Rhythmic Gymnastics: Is it really a sport or just people waving ribbons and dancing around?
Gymnastics is a very popular Olympic event that is done all over the world. A large number of events take place under the banner of gymnastics but one of the strangest has to be rhythmic gymnastics. This contest involves individual athletes or teams of athletes
who perform a routine to music which incorporates elements of ballet, dance, apparatus manipulation and flexibility.
It is basically doing a practiced routine while moving around and throwing sticks in the air or twirling ribbons around. Some have questioned whether it is really a sport and why other similar activities such as ball room dancing cannot be included in the
Olympics. This interesting sport needs to be looked at in further detail.
The idea for the sport of rhythmic gymnastics grew out of the ideas of three men in the late 1700s. The idea was about dance expression and using movement to exercise various body parts. The idea was further expanded in the early 1800s by a Swedish man named
Peter Henry Ling, who pushed the idea of expression through body movement and came up with the concept of free exercise.
In 1837, Catharine Beecher, set up a school called the Western Female Institute in America and she practiced and taught a type of gymnastics programme based on calisthenics and a concept she called grace without dancing. It involved dancing using simple
movements to more strenuous exercises all done to music.
The evolution of rhythmic gymnastics continued on for the next few decades and various forms of the sport were introduced. Disciplines such as eurhythmics and other exercise based dance forms emerged and were very popular. In 1929, in Berlin, Henrich Medau
founded a school to teach what he called modern gymnastics and the use of apparatus, which eventually became the modern day form of rhythmic gymnastics.
Competitive rhythmic gymnastics appeared for the first time in the former Soviet Union in the 1940s and was from there recognised by the FIG or Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique, in 1961 as a sport. Two years later the first world championships of
the sport were held and eventually in 1984 rhythmic gymnastics was added to the Summer Olympic Games. It was solely an individual event at these Games but the group event was added in the 1996 Games in Atlanta.
The sport itself is pretty interesting, most people see it simply as young girls dancing around a floor mat waving a ribbon or stick around. But it seems to be a lot more complicated than that. There are five apparatuses that can be used by competitors;
ball, hoop, ribbon and rope but recently the rope is being phased out of the sport slowly from all levels. There is also a free event where no apparatus is used and a competitor simply moves in an artistic and rhythmic way to music.
Supporters and participants of the sport say that there is a lot of skill and physicality involved in rhythmic gymnastics. Years of preparation and flexibility training go into preparing for the sport and it is extremely difficult to be able to produce a
creative routine which incorporates dance, artistic movements and an apparatus such as a ribbon or a ball.
The points scoring system for the sport used to be a very subjective affair with the discretion of the judges being one of the most important aspects of it. But now a 30 point system of scoring is in place that is much more objective and gives various points
for different aspects of the routine. Over time this sport has become very popular especially among female competitors, although a male version is also being developed which incorporates dance and martial arts.
At the end of the day, rhythmic gymnastics is a sport like many others in the field of gymnastics. It may be based on dancing and moving to music while performing a routine but that does not necessarily mean that it is not a sport. It will remain up to the
viewpoint of individuals who watch the sport to determine for themselves whether it is viable or not. Until then it will continue to be a very popular element in the Olympic Games and around the world.