Beyonce dives in to synchronized swimming
Black is King is the incredible visual album by Beyonce, launched on Disney+ and excitingly
features a stunning aquatic scene full of synchronized swimmers with Beyonce herself dressed up in full synchronized swimming attire.
In the final scene of Black is King, Beyonce and her choreographer JaQuel Knight has a vision of a delightful Busby Berkeley number, full of dance and aquatic performers creating formations, in bright neon colours and an underwater piece with Queen B swimming through a dolphin chain circle of synchronized swimmers.
More importantly, and the biggest difference to the classic Hollywood aquatics musicals from the 30s, 40s and 50s, was that the majority of the aquatic performers Beyonce cast were black women. It was so refreshing to see!
Sadly, like many other industries, the world of aquatics, be it sport, entertainment or even the general lessons of learning how to swim, is still dominated by white people. Switch on the synchronized swimming (now known as artistic swimming) at the Olympic Games, which athletes go through a qualification process to compete at, how many of them are POC? Watch a film with a synchronized swimming or a water ballet scene in and how many feature black performers? A huge stumbling block is how very few BAME children as well as adults have easy access and opportunities to learn to swim. Even in 2022, it is still very few.
In the US you can trace this back to segregation laws and culture in most areas of the country. Swimming really took off in the US within two main periods – the 1920’s and 30s as well as the 50’S and 60s. During the first period, many new pools were built but POC were denied access to them. In the latter period, the municipal pools were abandoned, and white people took to swimming at expensive private members clubs, not only in areas where only white people could live but financially also making them inaccessible to POC.
After the civil rights riots in the 60s, many cities started building pools in predominately black areas, but they were small and shallow. Swimming never became a part of African-American recreational culture.
A pivotal moment:The scene in Beyoncé’s Black is King with black synchronized swimmers performing together to the track ‘Mood 4 Eva’ is hugely momentous. One social media message that really summed it up was from Gretchen A Campbell who said “the way I squealed when I saw all brown girls doing this synchronized swimming routine. I’ve always loved synchronized swimming but I’ve never seen anyone that looked like me doing it.”
You can see for yourself how incredible Black is King is and refreshing to watch a whole group of synchronized swimmers from the black community perform with Beyonce, who of course slayed it with her own inner aquatic goddess in the water. You can watch the trailer for Black is King here.
As like many of Beyoncé’s videos, Black is King is also a great moment for women supporting women, which was also a big factor on this shoot with a collaboration of synchronized swimmers from various clubs and companies working together. An open casting was held by Annisa Williams, with synchronized swimmers from all over the US contacted to submit their profiles. Beyonce wanted to feature black synchronized swimmers, which production unfortunately struggled to find the numbers they needed in the US. It was a two day shoot in Beverly Hills, with Beyonce turning up on day two to perform her aquatic star moment. Synchronized swimmers from Portland and also Port Antonio – Island Aquatic Synchro Jamaica were invited and flown to LA, including 8 year old Micah to perform along side several other synchronized swimmers featuring our very own Aquabatix USA performers. An aquatic choreographer helped Beyonce and JaQuel bring their vision to life with the specific water formations. Jamaican synchro said “so empowering for people of colour”. Nicole Chin Shue from the Jamaican team also got to meet Beyonce and say thank you. Beyonce replied that she understood the challenges of being a person of colour in the industry to make a living, but we should never give up. “ Beyonce then went on to say “’I’m so proud of you and so proud of the work that you guys are doing, and you guys are going to inspire so many little girls. Continue doing what you’re doing. Girls from all over the world are here to do this project.” Follow the Jamaican team on their quest for Olympic qualification on Instagram @jamaica_synchro along with the group @blackswans_synchro
A hugely important moment where so many black children and adults will see these synchronized swimmers on the screen, be inspired and empowered to have a go. Being shown on Disney Plus and also featuring the synchronized swimming in the trailer on Beyoncé’s social media with 152 million followers, the synchronized swimming will be seen by millions of people. That is millions of children as well as adults from the BAME community seeing people like them performing in water with Beyonce too.
I-D reported in their article on the ten important things you missed whilst watching Black is King that “there aren’t a whole lot of Black people involved in the world of competitive synchronised swimming, so when Beyoncé chose to spotlight a group of Jamaicans in the sport, she celebrated the underrepresented as well as the extraordinary.“ Vogue stated to “look out for the epic synchronized swimming sequence” whilst Cosmopolitan said “The trailer started with the coolest synchronized swimming formation you’ve ever seen”.
This is hopefully the beginning of a movement of inspiring a new generation of black children to dance in water, like their role models in this video and to show POC of all ages, that they can be glamorous water Queens and Kings. You can read here how Aquabatix is supporting this venture
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