Calisthenics is a uniquely Australian sport although the word is derived from the ancient Greek words for beauty - “kallos” and strength - “thenos”. It combines dance, gymnastics, ballet, marching, apparatus (Clubs and Rods) and singing. Teams learn about 6 routines of approximately 3 to 4 minutes choreographed to music, which are then presented in full costume at annual competitions held in a theatre. Calisthenics is a fabulous artistic sport for all age groups and is a fantastic way of making long lasting friendships.
In South Australia, girls and boys can start Calisthenics as a 'Tinie' at 2.5 years of age and continue the sport all the way up to Masters. Though both teamwork and solo performances, calisthenics develops, coordination, flexibility, fitness as well as strength, as well as life skills of commitment, working with others, perseverance and responsibility.
In addition to competing at club level there are also opportunities for participants to audition for the National teams, chosen by Calisthenics Association of SA. There are a number of items performed from which the aggregate is awarded. In most competitions where there is a single adjudicator, first place is awarded 6 points, second is awarded 4 points, 2 points for third place and one aggregate point for Honourable Mention, an overall aggregate and runner up award being given to the highest scoring teams. In all items the team must consist of at least eight competitors on stage at all times to avoid a 5-point penalty. Furthermore, they must have a minimum of 6 competitors on stage in order to be able to compete:
Figure March: A team of over eight competitors displays intricate marching figures and patterns, while highlighting good deportment and teamwork. Similar to that seen of 'Marching Girls' rhythm and precision within the team must be identical and is a basic requirement. A well choreographed set will display many complex patterns and be very entertaining.
Club Swinging: Club Swinging is the most difficult skill a calisthenic participant will learn, although it is easy when you have done it for a long time. It requires no special physical attributes, just pure determination and much practice. A team of eight or more competitors is required to execute complex swings in unison with perfect rhythm in a planing action. Rhythm is a very important aspect, as each arm and club swing independently of the other, so exact rhythm is extremely important.
Advanced routines include moving through various patterns and executing leg movements.
Free Exercises: Commonly referred to as 'freearm' in Victoria, while others refer to it as Free Exercises. Probably the most physically challenging and impressive to watch. This item is typically performed with no apparatus and is a cross between traditional calisthenic type movements (lunges, squats, arm raises, etc.) strong gymnastic-style movements such as headstands and walkovers. Great flexibility and control make up this exciting routine. Younger sections start with simple basic movements that must be correct in detail and uniformity. As the item progresses through the age groups, it becomes more challenging depending on the competitor's strength and abilities.
Rod Exercises: Commonly known as 'rods', this is a challenging item. Based on similar movements to 'freearm' with the added challenge of manipulating a long rod. Rods are very much like twirling baton you just don't throw and spin them
The rod itself is made of metal, 3/8" to 5/8" diameter. The length is taken from the centre of the chest to the end of the middle finger when the arm is in side raise position. Although the rod is the focal point, the manipulation of this apparatus while demonstrating flexible use of body and legs, highlights the concentration and co-ordination required by the performers. There are two types of grips used. In Under Grip, the rod is gripped firmly with the back of the hands turned towards the body. In Top Grip, the rod is gripped with the knuckles turned outwards. Some states include 'Dance Rods' in their core items, with a higher emphasis on complex dance footwork and movement.
Aesthetics: Aesthetic exercises are graceful form of dance, similar to Ballet, where the female competitors wear long flowing skirts and interpret music with a variety of facial and body expressions. Music chosen is often classical pieces and should suit the age group to allow interpretation to be expressed. Movements should be soft and flowing while maintaining poise, strength, and at times demonstrating flexibility. Arm and feet positions are taken from Classical Ballet with a softer feel. Elevation is not permitted. Meaning that both feet are not to be lifted off of the ground at the same time, unless a team lift is being done.
Song and Dance: This item is predominately seen in the older sections. Combining singing with modern dance, it is important to make sure the theme of the song is carried through to the style of dance steps, and costume choice. Equal weight is placed on both the singing quality and correct dance technique. Therefore, the choreography should include an equal amount of singing and dancing. Overall presentation, facial expression and style, also play a key role in presenting a successful Song and Dance.
Action Song: Performed in the younger sections, an alternative to Song and Dance, involving singing and acting to tell the audience a story. Using props and colourful costumes, pupils sing "age appropriate" songs with singing the most important aspect of the item.
Folk Dance: Performed in the younger age groups, pupils learn and perform basic steps of a traditional national dance from all around the world. Pupils must display with correct technique and appropriate costuming and music must be followed.
Rhythmical Interpretation: It is similar to aesthetics, but the performers are permitted to do leaps and jumps. Rhythmics also tells more of a story than aesthetics, with interpretation of a theme part of the adjudication criteria. It is performed in the higher divisions of calisthenics, and requires more physical strength than aesthetics.
Rhythmical Aesthetic: Rhythmical Aesthetics is a combination of aesthetics and Rhythmical Interpretation. It is very soft, flowing and graceful but must included elevated movements.
Calisthenics Revue: Creativity and entertainment are the keys to this item which allows great freedom in choreographic creativity. Items are often complex and clever and can represent mini-productions. Teams are encouraged to combine aspects of calisthenics with dancing, singing, acting, comedy and clever costuming – all designed to delight and entertain the audience. A key feature of a Revue is to tell a story through the utilisation of calisthenic technique.
Dance Arrangement: A routine that combines interpretation of a chosen dance genre, focusing on developing spatial awareness, dance, elevation, expression and performance skills.
Solo & Duo's
Calisthenics Solo and Duo items provide an opportunity for Calisthenics Performers, who are part of a team and club, to learn a routine on their own, or with a friend in duos, and perform at competitions. Solo and Duo sections have a greater emphasis on jazz and contemporary dance and incorporates more gymnastic and strength work.
The Graceful Calisthenic Solo is aligned with aesthetic and balletic movement and is intended to enhance the soloist's poise and grace, flexibility, appearance and presentation and the ability to interpret music into dance.