So please do not be too jealous, but tomorrow I am heading off to Weeki Wachee Springs to participate in next weekend’s Sirens of the Deep Mermaid Camp, led by some extremely fabulous former Weeki Wachee Mermaids. The camp is two days long and involves the passing on of many many mermaidly secrets, not to mention the getting-in of tails as well as the plunging-into of crystal-clear historic underwater mermaid theaters.
Recently a whole belly dance troupe, Muse Fusion, participated in mermaid camp, and so I figured I should talk to them. Not only because they went to the camp and survived it, thus making me feel somewhat reassured, but because they are bellydancing mermaids. I don’t think I need to elaborate on that.
Here are said bellydancers after their transformations, on dry land and in the water:
My Q and A with Muse Fusion director Luna and Muse Fusion member Kristal follows.
So what is Muse Fusion?
Luna: Muse Creative Fusion Dance is an international dance company providing unique performances for special events. Muse Fusion started out as a way to find creative freedom and expand on the opportunities that presented themselves. I’ve always had to make something out of nothing so when event planners didn’t know what to do with my work it seemed I had no choice but to create my own company so that I could have integrity and creative control over the work. When I started fire performance if the client didn’t see a visual of me doing it, I had to explain what it is as I was the only one performing my style of fire performance back then. Now with the addition of more performers and acts the best way I can describe it is, that Muse Fusion is a blend of Ancient Traditions and Modern Visions and we continue to evolve…We can’t just say we are belly dancers as our belly dance ranges from traditional to modern to theatrical..We are belly dancing mermaids. We can’t just say we are mermaids, we are fire belly dancing mermaids.
Kristal: Muse Fusion is the company that Luna founded. It’s a complete entertainment company. I get to belly dance, Latin Dance, spin fire, and swim with my friends. What’s better than that?
How/why did you all decide to go to Mermaid Camp at Weeki Wachee?
Kristal: Luna was looking at sending her daughter to the kid’s camp and said something about it. When I looked at the site, I saw that there was also an adult camp. Luna and I had performed together at kid’s parties before, but we really wanted to learn more from what we consider the source. I contacted [former mermaid] Barbara Wynns (who is amazing and wonderful) and set it up for us to go. Once I had all the applications in hand, I mailed them to Barbara, and we went to camp!
Luna: I loved Weeki Wachee as a child and wanted to give my daughter the experience of visiting the magical springs. When I saw they had an adult camp I jumped at the opportunity. I had experience as a mermaid model and then a mermaid performer for kid’s parties and corporate events so I thought mermaid camp would be a great way to learn from the source and maybe pick up a few skills that may come in use for my work. My daughter wants to attend next year.
Had any of you been to Weeki before?
Kristal: I went once with my grandparents as a child, and thought it was magical. I was right!
Luna: I went as a child and wanted so badly to jump in and swim with the mermaids. The springs are truly amazing.
Can you describe the camp experience?
Kristal: It really is magical. The water is freezing, but all of the women we learned from are amazing. I was lucky enough to have help from Dottie, Becky, Susie, and Lorelei in the water. It was physically challenging, and at times I had trouble fighting the current (which I wasn’t expecting), but all of the former mermaids were graceful and willing to share their wealth of knowledge, including tips for fighting the current. “Mer Queen” Barbara was great, as she was on the audience side of the theater, and used the underwater speakers to talk to us. Hearing the sound carry so clearly underwater was also a unique experience. I want to still be swimming as a mermaid when I’m in my 70’s just like Vickie! These women have become my mermaid heroes. I went the weekend after camp to watch their show, and they’re just as beautiful in the water as they are out of the water!
Luna: I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn from the strong and talented women at the Sirens of the Deep Mermaid Camp. They are all so inspiring, encouraging, patient. I learned so much more than I had expected. The experience was physically challenging but well worth it. I will never forget seeing the springs underwater for the first time. I had no idea it was so deep and that it has a current..I’m embarrassed to admit I was a little scared at first. Being on the inside of the viewing windows was so fun and surreal. We got to learn both aqua ballet and mermaid swimming, which is very different than the mermaid swimming we were used to.
Would you recommend that others attend? If so, why?
Kristal: Of course! If you want to experience what it’s like to be a mermaid, even if you’ve never put on a tail before, go to camp! I learned a ridiculous amount of water ballet and mermaid tricks and poses. The experience of swimming in the spring alone is worth it.
Luna: I think whether you want to experience mermaid swimming and aqua ballet for the first time or are a pro it is well worth it to get in the spring and learn from some of the pioneers of the art form. Even if you want to get a different workout or check out the springs, this camp is a unique way to go about it.
So do you think bellydancing gave/gives you all a mermaidly advantage?
Kristal: Actually, that’s a yes and no answer. For poses, and ‘mermaid arms,’ a lot of bellydance moves can be used. For spins, turns, aqua ballet, and swimming tricks, no. Bellydance is mostly flowing, and you have to lock your arms and legs straight for the aqua ballet, turns and tricks, which goes against pretty much everything we do as bellydancers. The only other advantage we had was that we were lucky enough that one of our photographer friends, who photographed us performing at The Florida Renaissance Festival, was in Tampa capturing the Bay Area Renaissance Festival, and came to the springs on day two of camp to get pictures of us.
Luna: I took full advantage of belly dancing under water and adding that element to my mermaid character but when it came to the Aqua Ballet I had a real hard time not flowing my arms and belly or bending my knees. Also, I’d forget to point my toes but by the end of the first day our teachers fixed us up and got us to switch dance styles.
Will your time at camp affect your bellydancing at all?
Kristal: It inspired me to train more and get in better shape. I’m also a bellydance teacher, fire spinner, and I’m in the process of being certified to teach Hoopnotica Hoop Dance and Zumba. I’m spending my weeks training bellydance, Hoop Dance, Zumba and all the things I learned at mermaid camp twice a week, each, and still working my regular full time job. Plus, Luna came up with the Sea Sirens idea, which I’ll let her talk more about.
Luna: It inspired me to train more often in the water. Whenever I’m in the water I drill my belly dance moves anyway and now I have movement ideas I can use both in and out of the water. I have a Sea Siren show which is inspired by the stories of mermaids and sea sirens. We belly dance and incorporate flow movement arts and circus arts…now if only I could get a mermaid sized aquarium to bring along…
What do you think of mermaids, anyway? Have you always been susceptible to their allure?
Kristal: I’ve always thought mermaids were beautiful. I was obsessed with “The Little Mermaid” Disney movie when I was younger, and I still read mermaid fiction whenever possible. My favorite, other than your book, is MaryJanice Davidson’s Mermaid Series. Fred doesn’t fit the stereotypes that are expected of mermaids, and that’s why I love that series so much.
Luna: Mermaids are fun. I grew up in and around the waters of Florida and the Caribbean so pretending to be a mermaid was just one of the games I played as a child. Maybe I never grew up, or maybe their allure captured me and left me no choice but to join them.
Has your idea of mermaids changed since going to camp?
Kristal: Yes! I admire the training and dedication it takes to learn all the moves and perform them seamlessly. I want people to know, the mermaids at Weeki Wachee are TOUGH! The strength they have to perform the moves, go underwater and stay there (which isn’t as easy as it sounds), fight the current without appearing to, and the fact that the water is freezing, just makes me admire them all the more.
Luna: Yes! It’s so much harder than it looks. The mermaids at Weeki Wachie are tough, strong, beautiful! They only make it look easy. I look up to both former and the current mermaids at Weeki Wachee, my mermaid Muses.
And finally, do you have any advice for aspiring mermaids?
Kristal: Don’t let anyone deter you from your dreams. A mermaid performer once told me I was “too fat” to be a mermaid, since I gained weight after having a blood clot and multiple pulmonary emboli. I almost let that hurt me, but decided I was lucky to be alive, and I can always lose weight. I have lost almost 30 pounds since being released to exercise again. It’s a slow process since my entire diet changed because of my medication, but I’d rather be alive and have to work at losing weight than the alternative. The other advice I would give is to train, practice swimming, especially the dolphin kick, and please, go to mermaid camp!
Luna: Mermaid camp is there for you to experience the magic of the springs and train with these amazing women. Years ago they had to train themselves and figure it out on their own after much trial and error. Now aspiring mermaids can just go to camp and try it out. Go to camp, train ballet, tread water, go swimming, free diving, yoga, read…immerse yourself in it, the more skills you have the better you can imagine in order to recreate yourself as a mermaid. Or aqua ballet dancer! Have fun and see what happens!