Researching the history of aquatic performance

From vaudeville mermaids to Olympic synchronized swimming

Featured Articles

Hail, Caesar! and the Rise & Fall of the Aquamusical

The Coen brother's newest film, Hail, Caesar! channels the glamour of the Golden-era "aquamusical," the splashy, pool-centric musical genre made popular by Esther Williams in the 1940s and early 1950s. In one of the film's movie-within-a-movie subplots, Scarlett Johansson plays a sequined Hollywood mermaid starring in an Esther Williams-style aquamusical with daring high dives, spouting water fountains, and aerial shots of synchronized swimmers in shifting, geometric patterns reminiscent of thos

It’s Long Past Time for Male Synchronized Swimmers to Get Invited to the Olympics

They slice past one another’s bodies, their sequined costumes reflecting sparkles of light in a thousand directions. He catches her foot and swings her, in a curved arc, around his body. There is a passionate pursuit, with grabbing and fleeing, a feigned strike to the face and a fleeting but exultant embrace. Like embattled lovers, their movements harmonize one moment and clash in discordant turbulence the next—and the audience loves it. This is not figure skating, nor is it ballet or even a tan

Why Isn’t There a U.S. Synchronized Swimming Team in Rio?

Karensa Tjoa didn’t have Olympic ambitions in 2006 when she first joined the Santa Clara Aquamaids, the most elite synchronized-swimming club in the United States. “To be honest I didn’t have much talent at the beginning,” she told me, but the team’s head coach Chris Carver, also a longtime Olympic coach, thought otherwise and took Tjoa under her wing. Tjoa’s ambitions grew, and at the age of 15 she opted to trade high school for a combination of online classes and homeschooling so she could spe

The Fair that brought Synchronized Swimming to the Masses

Esther Williams is often mistakenly credited with introducing synchronized swimming to the world through her aquamusicals—aquatic-themed movies produced by MGM in the 1940s and 1950s featuring elaborate pool scenes and water ballets. Though Williams did a lot to popularize synchronized swimming while it was still a developing sport, she did not invent it, nor was she the first to present it to the public on a major scale. While the question of who “invented” synchronized swimming is up for deba

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