Today the Olympics sanction water ballet as a competitive sport. But in decades past UM boasted its own synchronized swim team, the fabulous Aquamaids. All were athletes, but what they did could best be described as performance art.
The Aquamaids organization spanned five decades in UM history—from 1927 to 1964, with a few years off during World War II. And every year the current “maids” produced a pageant. The 1952 extravaganza, South Sea Paradise, (shown above) told the story of five sailors who were washed ashore and entertained by the islanders—Aquamaids posing as birds of paradise, native maidens, monkeys, warriors, porpoises, and princesses. Seated center poolside are the monkeys Eileen Polk Wilson ’53, Trout Creek; Betty Barbee Bender ’54, Nicholasville, Kentucky; and Sue Kuehn Schwetz ’53, Spokane, Washington.
The maids planned their own choreography, devised their own costumes—often elaborate headdresses and sequin-covered suits—turned the pool walls into stage sets, furnished their own music and lights, and wowed the crowds. In 1961 Peter Pan featured a crocodile and a flying entrance by Peter Pan, played by Sue Lintz Ives ’63, Grand Junction, Colorado—with the help of a specially knotted rope and the high diving board.
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