Rhythmic gymnastics is an aesthetic sport predicated on the interrelationship of technical virtuosity and artistic prowess. In accordance with the 2013–2016 rules of the Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique (International Gymnastics Federation; FIG), rhythmic gymnastics choreography is predicated on the “unity” of this technical-artistic binary; however, the technical and artistic qualities of the choreography are evaluated by two separate judging panels. As such, the development of an elite-level gymnast must consider not only athletic conditioning but also artistic development—becoming an athlete and an artist. The complications and contradictions that arise from trying to quantify the technical (objective) and the artistic (subjective) performed within competitive routines, I argue, is foregrounded by the FIG’s 2001 incorporation of the gymnast’s “difficulty script,” which requires each gymnast to supply a copy of their planned elements to the judges before the competition. Exploring three different case studies from international tournaments, I consider not only how choreographers are limited in their artistic freedom by having to incorporate a set list of compulsory elements into each routine but also how, in competition, performers face the added challenge of preserving the semblance of spontaneity in a routine that is being simultaneously read by the judges.


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pp. 15-19
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