Local performance art group stages 'Moby-Dick' water ballet show

No two adaptations of "Moby-Dick" are the same, but it's doubtful that any previous rendition featured a synchronized-swimming skit to Rick James' song "Super Freak," a chance to win a Groupon to a local hair salon or a cameo by Esther Williams.

This eclectic twist on Melville's classic whaling novel came courtesy of the Baltimore-based performance group Fluid Movement in its 12th annual Water Ballet Spectacular on Saturday afternoon at Druid Hill Park Pool before a crowd of about 400.

The troupe will repeat the performance at 5 p.m. Sunday at Druid Hill Park Pool with encores on Aug. 3 and 4 at Patterson Park Pool.

Fluid Movement began in 1999 at Patterson Park, when founding member Valarie Perez-Schere led efforts to bring artistic works to the community. The group develops performance art mainly for urban audiences.

"It was community building, and it was trying to embrace public parks and public space and use them to their fullest," Perez-Schere said. "We did roller skating shows outside the park, and we've done shows in undeveloped buildings. Synchronized swimming was the first thing we did."

Producer Ted Alsedek sought to perform the "Moby-Dick" after musing while walking along the area last August where Memorial Stadium once stood.

"We read the book. It took us about two days," said Alsedek, who wrote the script with Perez-Schere. "We got the concise version. Pictures really helped us."

The audience, which included some who had participated in a previous Fluid Movement show themselves, delighted at the witty banter of narrator Ishmael, played by Sidney Pink. The 40-minute show had many of the trappings of the novel, with maniacal captain Ahab chasing after a white whale before succumbing to his death in the choppy seas.

But unlike the novel, Fluid Movement offered a different ending, with the crew's ghost coming back for a final water dance to the tune of Lakeside's "Fantastic Voyage."

The show came to a close just before a windy rainstorm rolled through the area.

"It was a great turnout," Pink said. "Usually for the first show, on a Saturday, heat keeps people away. But they came out in droves despite the weather."

jburris@baltsun.com