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2012 Summer Olympics, London(Stay away if you want to remain unspoiled.)


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#46 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 01 August 2012 - 11:37 AM

The gender-based requirement -- among other gender-based restrictions, like the number of tumbling passes they can do -- is imposed in the scoring criteria, which require interpretation, and the basic fact that Women's floor exercise is defined as movement to music, where Men's floor exercise has no music nor requires interpretation.


Understood. I think they should change the scoring criteria. Call me old-fashioned, but I think those criteria are sexist. I can see why women's gymnastic events are different from men's -- that's driven by the real differences between the genders in matters like upper body strength, flexibility and the like -- but I can't see why women gymnasts have to be performers in addition to being athletes, especially if male gymnasts aren't expected to do the same thing. It's as if the sport's early organizers were afraid to let women just glory in their physical prowess.

And frankly, even the dancing in the 80's routines Dvora Meyers is so nostalgic for looks pretty lame. But the tumbling runs never do.

#47 dirac

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Posted 01 August 2012 - 11:45 AM

Interesting article complaining that gymnastics is not enough like dance! "gymnastics adherents yearn for more classically trained, balletic athletes who could dance and express as well as they could tumble."

//www.slate.com/articles/sports/fivering_circus/2012/07/_2012_olympics_gymnastics_female_gymnasts_used_to_be_fantastic_dancers_how_did_the_floor_exercise_get_so_graceless_.html


Thanks for the article, kbarber. Note that the article focuses entirely on women’s gymnastics, which as Helene notes is where the emphasis on music, theatrical makeup, and dance elements comes in. (The men can just do their tumbling passes and don’t have to bother about hip wiggles and saucy glances.)

The article is a little behind the times -the twinkle-toes era in gymnastics has been over for awhile. I like to see grace and musicality if it comes naturally but I also like the wonders that a powerful little athlete like Shawn Johnson can perform and I’m not crazy about the cutesy-wootsy Nina Pretty Ballerina mannerisms that creep in when the girls are playing too obviously to the crowd. So if those particular aspects of the requirements are de-emphasized it’s no great loss to this viewer.

The article also mentions Beth Tweddle’s great routine on the bars the other night, which US TV audiences didn’t get to see, natch.

#48 Helene

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Posted 01 August 2012 - 12:18 PM

Understood. I think they should change the scoring criteria. Call me old-fashioned, but I think those criteria are sexist. I can see why women's gymnastic events are different from men's -- that's driven by the real differences between the genders in matters like upper body strength, flexibility and the like -- but I can't see why women gymnasts have to be performers in addition to being athletes, especially if male gymnasts aren't expected to do the same thing. It's as if the sport's early organizers were afraid to let women just glory in their physical prowess.

I agree. One of the biggest differences in physical ability, though is that women are pretty much limited to tumbling, turns, and leaps, and probably a few presses, while men have the upper body strength to do planges and whatever they call it when they swing their legs around as if on the dungeon torture device pommel horse, although the total amount of time the men do these moves probably equals the amount of embarrassing "dance" movement the women do.

#49 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 01 August 2012 - 12:51 PM


Understood. I think they should change the scoring criteria. Call me old-fashioned, but I think those criteria are sexist. I can see why women's gymnastic events are different from men's -- that's driven by the real differences between the genders in matters like upper body strength, flexibility and the like -- but I can't see why women gymnasts have to be performers in addition to being athletes, especially if male gymnasts aren't expected to do the same thing. It's as if the sport's early organizers were afraid to let women just glory in their physical prowess.

I agree. One of the biggest differences in physical ability, though is that women are pretty much limited to tumbling, turns, and leaps, and probably a few presses, while men have the upper body strength to do planges and whatever they call it when they swing their legs around as if on the dungeon torture device pommel horse, although the total amount of time the men do these moves probably equals the amount of embarrassing "dance" movement the women do.


I'd be OK with them (men and women) just standing there for a couple of seconds looking serene and composed while getting focussed for the next pass. Stillness can be a good thing to see too. I LOVE that stuff on the pommel horse, btw, but I think it looks oddly attenuated on the mat.

#50 Jayne

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Posted 01 August 2012 - 09:24 PM

I miss gymnastics when there was more "art" in it. Case in point:



#51 Helene

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Posted 01 August 2012 - 10:08 PM

If they have to dance, I wish it were more like this:





#52 mimsyb

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Posted 02 August 2012 - 05:45 AM

Thanks for the "early floor exercise" videos. The sport has clearly taken a different direction. I'm curious about the music for the first two exercises. It sounded like the piano was "live". Does anyone know. Was that the case? Also, you could actually hear the music, which doesn't always seem the case now. There are so many other things going on at the same time it's difficult to distinguish the music from the "noise". It's fun to look back.

#53 sandik

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Posted 02 August 2012 - 07:40 AM

Yes, thanks to everyone that posted the older clips. They make what has been a gradual but consistent shift in the sport very clear. I think it's very telling that, in the Turischeva clip, despite its many examples of extended dancing, it is the more sport-oriented tumbling runs that gets the big response from the crowds. And if you compare these examples to the work we've been seeing this week, dance is even more vestigial in the current examples, and that dance work is stylistically much closer to hip hop and jazz (or even cheerleading) than to ballet or modern dance. It seems to me that dance in gymnastics has become just what they call it in that sport, an "element," one component of many that a performer will be judged on. It also feels much more like a separate item, a section of a routine rather than something that binds all the gymnastic feats together.

I think that it would be much more exciting if coaches and gymnasts would lose the little shimmies and photo-shoot poses and work within the actual gymnastic material to find connecting phrases and more sustained movements that complimented the majority of the action. Men have a repertoire of "power moves" that give a great contrast to their explosive tumbling runs. I know that the differences in women's anatomy make some of those activities unrealistic, but I'm sure that they could develop some analogous movement that didn't make their athletes look schizophrenic.

I'm behind on my Olympics history -- when did rhythmic gymnastics reappear in the summer games?

#54 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 02 August 2012 - 08:27 AM

Was that Caslavska's hair? Damn, she deserved to medal just for that -- although I do love those little Eastern-bloc pigtails.

Better ... but I remain unconvinced. The 60's-90's dancing looks like Dolly Dinkle and the current dancing looks like the half-time show on the Tinytown High basketball court. I think the "dancing" demeans these superb athletes. Don't get me wrong -- I'm not trying to ridicule these obviously accomplished women -- but the lowliest member of the corps of just about any regional ballet company does the dance moves better. What distinguishes top gymnasts like these from everyone else, including dancers, is the power and fearless aplomb with which they dispatch--and recover from--their gravity defying gymnastics maneuvers. It annoys me no end that they have been expected to incorporate into their routines material in which they'll likely never look better than second rate (through no fault of their own, I hasten to add) -- especially because I can't get over the suspicion that the music and the dancey bits were imposed to make the sport seem more "ladylike."

Watching Caslavaska with the music turned off brought home to me the fact that eliminating the music and dance elements from floor routines needn't make them artless. So much could be done with the internal rhythms of each pass and its attendant preparation and recovery, and I'm sure there are ways to score that. Caslavaska especially was as thrilling hitting the mat as she was in the air -- no dance required.

OK, rant over.

#55 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 02 August 2012 - 08:30 AM

It seems to me that dance in gymnastics has become just what they call it in that sport, an "element," one component of many that a performer will be judged on. It also feels much more like a separate item, a section of a routine rather than something that binds all the gymnastic feats together. I think that it would be much more exciting if coaches and gymnasts would lose the little shimmies and photo-shoot poses and work within the actual gymnastic material to find connecting phrases and more sustained movements that complimented the majority of the action. Men have a repertoire of "power moves" that give a great contrast to their explosive tumbling runs. I know that the differences in women's anatomy make some of those activities unrealistic, but I'm sure that they could develop some analogous movement that didn't make their athletes look schizophrenic. I'm behind on my Olympics history -- when did rhythmic gymnastics reappear in the summer games?


Exactly! Sandik, I think you just said what I was trying to say, but couldn't seem to articulate! If I'd seen your post first, I would have just stopped typing ...

#56 Helene

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Posted 02 August 2012 - 08:58 AM

There used to be a live pianist off to the side. I can't find any references to when there was a switch to instrumental recordings, but I would not be at all surprised if current "dance" styles -- just as second-rate (I'm being kind here) in hip-hop, jazz, contemporary, and even cheer leading -- became the norm soon after they were no longer limited to piano transcriptions.

I never understood how Caslavska's hair didn't knock off her balance, but she was the most dominant gymnast ever, with two all-around Olympic titles in 1964 and 1968 and every major championship in between. Olympic titles in the same years were not the only thing they had in common with the Soviet Pairs team the Protopopovs: the coming of the more athletic -- and young -- Tourischeva was considered doom to the lyrical and balletic style favored until then, just as Irina Rodnina and partner's dominance was considered the end of lyricism in skating. Apart from doing point work, I also don't think that every corps member of a regional company in 1968 was a better dancer than Caslavska, from what I saw of regional companies from the '60's.

I think the change of music was a nightmare, but death came when the judges started to accept the broken wrists and splayed hands in floor ex and balance beam. Shannon Milller is one of my top 3 all-time favorites, with Tourischeva and Caslavska, but her hands are cringe-worthy.

Balance beam is the event in which the internal rhythm becomes clear, even with the floor ex competitor's music blaring in the background and crowd cheering for the other three events running simultaneously, but they still are required to do at least a full turn and leaps, just like in floor ex, and while they don't shimmy, they do all kinds of cutesy poses in between the tumbling and other elements. There's rhythm in vault and uneven bars, but not the same physical momentum and continuous movement in floor ex and beam, due to those pesky laws of physics.

Rhythmic Gymnastics debuted at the LA Olympics, sadly boycotted by the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc, except Romania, and the field was very diluted. There was a question in a recent ballet thread about what makes you think of pain while watching, and in addition to when gymnasts on the beam tumble and land with the beam between thighs -- thankfully rare these days -- watching rhyming gymnasts extend to a minimum of 190 degrees makes me queasy. Artistic Gymnastics has a much longer history, competed first in the Olympics in 1928.

#57 sandik

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Posted 02 August 2012 - 10:14 AM

What distinguishes top gymnasts like these from everyone else, including dancers, is the power and fearless aplomb with which they dispatch--and recover from--their gravity defying gymnastics maneuvers. It annoys me no end that they have been expected to incorporate into their routines material in which they'll likely never look better than second rate (through no fault of their own, I hasten to add) -- especially because I can't get over the suspicion that the music and the dancey bits were imposed to make the sport seem more "ladylike."


I agree, I think the 'artistic' bits were a concession to the fundamental distrust that people seemed to have about women participating in sports.

Watching Caslavaska with the music turned off brought home to me the fact that eliminating the music and dance elements from floor routines needn't make them artless. So much could be done with the internal rhythms of each pass and its attendant preparation and recovery, and I'm sure there are ways to score that. Caslavaska especially was as thrilling hitting the mat as she was in the air -- no dance required.


Or perhaps that is the dance -- the infinite variations of the human body and its response to physics.

#58 JMcN

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Posted 02 August 2012 - 10:16 AM

I've just watched (on TV) the British Men's Sprint Team win gold in the cycling velodrome. It was breath-taking to watch!

Having watched a couple of hours this afternoon, I can't make head or tail of the rules though!!

#59 sandik

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Posted 02 August 2012 - 10:22 AM

I never understood how Caslavska's hair didn't knock off her balance, but she was the most dominant gymnast ever, with two all-around Olympic titles in 1964 and 1968 and every major championship in between. Olympic titles in the same years were not the only thing they had in common with the Soviet Pairs team the Protopopovs: the coming of the more athletic -- and young -- Tourischeva was considered doom to the lyrical and balletic style favored until then, just as Irina Rodnina and partner's dominance was considered the end of lyricism in skating.


You know far more about skating than I do, but it seems to me that you've identified a significant thing here -- I never noticed the relationship between skating and gymnastics in their changing aesthetic, but I've certainly seen the changes in both of them separately over the last 20+ years. I think about it in terms of phrasing, and of the differences between making a long string of movement and making a dance phrase with internal logic and connections. We're in the middle of a style with infinitely moveable small bits, rather like Lego blocks, that are arranged and re-arranged, but don't necessarily connect with each other except physically.

There's rhythm in vault and uneven bars, but not the same physical momentum and continuous movement in floor ex and beam, due to those pesky laws of physics.


Indeed!

more on rhythmic gymnastics later...

#60 LiLing

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Posted 02 August 2012 - 11:09 AM

Yes, eliminate the music and hooky "dance" movement in the women's floor event. Even more annoying are the cutesy poo twitches on the beam. I do think this is a gender issue. Let these wonderful women athletes be powerful and aggressive with no apologies.

While I"m on the subject, why are the men in beach volleyball wearing baggy shorts and T-shirts? If the women are wearing bikinis, the men should be wearing little Speedos!Posted Image


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