Emily Arcia: The Girl Who Dances On Water


Donated by: Emily Arcia

Lindsey Smith, Arts & Entertainment Editor

   It’s a warm day in Gainesville, Florida. Hairspray, hair ties, and costume accessories fill any and every open space, it’s a performance–a competition–and the win will be difficult. The challengers: the water and a panel of judges. Accepting the challenge: a 14 year old girl in a bedazzled leotard and hair pulled back in a tight hairdo. At the start of the music she gives one big breath, a quick smile, and a graceful jump, plunging to the bottom of the pool but never touching the ground. The competitor, Emily Arcia, knows the choreography. Darting left, right, up, and down, her legs treading water, her hands mimicking dances of their own. This is what those countless hours of practice were for and she was ready. 

   Sophomore Emily Arcia began artistic swimming at age of nine. “There’s a lot of freedom in the water. You can control yourself in the water. [This] compares to swimming which is more one dimensional. In this, I guess you can say it’s multidimensional. You can go up, down, and to the side,” explains Emily as she reflects on her enjoyment of the sport. Emily competed in the Junior Olympics twice; her first time was in 2021 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Her second time was in 2022 in Gainesville, Florida. 

   The process of qualifying for the Junior Olympics is no small feat. “Well, there’s a couple of competitions we need to do in order to qualify. In order it’s Zones, Associations, and Regionals…The head coach usually handles most things like putting us into the systems though.” Once qualified for the Junior Olympics, there is a whole new set of difficulties to conquer. “Usually the Junior Olympics are the most difficult [competitions] because they have people from all over the country which can be intimidating at times. It’s also when the nervousness hits me which is the hardest. The other competitions have way less people and you don’t have as much pressure on you. But it’s worth it for the end of the competition.”

   Although artistic swimming is about grace and flawless movements, there is a mental component that often goes unnoticed. Spending the majority of the performance with your head underwater, the competitors are trained to handle the stress that comes with the feeling of lack of oxygen and, as Emily alludes to, it’s best to not focus on it. “…while doing an artistic swimming routine you have to memorize the entire thing, and if you start thinking too much about the next movement that you will do, whether you would do it wrong, or if you are running out of oxygen, then you could start panicking in the water. On the other hand, not thinking at all could lead to completely missing a move and becoming unsynchronized that you have to do in the water. While it is similar [to other sports like running], it’s difficult to find the perfect balance and be focused on the right things while doing the routine…” 

   Whilst still pursuing artistic swimming, Emily is hopeful that she can once again qualify for the Junior Olympics. “I plan on qualifying for the Junior Olympics this year. This is going to be my second year on this new team and this year a lot of people quit since they’ve already been doing it for 8 or 9 years. It does make me worry a bit about the future of the team but I still plan on going to the Junior Olympics, as long as it’s still possible.”

  Even amongst the challenges that come both in her sport and life, Emily handles them with the same grace she demonstrates in her routines. A shy smile, a prideful grin, and the pure picture of flawless determination, Emily gives new meaning to the word modesty.