What is calisthenics?
The word calisthenics comes from the Greek words ‘kallos’ for beauty and ‘thenos’ for strength. Indeed, the components of the sport aim at achieving those physical attributes, but the sport also influences the emotional and social development of girls and boys through friendship and teamwork. Calisthenics, as we know it today, involves a team of pupils learning routines choreographed to music – each of about three to four minutes duration – and presenting those routines at competitions. Pupils learn approximately six routines concurrently throughout a year and this is where the diversity of the sport is seen. There are different levels of Calisthenics; some clubs have non-competitive classes, performing only at their annual concert. Other teams compete during the year at a number of competitions, performing on stage in costumes. Queensland also has a State Representative Team that competes at the Australian National Championships.
Sport or Art?
Calisthenics can be categorised as both. As a sport it encourages physical development, coordination, self-discipline and team spirit. As an Art it develops an appreciation of music and rhythm, the beauty of line and the excitement of presenting on stage.
Calisthenics participants perform a number of different items at each competition. Depending on the age group, participants may rehearse and perform:
While marching teams execute many intricate floor patterns, deportment and uniformity. Teamwork and rhythm is very important in this item as the team moves around the stage in complex patterns and formations.
Teams are required to swing clubs in unison with perfect rhythm and uniformity in a circular action. The test has become more challenging over time with pupils often being required to move through team formations and execute leg movements, as well as perform intricate club swings.
A team of pupils perform a series of strong movements – often with gymnastic elements – involving high levels of flexibility, control and uniformity of rhythm. Routines test pupil’s stamina, flexibility and timing.
A team of pupils perform similar movements to free exercises, with the added complication of an apparatus in their hands – that a long rod which is manipulated constantly throughout the routine. Pupils must demonstrate rhythm, timing and correct rod technique.
National Dances from all over the world are performed and interpreted theatrically. Pupils are expected to display correct steps in unison, while also conveying national character, agility and vitality.
A team performs graceful movements with roots in ballet. Their task is to interpret music with feeling and softness, as reflected throughout their body and facial expressions.
Similar to aesthetics, rhythmic has roots in ballet and contemporary dance. Pupils must demonstrate correct dance technique, grace, and interpretation of a theme. Unlike aesthetics, balletic jumps are permitted (and hence are often a feature) of rhythmic performances.
Team members join together to present a musical item comprising singing, acting and choreographed movement. This item is performed by the younger age groups, whereas the older age groups participate in Song & Dance.
Song & Dance
A team of pupils present a routine that combines singing with modern dance jazz steps. Adjudicators place heavy emphasis on the quality of singing, presentation, style, facial expression and the correctness of dance steps.
These routines can combine dancing, singing, gymnastics, balletic movements, acting, comedy and more. Revue allows coaches great freedom in choreographic creativity, often resulting in items that are like miniature theatre productions.