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by Darren Held

Back in the day, I did synchronized swimming. It’s not that this is a deep, dark secret of mine, but it’s not usually the topic of conversation and, to be honest, it’s not something I really think about. Ever.

But since it came up at the Held2gether troupe shindig last Sunday, I figured I might as well run with it. Or, uh, swim with it, as the case may be.

According to Wikipedia, “Synchronized swimming demands advanced water skills, and requires great strength, endurance, flexibility, grace, artistry and precise timing, as well as exceptional breath control when upside down underwater.” I don’t care what they say, I still can’t believe it’s a friggin’ Olympic sport. Mainly cuz it’s not a sport. But I digress.

The main reason I liked synchronized swimming is because I grew up in a place with average summer temperatures akin to Hell, and the pool was the best place to be. Some other reasons included:

  1. I could hold my breath for a couple minutes, and I liked to show off.
  2. From the bleachers, nobody in the audience can distinguish the swimmers, so if you screw up, they can’t prove it was you.
  3. Since you can’t hear the music underwater, you just have to count to keep in sync. I can’t follow music to save my life, but I am pretty proficient in counting.
  4. Did I mention I grew up in Hell?

The only thing synchronized swimming and improv have in common, as far as I can tell, is that they’re both group activities that rely on all the players being in sync. (Hence the “synchronized” part of “synchronized swimming.”) Let’s compare, shall we?

Synchro Improv
Totally pre-planned and choreographed Created in the moment
Matching costumes Regular clothes
In a swimming pool On a stage or in a coffee house, bar or living room
Everyone does the same thing Everyone creates a different character
No speaking Speaking
Holding your breath is important Holding your breath is bad
Mildly entertaining to do, boring to watch Incredibly challenging and fun to do, hilarious to watch

And now you know the differences between synchronized swimming and improv. You’re welcome.

By Sonnjea Blackwell

Darren Held
About Darren Held
Darren is the CEO and Creative Director of Held2gether, Improv for LIfe. He has been teaching and performing improv for 15 years, and has performed with H2g, the Groundlings, UCB and Second City. He loves Moto, red wine, and Madonna.

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