Aqua Mob’s water ballet strips ’80s fantasy to its core

After a splashy spin 'Animal Farm,' Aqua Mob have returned to take to the classic '80s animated musical 'The Last Unicorn.'

by Alex Galbraith
August 3, 2018

(Photo: Josh Hailey. Illustration: Jenna Knoblach)

Taking a trip down the water ballet YouTube video wormhole reveals a lot of stunning, beautiful sameness. While the moves pulled off by these in-sync athletes are technically incredible, the high-energy but bloodless soundtracks can’t help but leave you feeling a little cold.

That’s not the case with New Orleans’ only water ballet company Aqua Mob. It would have been impossible to bring the sport-slash-spectacle to the city of backup costume trunks without injecting a flair for the dramatic. And that’s exactly what the company intends to do when their second production The Last! rolls into The Drifter starting August 9.

Far from Olympic-sized pools and matching leotards, audiences can expect dramatic staging and aerialists performing circus tricks all wrapped up in a parody of the ’80s animated musical, The Last Unicorn.

Writer/director Alayne Gobeille is an old hand at staging outside-the-norm productions in the city. When she first moved here in 2007, she fell in with what she described as “a nice little community of circus artists.” Gobeille helped stage shows for Fringe festivals for years in the city, eventually putting together her own show called Revenge From The Deep Water.

The show had trademarks that would echo throughout all the shows that the full-time lawyer and part-time circus performer has helmed since. It was a parody of an existing work (in this case, Godzilla) that sent up current events (the Deepwater Horizon oil spill) using acrobats and aerialists.

After a sabbatical from the city during which she performed with Baltimore’s massive water ballet company Fluid Movement, Gobeille returned to New Orleans and helped to launch the Aqua Mob last May. Their first production, Two Legs Bad, was a send-up of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, pared down to fit the medium of water ballet and the dimensions of the Drifter’s pool. The upcoming production follows a similar mold, sticking to what Gobeille called “darker stories” because the collective feels that these are “somewhat dark times, politically.”

“Those are the kinds of stories we found really resonated with us and a lot of people from our community,” she said.

She said that The Last! will be “somewhat a parody of conventional sci-fi and fantasy tropes” noting that they “got rid of the heteronormative part of the plotline completely.”

Gobeille added that the themes of the original work are especially powerful today as they tell a story of “someone taking back power from their oppressors.”

She said that the Mob found strength in the story of a “marginalized character who takes control of her destiny and goes out to find her people.”

“The story has strong female or non-gender-conforming leads and we really appreciate that,” she said. “It’s about rising up against an oppressor and winning. Those are fun stories.”

The Last! will strip that powerful story down to its essential elements, turning the musical into a “dance-heavy, spectacle-heavy” show that would no doubt be great on a stage, but will really wow in a pool.

The Last! runs from August 9-11 and 16-18. Tickets start at $15 and can be purchased online here.

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