Briar Bates died last month. But before she left she came up with an idea to commemorate her life. She wanted her friends — mostly artists, but mostly nondancers — to perform a joyful and awkward water ballet titled “Ankle Deep” in the kiddie wading pool at Volunteer Park. The idea hit her while lying in bed, fighting through the pain of a ravenous cancer (which doctors had diagnosed only a few months earlier), looking up at a chandelier she’d made with Barbie dolls in swimming caps and a symmetrical, Busby Berkeley-style formation.

A few weeks after Bates died, her friends charged into the wading pool in matching, homemade, seafoam-green swimsuits with ruffly caps. They created a spectacle that attracted hundreds of people to a wildly joyful soundtrack you could hear across the park.

This was a collaborative project by over 40 local artists. Carey Christie, a Hiawatha resident, and friend of Briar’s, helped produce the event and performed in the water ballet.

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