said. "But by the end, they're making it to their spaces with time to spare."

The program also gives adults and children time to "play," she said. Participants range in age from 9 to 73.

Suzanne Lebovit, the oldest swimmer, last tried synchronized swimming in college at the University of Maryland. She quit back then because of illness and didn't join Fluid Movement until four years ago.

"The first year, I struggled. The second year, everything was cool," Lebovit said, her fingernails painted an electric yellow and her black swimsuit decorated with yellow and orange fabric before her performance in the energy scene.

"To be goddamn 73 years old, and I can still do it, is rewarding," she said.

If you go

Catch Fluid Movement's "Science Fair" production at Druid Hill Park Pool, 800 Wyman Park Drive, at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday. More performances will be held at Patterson Park Pool, 148 S. Linwood Ave., at 9 p.m. Friday; 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturday; and 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. Aug. 7. Tickets are $10. For more information, visit www.fluidmovement.org.

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