Water acrobatics is a general term that can describe a wide variety of watery activities, from highly competitive sports and recreation to theatrical entertainment.

But when you combine the skill and spectacle of water sports with the drama and artistry of the circus, the result is pure magic. 

Whether the performers are dazzling an adoring crowd above the water’s surface, walking on the water safe within a magical contraption, or tantalizing beneath the water’s surface, the antics of water acrobats are sure to wow any audience.

What is Water Acrobatics?

Water acrobatics is a broad term. It can involve performers working above the water, on the water, underwater, or even all three in the same act. As a relatively niche art form, water acrobatics have created a tidal wave of interest in recent years. 

Water acrobatics could refer to a traditional synchronized swimming troupe, an aerial artist flying over a water “stage,” a mermaid mesmerizing crowds in a see-through water tank, or a presentation of more traditional tumbling and other gymnastics on an apparatus hovering over a pool. 

In terms of performance, water acrobatics shares one thing in common: a wow factor that is usually also enhanced by a light show that can blow you out of the water.

Signature Stunts

The moves and sequences performed by water acrobats differ widely depending on their discipline, their training, and the character they portray on stage. 

An aerial artist might present her entire act dangling above a pool of water, and then dive in as her finale. A mermaid might swim in circles to the delight of her audience. Or an acrobat could leap across a long distance of water, landing safe and dry on the other side.

Popular Water Acrobatics Shows

  • O by Cirque du Soleil at Bellagio Hotel and Casino may be one of the most famous water shows in the entire world. Its breathtaking array of performers include spectacular synchronized swimmers, acrobats, and fearless divers, showcased above a watery stage.

Aerial artists perched high above the water frolic in invented apparatuses such as the mysterious ghost ship, while acrobats disguised as zebras amaze the crowd with their tireless agility. 

One of the most thrilling components of O is its high divers. The group of divers make a leap from 60 feet above, into a very small area of the water pool.

  • Cirque Italia bills itself as the Italian Water Circus and has rightly earned its namesake. With world-class talent, light shows, and a staggering 35,000 gallons of water thrown in the mix, their elaborate presentations are in the European theatre style. Cirque Italia has been touring its innovative shows since 2012. 

Complete with tightrope walkers, aerialists, wing dancers, a live mermaid, and a dinosaur, the show also features state of the art light shows reflected vertically in the element of water. Cascading fountains and shimmering curtains of rain from the tent’s ceiling impart a truly magical atmosphere to Cirque Italia.  

  • Anything is possible in the circus. You can even hire your own aquatic circus shows through talent agencies such as Zen Arts. Companies like ZenArts and others provide a host of enchanting water performers for all kinds of events. 

Talent ranges from synchronized swimming to dazzling mermaid entertainment to performers who can walk, dance, and contort on water within a special spherical ball. You can even see an aerial mermaid.

Artists Performed Above Water

Incidentally, Jules Léotard, the inventor of trapeze arts, is said to have initially rehearsed over a pool of water as his safety net. While this practice is not recommended in any way, it adds a little splash to the topic of modern acrobatic aquatics.

Charles Blondin is also famed for his 1859 stunt involving over a thousand feet of hemp rope rigged over Niagra Falls 160 feet above water. The acrobat expertly traversed the distance like a champ, celebrating all along the way with a bottle of wine.

Getting Started to Water Acrobatics as a Beginner

Whether you are learning floor acrobatics to someday take over a shimmering pool, undertaking aerial arts where you dream of soaring over a body of water, or diving into advanced underwater acrobatics like those performed by a professional mermaid, training is key. 

As with all styles of acrobatics, water acrobatics is a highly specialized and very dangerous activity. For any kind of physical discipline, it’s important to start out with a trained specialist to instruct you.

Water behaves very differently than a hard surface, and it’s important to learn from the best.


All acrobatics is physically demanding as well as risky, and adding water to the mix introduces a novel element of danger. Training in water acrobatics should always be supervised under the instruction of a professional

Professional-level acrobats may also learn water choreography during rehearsals for a show they’re cast to perform in.

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