Water ballet with a sense of humor at SynchroSwim 2013 in D.C.


Maida Withers Dance Construction Company’s choreography for its “Sink or Swim” piece included, from left, Anthony Gongora, John Moletress and Giselle Ruzany. (Shaun Schroth/ Courtesy of the artists and Washington Project for the Arts)
August 4, 2013

In a hotel ballroom Saturday afternoon, a nervous bride prepared for her poolside processional by practicing “grands battements.” Giselle Ruzany took a breath and swung her leg up, sideways, watching in the mirror as her toes extended above her head in a swirl of satin and tulle. With her feet back firmly on the floor, she adjusted her veil and goggles. There. Perfect. Cue Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March.” Ruzany was ready to take the plunge.

“Sink or Swim,” a four-minute water ballet about love, marriage and pool fights, swept the awards Saturday at SynchroSwim 2013, a quasi-annual spectacle organized by the Washington Project for the Arts. About 400 people gathered around the Capitol Skyline Hotel pool, curious to see what this year’s coterie of competitive performance artists, dancers and swimmers would do. The in-ground pool rules? Teams of at least two people perform four-minute routines accompanied by music. At some point, someone has to get wet.

As with ice skating, each SynchroSwim team was given two scores, one for “execution” and one for “spectacle.” Defending champs Fluid Movement were noticeably absent: The Baltimore-based troupe was home staging “Moby Dick” in the Patterson Park Pool. (Yes, really: www.fluidmovement.org.) That cleared the way for the Maida Withers Dance Construction Company to score big. The choreography company’s “Sink or Swim” began with two couples processing around the pool, pausing to canoodle on a waterproof couch. But while Ruzany and her groom, Anthony Gongora, twirled their way to waterborne bliss, a second couple, John Moletress and Tatiana Domovidova, fell into the pool and attempted to drown each other by the goggles. Before diving in, Ruzany went up on the balls of her feet and extended her body over the water, supported by Gongora, who clutched the train of her dress.

Take that, Kate and Leo! The judges were impressed. Molly Smith, Arena Stage artistic director, and Julianne Brienza, executive director of the Capital Fringe Festival, gave the troupe 10s, while Wolf Trap President Arvind Manocha held up an 8 and a 9. Coming in just a few points behind was “Antarctica,” a revisionist “Little Mermaid” staged by Aether Art Projects. Various food products were involved, including a bottle of Strawberry Nesquik employed by the explorer who triumphed over Ursula and her tentacles. It was amusing, to be sure. Unless you were the lifeguard, who at the contest’s end was left skimming Crisco out of the pool.

Ritzel is a freelance writer.

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