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In deep blue water streaked by light from the surface above, a woman is balletically stretching her arms and legs underwater.
Fairmont Orchid

A breathtaking underwater ballet is coming to Hawaii's Pauoa Bay

You'll have to snorkel your way to a front row seat

Erika Mailman
Written by
Erika Mailman

Ballet dancers already display seemingly effortless fluidity and grace—and when a dancer is released from the limitations of gravity, the show can be… well, one that makes you hold your breath.

That’s the case at the Fairmont Orchid in Hawaii, which commissioned an underwater solo ballet from renowned underwater performer Kristina Makushenko. This Miami-based dancer and free diver garnered nearly 10 million Instagram views for her sped-up version of the Wednesday Addams dance underwater with what seems like just a few breath breaks, and you’ve probably already seen reels of her strutting in high heels upside down on the underside of the water surface. She’s also a four-time world champion and two-time European champion in synchronized swimming.

For a limited engagement in February, she’ll perform an underwater ballet out in Pauoa Bay. You can paddle out to the performance space in a traditional Hawaiian canoe along the Kohala coastline. There, you’ll enter the water at a floating platform that lets you hold on while you snorkel and watch Makushenko perform. The Orchid built a custom underwater speaker to pump Makushenko’s music into the ocean, so you can hear it as clearly underwater as you would on the surface.

Seen from below (underwater), a rectangular floating platform is grasped by seven people wearing snorkels, while below them the dancer performs a ballet.
Fairmont Orchid

So how does Makushenko hold her breath so long? She told Time Out, “Everyone thinks I take a breath and swim all the way down with full air, which is false. I take a breath, then while submerging down I slowly exhale 80 percent of the air out of my lungs, and when I have only 20 percent left, only then I start do my underwater ballet dance. With that amount of air, I last about 40-50 seconds underwater and then swim up. And while I’m above water I continue to dance but on the surface of the water.”

Any other tricks of the trade? "I also want to mention that I don’t wear any weights during the performance,” she said. “I only wear a special customized costume and high heels. I do all my performances in high heels!"

The show costs $175, but that seems reasonable for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see such a performance firsthand. You do not have to be a hotel guest to attend this performance, and “seats” are still available. The show dates are February 13, 15, 17, 20, 22 and 24. Only seven people can fit on the floating stage, so snag your tickets quickly! To get a teaser, here’s a youtube clip of the experience.

And after the ballet (or instead of it—Pauola Bay is open to all), return to the bay to try your own ballet efforts where waters are made tranquil by lava walls to break the waves, and where conservation efforts have protected some of the most healthy coral reefs in Hawaii. You may even find dolphins and whales—and definitely, you’ll see honu (Hawaiian sea turtles)—to do a grand jeté with you!

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