Swimmers swap legs for a tail at mermaid classes in China

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GUANGZHOU, China, Dec 17 (Reuters) - Chinese mermaid fans are getting a chance to live out their dream of swimming underwater like the mythical aquatic creature.

Dada Li, a professional diver in the southern city of Guangzhou, teaches more than 100 adults and children how to wear a colorful monofin tail, hold their breath and dive underwater like a mermaid.

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Huang Xiaoying, 24-year-old, practices her mermaid swim in an aquarium after graduating from a mermaid workshop in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China December 16, 2016. 

(REUTERS/Tyrone Siu)

A performer practices her mermaid swim next to a shark in an aquarium after graduating from a mermaid workshop in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China December 16, 2016. 

(REUTERS/Tyrone Siu)

A performer practices her mermaid swim in an aquarium after graduating from a mermaid workshop in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China December 16, 2016. 

(REUTERS/Tyrone Siu)

Dada Li (L), a full-time free-diving professional and self-proclaimed part-time mermaid, teaches performers before mermaid performances at an aquarium in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China December 16, 2016. 

(REUTERS/Tyrone Siu)

Huang Xiaoying, 24-year-old, practices her mermaid swim in an aquarium after graduating from a mermaid workshop in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China December 16, 2016.

(REUTERS/Tyrone Siu)

Mermaid performers practice in an aquarium after graduating from a mermaid workshop in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China December 16, 2016.

(REUTERS/Tyrone Siu)

Huang Xiaoying, 24-year-old, practices her mermaid swim in an aquarium after graduating from a mermaid workshop in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China December 16, 2016. 

(REUTERS/Tyrone Siu)

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"I love being a mermaid, so I was sure that there were other little girls who had dreams of being one," said Li, who began offering lessons a year ago after joining a mermaid troupe at one of China's largest indoor aquariums.

Interest in mermaids has grown since Hong Kong director Stephen Chow's comedy "The Mermaid" hit movie screens earlier this year, said Li.

The odd-ball romantic comedy about a businessman property developer who falls in love with a mermaid sent to assassinate him has broken Chinese box office records in 2016.

"The Mermaid has definitely made many people realize the concept of a mermaid and people can dress up as mermaids. After the movie's success I heavily promoted my courses," said Li.

Li, a former logistics worker who turned to diving in 2012, said she offers wannabe mermaids and mermen a one-to-three day course costing between 1,400 yuan $201 and $575 in the cities of Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

Huang Xiaying, 24, who was one of Li's first students, is now a regular mermaid performer at an aquarium.

"When I'm in the water I feel at peace and when I'm with animals I'm very happy," she said. "Being able to swim with so many different types of sea-creatures, it makes me feel relaxed and very comfortable."

(Reporting by Pak Yiu; Editing by Darren Schuettler)

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