Artistic Swimming: Beyond the Bubbles

Kristina Makushenko got the attention of over 28 million people in less than 15 seconds. The underwater dancer and former world champion artistic swimmer’s now famous video of walking a 360° circle in high heels might be entertaining and mesmerizing but it took a lot more than jumping in the pool with a camera.



Makushenko’s videos are everything you expect a TikTok video to be but they are more than meets the eye. Although her performances are usually only about 10 seconds long, Makushenko brings years of professional training and skill—including her ability to hold her breath for up to 3 minutes— into her fun, lighthearted, and entertaining videos.

Each video takes hours to develop and plan, Makushenko says, admitting she is a perfectionist about each detail from the goggles and music to the skilled choreography. First, she plans and practices on land and then she will head to the pool to practice and film. While she draws big inspiration from Cirque du Soleil, she says her creative brain is always thinking and she has been inspired by other sports, action movies, music, and, of course, other artistic swimmers. The main goal, she says, is to always create something unique: “I’m always looking for a ´wow´”. 

Kristina Makushenko dancing in the water

Kristina's pick: SMOKE MAGIC

Makushenko has impressive moves and flexibility but it’s her use of props that has really set her apart. She was the first underwater dancer to incorporate high heels and has since been dubbed “The Aqua Queen on Heels.” Along with different pairs of high heels, Makushenko has cooked in a frying pan, cleaned with a sponge, dawned Michael Jackson shoes and socks for a moonwalk, sang into a spatula, and twirled ribbons.


Makushenko plans to keep exploring creatively, particularly trying to incorporate never-before seen props, and that means also exploring technically. Makushenko wants to extend the amount of time she can hold her breath underwater. Three minutes already seems like a lifetime to almost everyone, especially for a 10 second video, but her impressive command of skill is exactly what allows her so much freedom creatively underwater.

Her artistic side is hugely powered by her athletic side and Makushenko takes pride in her years of training as an artistic swimmer. While most viewers might be most impressed by her flexibility, it’s her ¨lack of bubbles¨ that she is most particular about. Able to hold her breath for 2-3 minutes, Makushenko always attempts to make whatever she is doing underwater as realistic as possible and that means little to no bubbles. While traditional artistic swimming, like at the Olympics, is performed on the surface or above the water, Makushenko performs completely underwater. Some moves, she explains, even require her to empty her lungs completely so she can move without her hands on the bottom of the pool. ¨Sometimes I start to see stars or spots,” she laughs.

Kristina Makushenko wearing goggles

Kristina's pick: SMOKE MAGIC

Although she keeps her upcoming performance ideas a secret, “The Aqua Queen on Heels” welcomes requests via her social media but, with her history of being a trailblazer, you can bet it will be a “wow”.

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