About Rhythmic Gymnastics
Combining the elegance of the ballet with the drama of the theatre, Rhythmic Gymnastics bursts with glamour, blurring the boundaries between sport and art. Rhythmic gymnasts strive to enchant judges and audiences with the polish of their exercises while executing enormously difficult maneuvers with one of four handheld apparatus: the Hoop, Ball, pair of Clubs and Ribbon.
Flexibility and musical interpretation are important elements in a Rhythmic exercise. However, it is the amount of risk a gymnast takes, often throwing the apparatus several meters into the air and losing sight of it while performing leaps, turns or acrobatic maneuvers before regrasping it -- often in impossible-seeming catches -- that sets her routines apart.
Rhythmic Group Gymnastics, performed by teams of five, perform intricate routines using multiple apparatus at the same time. Motion and creativity characterize Rhythmic Group routines, where many things are often happening at the same time.
The origins of Rhythmic Gymnastics: The ancients
It could be argued that Rhythmic Gymnastics has its origins in Ancient Egypt, where aesthetic expression of the human form was encouraged and beauty elevated to cult status. Ancient Egyptian pottery, graves, tombs and even the facades of some of the pyramids account for some of the earliest recorded evidence of gymnastic exercise. Women are depicted performing backbends and dancing in groups with spherical accessories. These ancient documents even outdate the Greeks, who formalized Gymnastics as a type of military training centuries later.
|The tombs of El Minya in Egypt.|
Such pursuits were essentially recreational rather than sportive, and they continued to be practised through the ages, developing all of the ingredients of a dynamic and artistic activity with a very pronounced feminine dimension. This differed from the Greeks, who would incorporate Gymnastics only for men.
The origins of Rhythmic Gymnastics: Modern times
Rhythmic Gymnastics would not be the sport it is today without Jean-Georges Noverre (1727-1810), regarded widely as the founder of classical ballet, who developed the concept of the human body as a vector for expression, or François A. Delsarte (1811-1871), a seminal figure in the development of modern dance. Delsarte’s idea was that physical gesture had a spiritual dimension, and his ideas on movement and aesthetics match the rudimentary principles of Rhythmic Gymnastics.
Also important in the development of Rhythmic Gymnastics was the iconic American ballerina Isadora Duncan (1877-1927), who created the notion of modern dance as we know it today. Duncan broke all the taboos, giving due importance to natural movement, beauty and freedom of expression. So did Emile-Jacques Dalcroze (1865-1950), a musician and teacher whose ideas were inspired by a mixture of music and dance. The institute Dalcroze founded in Geneva continues to teach Rhythmic gymnasts using the eurhythmics methods he first pioneered.
In the 1920s, Dalcroze’s theories found a ready audience in the newly established Soviet Union. Moscow’s Institute of Physical Culture even founded a Eurhythmics department. In 1946, this activity became a sport in its own right, practiced exclusively by women and known as Khudozhestvennaya Gimnastika, or Rhythmic Sportive Gymnastics.
The first World Championships in Rhythmic Gymnastics were held in Budapest in 1963, the same year Rhythmic became a FIG discipline. The competition was dominated by Soviet Ludmilla Savinkova, who won the All-around, Floor Exercise and Hoop, the three events contested at the beginning. The Ball, Clubs, Ribbon and Rope events were added later, though Rope has since ceased to be part of the sport.
Rhythmic Gymnastics today
|Yana Kudryavtseva (RUS)|
Rhythmic Gymnastics became part of the Olympic programme in 1984, and Rhythmic Group Gymnastics followed suit 12 years later, in 1996. Through the years, the Eastern countries, notably Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria and Belarus have continued to produce exceptional gymnasts, including Olympic gold medallists Kateryna Serebrianskaya (UKR, 1996), Alina Kabayeva (RUS, 2004) and Evgenia Kanaeva (2008, 2012). The ultra-consistent Kanaeva is the only Rhythmic gymnast ever to defend her Olympic gold medal.
In the quadrennial leading up to the 2016 Rio Olympics 18-year-old Yana Kudryavtseva (RUS) dominated at the World level, winning three straight World All-around titles. At the 2016 Olympic Games, however, it was her teammate Margarita Mamun who emerged golden after a thrilling duel with Kudryavtseva, her training partner and best friend.
|Rhythmic Gymnastics official pictogram|
Updated October 2016