A Tribute to Esther Williams by Jax Mundy
It’s hard to imagine that one woman helped launch an entire sport, but her star quality put it into the spotlight. Esther Williams is widely known as the Godmother that popularized water ballet that later changed into competitive synchronized swimming.
She was absolutely fearless, when most women would sit poolside and sunbathe, she would be jumping off high diving platforms and spinning under water. We were very honored to be able to pay tribute to her legacy on Saturday night, with her closest friends and family.
From the moment we walked on deck, we all knew this was going to be a different type of show. We were introduced to Esther’s Husband, Edward Bell, and immediately he started reliving the days he spent with Esther. Even though we were supposed to start rehearsal, we couldn’t help but gather around like little kids listening to stories about the woman who started it all. My favorite story was when Aqualillies swam for Esther a few years ago, Ed said that Esther turned to him and whispered, “those are my girls.” So for the night we were EstherLillies.
Once we did get in the pool, Ed gave me lessons on how to do Esther Style backstroke. Unlike the many years of strict competitive synchronized swimming training, these lessons were all about grace, beauty, and embracing the simple imperfections.
As guests started arriving, we started getting show ready. Which meant for some of our dancers, putting their hair in knox gelatin for the first time and for the swimmers reliving the hard hair feelings of our youth. Once we put on our high waisted white silk bikinis along with our elbow length gloves, everything seemed 10 times more glamorous.
I felt like our performance was one of our best. Every time I came up for air, the audience was sending such positive energy, for a moment I got a glimpse of what it might have been like to be Esther Williams in one of her feature films.
Our second performance was even more of a tribute because we swam to Baby it’s Cold Outside, which Esther sang in Neptune’s Daughter. We also wore swims suits that were truly Esther Williams’ originals.
Aqualilly, Diana Care swam a solo to the song, and it was so beautiful that I don’t think there was a dry eye left on deck. After our last swim we sat poolside and watched a montage of Esther’s movies, each one grander and more spectacular.
I can’t imagine how different my life would literally be if Esther Williams had not brought her grace and beauty into the water. With every story told, I kept flashing back to when I was young and my grandmother taught me swim moves she saw in Million Dollar Mermaid. I’m sure every synchronized swimmer today can look back and thank Esther for bringing swimming into the spotlight. The Aqualillies were blessed to be able to honor such a legend in the best way we know how….with a pool party.