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.