A Brief History Of Rhythmic Gymnastics

If you want to trace the historical development of rhythmic gymnastics, it is important to go back to the past and try to find the factors that may have influenced its origin.

There are several historical finds suggestive of the aesthetical expression of the form and plastic movements of the body. Greek orchestics dance and pantomime have displayed the possibilities to diversify and coordinate movements. Today, modern rhythmic gymnastics develops in this direction. In order to attain certain features, rhythmic gymnastics required the inspiration and enthusiasm of artistic personalities, the skills and knowledge of sports personalities, as well as the experience gained across a long period of time.

Based on literary sources, L.G. Noverre (1722-1810), F. Delsarte (1811-1871), and R. Bode (1881) are the first ones who came up with the idea to make use of movements borrowed from dance, with a view to act upon various parts of the human body by aesthetic expressiveness, rhythm, and gracefulness.

Jean Georges Noverre

Jean Georges Noverre

Francois Delsarte

Francois Delsarte

Due to the considerable contribution of F. Delsarte, credit is given to him and he is also considered as the founder of one of the first systems that precede rhythmic gymnastics. F. Delsarte was born in North France, studied painting in Paris, graduated the Conservatoire for music and ballet, and taught actors dramatic expression. After studying and gaining experience for several years, F. Delsarte formulated the “laws of aesthetic science,” which is about expressive language of movement and its relationship to the emotional state of man. With this, a new gymnastics system called “expressive gymnastics” came about. This system became popular and the followers of Delsarte introduced it to the United States, where it underwent modifications after.

Perhaps, the initial ideas of Noverre, Delsarte, etc. would have been lost, but not the creative work of Isadora Duncan and her direct influence on the art of women’s dance. Duncan started expressionism in dance, which, at a certain extent, was imposed to the development of expressive gymnastics.

Isadora Duncan

Isadora Duncan

The influence of the system of Jacques Dalcroze on rhythmic gymnastics is also significant. In his pedagogical work, Dalcroze used movement as a way of determining the metrical structure of musical bar. Thus, he concluded that the development of musical culture involved the completion of exercises that would train musicality, good ear to music, and rhythmic abilities. Soon after, Jacques Dalcroze created “rhythmic gymnastics,” which is intended at developing musicality and feeling of body muscles for rhythm. While he is in the process of formulating his system, he discovered different forms of movements corresponding to the dynamic character of rhythm, tempo, and other musical components.

The followers of the systems mentioned above include Rudolf von Laban who has a contribution to choreography, technique, and recording of dance, as well as Marie Wigmann who contributed to technique of movements. At the start of the 20th century, many of the followers of Delsarte and Dalcroze spread the experience of their teachers in various parts of the world and have inspired their own disciples.

In 1923, the first “studio for plastic movement” was established in the Soviet Union directed by Z.D Verbova. After several years, a new “Artistic Movement and Acrobatics Department” was founded in Moscow at the Institute for Physical Culture. In conformity with the resolution of the USSR’s Council of Ministers in 1946, a sport for women called “Rhythmic Sportive Gymnastics” was created.

Rhythmic Dance

In the USSR and other countries in Europe where gymnastics has older origin, the founders of rhythmic gymnastics are commonly former specialists in dancing and gymnastics. Due to the influence of Soviet rhythmic gymnastics in Bulgaria, the sport was introduced to the Higher School for Physical Culture after September 9, 1944. From 1952-1963, the development of rhythmic gymnastics as a sport made substantial progress. Competitive rhythmic gymnastics was created, national championships for this sport were organized, masters of the sport were trained, and the first ever international competition for rhythmic gymnastics was held.

In 1962, rhythmic gymnastics was recognized by FIG as a competitive sport for women.

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