Like A Fish Out Of Water - Khandie Khisses - Burlesque, Fire Breather, Underwater Mermaid and more...

Like A Fish Out Of Water

Sometime ago a client came to me and commissioned a special act. Now being the rather up for it lass that I am,  I accepted the gig…but without thinking it through too much. Surely a mermaid act performed underwater wasnt going to be too difficult right? WRONG. Thankfully this wasnt a burlesque act as such and more a tease underwater without the strip so no worries of tassel twirling underwater (though now THATS an idea…)

The first problem I encountered was lack of reference material available. Sure YouTube had footage of girls swimming about in their pools in homemade tails but no one was actually dancing. Simply twisting and turning in the water wasnt going to suffice for this act so I cast my research net further afield and looked at synchronised swimmers, models working underwater and anything else that was performance ‘art’ involving water. My aquatic research threw up some rather interesting items for reference. I did eventually discover a performer who worked in a mermaid bar in the USA (called MeduSirena) who occasionally belly danced under the water. STUNNING! Suddenly it dawned on me: this was going to be tough. Visions of being a whale in the water flashed in my mind. NOT the look I wanted.


From what I could see there were no mer-people (check me out down with lingo) in the UK as such. Perhaps the water just wasnt warm enough and lets be honest its not like we are a huge pool nation. My research did crop up the only self professed professional international mermaid. She is beautiful and elegant creature called Hannah Fraser who uses her fame to highlight the plight of the oceans. A rather appropriate cause. But looking at Hannah highlighted two further issues: costuming and rehearsal space.

Hannah’s tails are amazing and made of some sort of material like neoprene with a monofin somehow fitted. I did come across a mermaid tail making video which was a good basis but lets be fair: I am no seamstress. I quickly looked at ordering a tail but no one in the UK seemed to make them and the websites in the USA were too slow to respond to my calls and never what I want also what happens if it didnt fit??? So off to Lynn (of Vintage Lynndy Loo) my trusted costumier I went. Boy was her response a laugh. After laying down what I wanted and showing her research material she fell silent. For about two minutes she said nothing. Then like a lightening bolt she spoke to sparkles, scales and fins like she was an old pro at making tails.  It seemed that at least the tail would be wonderful. The look we were aiming for was more siren looking than Ariel the Little Mermaid. I wanted elegance over comedy something I knew was going to be a challenge as a performer.

The scales!

pratting about at Lynn's with the monofin. I promptly fell over in it.

Watch the ridiculous antics of me in the monofin here:

Rehearsal space…bugger I dont have a pool and nor do I know anyone who does. Lets be honest rehearsing on land wasnt going to be much fun or at all practical. After being knocked back by local pools, a lovely friend called Baron approached me. He had been in contact with a local scuba club to him called Scubaducks who would you believe it had a training tank on location in their shop/club house…and whats more I could use it! THANK YOU! Sue and Paddy (the owners) have been wonderful and have helped with breathing techniques as well as offering feedback. I owe them a lot. Baron (from ImmortalEye Photography) has been a wonderful help to with filming and taking photos of the act to help me out. Despite a minor hiccup of the pool being out of action momentarily and the wonderful 612 Media and Julie Arthur helping to find another location I neednt have worried. Rehearsals werent going to be affected. Well if my nerves held they wouldnt be. The fear of drowning never seemed to be too far away in my mind. Goon.

Rehearsal tank at Scubaducks.

Turns and dives, twists and shimmying with added loops and twirls were all made harder by being in the water and a monofin. So off I popped to attend the odd yoga and pilates class to improve myself. OUCH times were ahead. Flexibility is essential….

With Paddy...learning to use an octopus.

By Baron...practising diving..

Costuming was going well (I almost said swimmingly) but even for a skilled costumier like Lynn it proved difficult at times. The costume needed to function, be waterproof but also theatrical and move with me. After a few redesigns (and mainly because I was being a fussy bugger…sorry Lynn) the tail and bra was made. I wont tell you exactly how it was made as Lynn designed it all herself like the clever little bunny she is.

At late night costume fitting is clearly taking its toll on Lynn and I....Splash meets Shameless???

With the tail/bra top well under way the next thing was to dress the rest of me. All the images I had seen showed flowers and beading in long hair…something I lacked. So after some MORE research I purchased some fake bouffant and started to dress it. Cue flowers and beads galore. But that was the easy part…next was make up. I know there is waterproof make up but lets be honest I am going to be in chlorinated water for some time and I want to have some really theatrical slap on my face.

Mermaid hair on..I look like Dolly Parton

I asked a few make up artists as well as researched a lot on the wonderful web. But it wasnt until a trip to MAC in Covent Garden where they showed me the ‘good stuff’ that I found exactly what I was looking for. After spending a small fortune I was ready to get practising. But by some lovely twist of fate when I got home that night on the door mat from Australia was a gift. A gift of waterproof make up from a special friend of mine. So even more make up to play with.

The scales are done. Now the top because this PJ top isnt cutting it.

So now I am ready. I am practising like crazy and working my arse off. I wouldnt be at this point if it wasnt for the wonderful team that I have gathered around me.

Lynn – Thank you for the costume and constant reassurance that I am not a whale.

Baron – for videoing/recording me as I rehearse

Sue and Paddy – for making me laugh and use your pool

612 Media (and wife) – for the location scouting and the constant pep talks when I thought i was drowning in scales…hahaha

I think this is my biggest challenge as a performer and is something that has been a labour of love, tears, chlorine and pin pricks. I think I am allowed to video the actual act so will post in due course…but for now enjoy the images. There are more on their way.

PS just thought I would add that just now I received an email from Zoe the lovely lady behind Love Hetty and Dave. Not only is she a friend of mine but she has made me a mermaid necklace complete with badger hair!

From Zoe! Copyright Love Hetty and Dave!

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