What is Rhythmic Gymnastics?

Young rhythmic gymnast with a ball.
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  • Written By: J. Beam
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 28 July 2014
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Rhythmic gymnastics is a sport that combines gymnastics and dance with the artistic and skillful use of hand-held apparatuses. The concept of rhythmic gymnastics has been around since the 1800s, but has developed into a full-fledged Olympic sport since conception.

Officially recognized for the first time as modern gymnastics in 1961, it later became and remained known as rhythmic gymnastics. The first World Championship for the sport was held in 1963, but wasn’t added to the Olympic competitions until 1984 as an individual sport. In the 1996 Summer Olympics, a group competition category was added to rhythmic gymnastics.

As of 2007, rhythmic gymnastics remains a sport primarily participated in by women, but some countries have developed a male-based interest in the sport. Whether performing as an individual or a group, gymnasts must employ the use of one or more hand-held apparatuses used in the sport. These include clubs, balls, hoops, ribbons, and rope. Competitors combine various elements of gymnastics and dance while simultaneously manipulating an apparatus.


In rhythmic gymnastics, competitors are scored based on a twenty point scoring system. The scoring system has changed since its initial inception, which began as a ten point scoring system much like artistic gymnastics. Though the scoring system is always subject to change at the discretion of the Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG), the international governing body of the sport, they adapted the twenty point scoring system in 2005. The primary values in the scoring system are based on three elements of the routine – technical, artistic, and execution.

During competition, a rhythmic gymnast may perform any combination of dance moves with gymnastics, but they are scored not only on their execution of specific moves, but also their ability to handle their chosen apparatus and their creative and artistic expression. Thus, as with other competitive sports that use music such as figure skating, their routines must be carefully choreographed and practiced an indefinite number of times. Much like competitive gymnasts, participants in rhythmic gymnastics typically start at a young age. Many begin the sport after being introduced to gymnastics, but may also develop an interest because of dance.

The three primary competitions in rhythmic gymnastics are Grand-Prix Tournaments, the World Championships, and the Olympic Games.


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