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What Is Rhythmic Gymnastics?

By J. Beam
Updated May 23, 2024
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Rhythmic gymnastics is a sport that combines gymnastics and dance with the artistic and skillful use of hand-held apparatuses. The concept has been around since the 1800s, but has developed into a full-fledged Olympic sport since conception.

Officially recognized for the first time as modern gymnastics in 1961, it later became and remained known as rhythmic gymnastics. The first World Championship for the sport was held in 1963, but wasn’t added to the Olympic competitions until 1984 as an individual sport. In the 1996 Summer Olympics, a group competition category was added.

As of 2007, rhythmic gymnastics remains a sport primarily participated in by women, but some countries have developed a male-based interest in the sport. Whether performing as an individual or a group, gymnasts must employ the use of one or more hand-held apparatuses used in the sport. These include clubs, balls, hoops, ribbons, and rope. Competitors combine various elements of gymnastics and dance while simultaneously manipulating an apparatus.

In rhythmic gymnastics, competitors are scored based on a twenty point scoring system. The scoring system has changed since its initial inception, which began as a ten point scoring system much like artistic gymnastics. Though the scoring system is always subject to change at the discretion of the Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG), the international governing body of the sport, they adapted the twenty point scoring system in 2005. The primary values in the scoring system are based on three elements of the routine – technical, artistic, and execution.

During competition, a rhythmic gymnast may perform any combination of dance moves with gymnastics, but they are scored not only on their execution of specific moves, but also their ability to handle their chosen apparatus and their creative and artistic expression. Thus, as with other competitive sports that use music such as figure skating, their routines must be carefully choreographed and practiced an indefinite number of times. Much like competitive gymnasts, participants in rhythmic gymnastics typically start at a young age. Many begin the sport after being introduced to gymnastics, but may also develop an interest because of dance.

The three primary competitions in rhythmic gymnastics are Grand-Prix Tournaments, the World Championships, and the Olympic Games.

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Discussion Comments

By bear78 — On Aug 13, 2014

@donasmrs-- The exercises are different. Artistic gymnastics involve exercises that can be done on the floor or bars or rings. But rhythmic gymnastics is only done on the floor. Artistic gymnastics doesn't involve dance whereas rhythmic gymnastics does.

I like both types of gymanstics. Essentially, both require strength, balance, flexibility and coordination. Which type one prefers to do is a personal choice based on interest and talent. Those who are very flexible and who like dance will do better as rhythmic gymnasts whereas those who prefer to concentrate on strength and balance will do better as artistic gymnasts.

By donasmrs — On Aug 12, 2014

@Lostnfound-- What is the difference between rhythmic gymnastics and artistic gymnastics exactly?

By serenesurface — On Aug 12, 2014

I watch little rhythmic gymnasts on TV sometimes and those kids are so impressive. It's hard to believe how flexible and talented they are. It's like they can do anything. If I have a daughter, I would like her to learn rhythmic gymnastics if she also wishes. I think sports like these at a very young age not only make kids strong physically, but they teach them discipline and patience. They learn that in order to achieve something, it's important to work hard, prepare and never give up. That by itself is such an important lesson to learn and will bring success in all areas of life.

I myself never had the opportunity to do gymnastics although I had an inclination as a child. But I definitely want my children to engage in it.

By Lostnfound — On Aug 04, 2014

Have you ever noticed how much different rhythmic gymnasts look? Their bodies are beautifully toned and developed, but they're not little piles of muscle, like artistic gymnasts are. I think they have more pleasing lines than artistic gymnasts.

I also like the group aspect of rhythmic gymnastics. It's really neat to see two or more gymnasts performing synchronous routines. I think of the hours and hours of training they do simply to learn the sport, and then to learn routines, and then learn to do them together! I love to watch all gymnasts, but I don't think the rhythmic gymnasts get the respect they deserve, either.

By Grivusangel — On Aug 03, 2014

I love watching all the gymnastics competitions. Rhythmic gymnastics is beautiful, and very different from the artistic gymnastics, but it's more fun to watch in some ways, because it's not as commercial as artistic gymnastics. There's still something very organic about it.

I have seen, while watching biographies of the athletes, that many of them, particularly the ones from Eastern Europe, grew up in circus families, so these kinds of acrobatics are second nature to them. While competition may be new to them, many of these girls have been performing for huge crowds since they were four or five years old. So they're accustomed to the people.

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