Dear Gymnastics Choreographers

Dear Gymnastics Choreographers,

A lot of people have noticed Olympic "sports" that really should not be in the program, no matter how desperate the practitioners are for a glimmer of attention once every four years. They are generally pretty easy to spot. For example, whether dressage should be an event in the Olympics is a matter of speculation. But if you speculated anything other than "no," then you need to go speculate again until you come back with the right answer.

Some sports, however, are not so black and white. Some athletic events are a mixed bag. Gymnastics are an incredible display of power, grace, and aerial acrobatics. It is not for nothing that it's one of the Summer Game's most popular events. Gymnastics is almost perfect, in fact, except for one, small thing- the little filler moves everyone does in between the real stuff.

Most of the time it's not too bad. A couple of arm flips before a jump; a prancing pose afterwards, but some gymnastics routines really get loaded down with this smarmy stuff.

There are two sides to gymnastics- an awesome one, and a jerky, too-much-glitter-in-your-hair one.

The Floor Exercise is the prime culprit. When you boil it down, the Floor Exercise is three stupendous, twirling leaps from corner to corner, and then a minute and a half of stretching, posing, preening, hand flips, and flailing around on the floor. At first I considered whether the athletes were just using this time to take a breather. Maybe it is unrealistic to expect someone to spring through the air for a solid two minutes. But judging upon the nervous, spastic way in which the gymnasts twitch their bodies around while performing these moves, it looks like they actually have plenty of energy... which brings me to my next point- the nervous, spastic way in which the gymnasts twitch their bodies around while performing these moves.

I can appreciate a graceful dance. I am not a Troglodyte. I may not be a huge patron of the ballet, but I enjoy a performance every now and again. If gymnasts moved with power and grace and did cool tricks with hula hoops and rubber balls like the rhythmic gymnasts, I would be like, "OK. This is a little less exciting than a quadruple somersault, but I appreciate the artistry." Only there is no graceful dance nor are there cool tricks. Instead there is a series of wristy snakes, hip flutters, jumpy-hops, and glitter snaps, finally culminating in what I can only describe as, "rolling around on the mat."

I don't blame the gymnasts. I assume they are just doing the best with the choreography that they are given. And I also suspect it is the training staff that encourages gymnasts to put on silver eye shadow and five pounds of glitter. Even if you are not encouraging it, at the very least it is your responsibility to keep girls who don't know any better from walking out in front of a billion people looking like a My Little Pony that threw up on itself.

But back to my original point. Choreographers- if you run out of ideas for cool jumps, just bring the routine to a tasteful conclusion. There is no need to inject half an hour of nothing in between three super-awesome somersaults. I mean, look at the vault. It's a sterling example of brevity. You run, you jump, you twirl around in the air, you land. Routine over. 10 seconds of awesomeness. Compare that to the bloated, never-ending fluff-machine that is the Floor Exercise. Cut out the fat, get to the point, deliver some awesome springs, call it a day.

Sebastian Braff


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