Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Interview with a mermaid

Posted By on Tue, Dec 3, 2013 at 1:28 PM

CRYSTAL SPRING: Crystal Videgar, aka Mermaid Crystal, is one of the mermaids of Weeki Wachee Springs. Performers from the famous Florida roadside attraction, originally opened in 1947, will perform at the Georgia Aquarium from December 5-22.
  • CRYSTAL SPRING: Crystal Videgar, aka Mermaid Crystal, is one of the mermaids of Weeki Wachee Springs. Performers from the famous Florida roadside attraction, originally opened in 1947, will perform at the Georgia Aquarium from December 5-22.
The signs outside the small town of Weeki Wachee, Florida read "The Only City of Live Mermaids!" just as they have since 1947 when the roadside attraction the Weeki Wachee Mermaids first opened, featuring young women in fishtail costumes performing in the area's naturally clear spring water pools. The fun, kitschy show is well worth a stop on a road trip to Florida (and the vintage 'piece of Americana' attraction was recently the subject of a feature in the New York Times Magazine), but there's actually no need for Atlantans to hit the road to see the famous mermaids this month. From December 5-22, the Weeki Wachee Mermaids will be performing their show at the Georgia Aquarium. We caught up with Crystal Videgar, aka Mermaid Crystal, to ask her about the process of becoming a mermaid, the challenges of wearing a fishtail underwater, and the finer points of performing in a dolphin tank in downtown Atlanta vs. a Florida spring.

How did you become a mermaid? Did you grow up in that part of Florida with Weeki Wachee nearby?

That's exactly it. I grew up in Hudson, about two towns over. My parents would bring me to Weeki Wachee as a little girl, and we would watch the show. I was pretty much obsessed with the mermaids. They were just so glamorous, and they looked so comfortable and at home in the water. Anytime I ever went swimming, I would pretend to be a mermaid. I told all my friends and family I would grow up to be a mermaid one day. Then, when I became of age, I came and applied and got the job. It's just been a dream come true.

What sort of training do you go through to become a mermaid?

To start, if we're not already dive-certified, they will certify us. You learn how to do your dive logs and everything about diving accidents and safety. After that, they teach you how to breathe on the air hose, which takes about a month to get used to. You learn to keep your eyes open and keep your bouyancy. We don't wear weights; our bouyancy is controlled by how much air we keep in our lungs. From there, you start learning your choreography. We have two different shows we do on a daily basis. As a newcomer you just learn one part and you concentrate on that one part. It usually takes about three to four months just to become show-ready. It takes about a year to a year-and-a-half to learn all the parts.

What aspect of the act do you find the most challenging?

The parts in our "Little Mermaid" show, the Sea Witch and the Little Mermaid, those are the last two that you learn because they are the most challenging. Now that I'm through all the training and have experience, it's not a challenge anymore. It's very comfortable, and I feel at home in this.

Does wearing a tail make it easier or harder to swim?

It makes it a little bit harder. The tails have a lot of extra little frilly things on them that can cause drag in the water, so we use our arms to do different moves. It's not like a fish's tail where you can wiggle your body and move through the water. The tail doesn't propel you like that.

The Weeki Wachee Mermaids weren't really created as a touring show, so taking it on the road to aquariums is a somewhat new development for the group. Can you tell us a little about that?

It's very enjoyable, getting to travel. We all enjoy that part of it. A few years ago, some of the girls went to London and performed at the aquarium there. Weeki Wachee is not a big city or anything like that, so it's great to go to a place like Atlanta that's so big. Last year, when we were performing in their dolphin tank, that auditorium holds over a thousand people, that was just such an awesome feeling to hear all those people clapping and cheering.

What age does a mermaid typically retire? How long does a career as a mermaid last?

It's different for everybody. Girls usually stay anywhere from three to 12 years. It really just depends where their life brings them. Some girls leave to go and start a family, others work here while they're going to college and then they graduate and go on to their career. It's different for everybody, there's no set retirement age.

The Weeki Wachee Mermaids perform Thursdays to Sundays in the Dolphin Tales Theater at the Georgia Aquarium from Deceber 5-22. Mermaid performances are included with Total Ticket admission to the aquarium. For more information, visit the Georgia Aquarium.

UNDER THE SEA: Mermaid Stacye of the Weeki Wachee Mermaids.
  • UNDER THE SEA: Mermaid Stacye of the Weeki Wachee Mermaids.

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