Every summer in Baltimore—home of Faerie Magazine, as it happens—around public pools and in city parks, a variety of mermaid-style transformations take place as locals of all ages, ethnicities, shapes, sizes, and skill levels come together to put on an old-fashioned glitter-filled synchronized-swim water-ballet extravaganza. Back in the day, aqua shows were the height of glamour, and mermaid queens like Annette Kellerman (who was not only the first professional mermaid but the first water ballerina) and Esther Williams (who played Kellerman in 1952’s Million Dollar Mermaid) starred in spectacular watery productions at the world’s biggest venues. The arts collective Fluid Movement has carried on the tradition since 1999, though admittedly in a kitsch-laden, ultra-fabulous, and very Baltimore-type manner.

And it’s wonderful. Past show titles and themes have included “Earth, Wind, and the Great Baltimore Fire,” “Jason and the Aquanauts: 20,000 Legs Over the Sea,” “Rebel Teen From Outer Space! An Extraterrestrial Water Ballet Adventure,” the Tolstoy-inspired “War and Fleas,” and … Jeff Goldblum (as in “Goldblum: The Water Ballet”), which was the first show I saw after moving to Baltimore in 2015 and which blew my mind with its goofiness, brilliance, and unadulterated mix of joy and dazzle. During one number, a troop of glittering, wing-wearing performers leaped into the water and did a dreamy synchronized swim to the Cramps’ “Human Fly” as the (packed, standing-room-only) audience surrounding the pool cheered and clapped and the green of Baltimore’s Druid Hill Park shimmered in the distance. Not every move was perfectly executed, but it didn’t matter: Everyone was having a great time, whether performing in the show or watching and cheering from the sidelines. This summer’s theme is Hitchcock movies, and this time I’ll be in the show, too.

President and co-founder Valarie Perez-Schere describes Fluid Movement as being “very much about joy”: “There are not a lot of ways for adults to come together and play,” she says, “to be free and childlike and joyous. Fluid Movement is like a siren song, luring you into the water. We’re having fun and you can too.” Everyone is welcome (even those who can’t swim!), and shows are cast on a first-come, first-served basis. Perez-Schere also emphasizes the value of connection. “It’s why people want to see live shows, live events,” she says, “to have an experience together, an ephemeral moment that we all share”—one that flares up in all its beauty and dazzle and then is gone. There might be 500 people together in a city park for a Fluid Movement show, watching a performance unfold in which anything could happen. Sharing that moment collectively, Perez-Schere says, “has meaning and power. We’re all in it together, rooting for something. The audience wants everyone to win.”

Read more about Fluid Movement, which puts on other events, including the occasional roller-skating revue, at fluidmovement.org.

Article from the Mermaid Issue #43 2018

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Carolyn Turgeon is the author of five novels, most of them fairy tales, and the editor-in-chief and co-owner of Enchanted Living. She also penned The Faerie Handbook, The Mermaid Handbook, and The Unicorn Handbook, all from HarperCollins.