By Mark Colley
Consider it a seven-minute sales pitch.
That’s what last year’s national gymnaestrada in Edmonton was for Kanata Rhythmic Gymnastics. The club performed their seven-minute routine, auditioning to be selected for the world gymnaestrada from July 30-Aug. 5 in Amsterdam.
Well, the judges bought the pitch and the Kanata group got everything they wanted and more. Kanata was awarded a coveted 15-minute performance slot, beginning a year-long journey to master the longer routine in time for the global competition.
“They’ve been working hard,” signals Irina Shivrina, the lead coach and choreographer of Kanata’s 21-member gymnaestrada team. “It needs to look like one person. It should be synchronized.
“It will be fun, but it needs to be good quality. You’re representing Canada.”
The world gymnaestrada is a non-competitive event held every four years to celebrate all forms of gymnastics. The Netherlands hosted the first gymnaestrada 70 years ago in 1953 and the 2019 edition brought together more than 18,000 participants from 65 countries.
Kanata’s team trained every Sunday for two hours to prepare for the upcoming world gymnaestrada, which is held every four years. Under the theme “Colours Unite,” Kanata’s routine depicts water, earth, air and fire coming together in synchrony.
“We try to deliver the character of the elements,” Shivrina highlights. “At the end, all we want is peace and happy people.”
Shivrina moved to Canada from Russia around 15 years ago, originally instructing dance at the March-Kanata Skating Club. In addition to her work with Kanata Rhythmic, she also teaches ballet at Barrhaven’s Pirouette Rhythmic Gymnastics Club. Pirouette has a group headed to Amsterdam as well – one of 14 from across Canada.
One of the challenges of putting together the routine was the already-intense schedule of the gymnasts. Shivrina says “it’s never been enough time” to get the routine done.
Aged 11 to 18, each of the athletes competes individually as well, training through the week on other routines. Kanata’s coaches had to take care to avoid injuries.
They also had to ensure the athletes developed the fitness required to put on a 15-minute performance. Practices began with 15 minutes of skipping to warm up.
As the showcase grew closer, precision turned to artistry. After worrying for months about the minute details of the routine, the team had to shift to focus to artistry and flow. It’s one thing to do the routine correctly — it’s another to sell it, Shivrina notes.
For the athletes, competing in an event like gymnaestrada is a rare opportunity to perform with others. Mirroring the goals of the global event itself, Kanata’s older gymnasts have been helping the younger ones.
The world gymnaestrada event also gives gymnasts a taste of what their sport is like internationally. Shivrina describes it as a festival and a holiday for the athletes.
“They’re meeting new friends, they exchange clothes, they’ll come home with all different jackets,” Shivrina indicates. “It’s very important to see the other people, to see the other teams.”
– with files from Dan Plouffe
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