I crossed this off my bucket list: choreographing a dance number with The DecoBelles historic dance troupe, famous for their waving beachballs, flying footwork and bright red lipstick smiles. The “water ballet.” was in honor of the unveiling of the new mural, “Birds of Lake Merritt,” by Cleo Villet of OMCA fame, which now grace the pool of the Bellevue Club. I met the mural committee chair last winter at the Mills Alumnae Tea, who had dreamed of having synchronized swimmers at the dedication. As a founding member of the DecoBelles, who happen to rehearse in my Zumba room at the Bellevue, I told her I thought I might be able to make that happen.
I so enjoyed collaborating with their director, the amazing Laurie Gordon (a driving force behind the Art Deco Society’s magical events). I dove right into the project in the name of research for my serialized prescriptive book, Dance Like a DecoBelle.
Designing a show that would be viewed from across a pool and from the mezzanine above meant confining the action to a limited viewing space, and a “stage” only two feet wide. I had nine dancers enter and perform some cool moves along the wall, then four of them sat down on the ledge in front of the others to create some layered movement. Three swimmers approached from across the pool and performed moves in front of the standing and seated dancers, trying not to steal the entire show.
For the big finish, dancers put down their gold beachballs and passed sixteen copper life preservers among themselves in a move I dubbed “the donut machine.” At the cathartic finish, we tossed them out into the pool, over the heads of the swimmers, and picked up our balls again.
“We?” Yes, at the last rehearsal, one of our dancers dropped out and I had to decide between re-writing the choreography and filling in. More proud of the dance design than I was shy about my jiggly old thighs, I suited up and came out of my 20-year retirement.
My favorite features were the “extras” around the edges. A bird flew out ahead of the dancers and did bird-like things; and a mermaid appeared halfway through the routine and wandered around, trying to steal the show. It took a lot of communication and negotiation, but in the end, things turned out exactly as I’d imagined them… but in glorious poolside technicolor!