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Calisthenics (Greek: "Kallos" for beauty and "sthenos" for strength) is a uniquely Australian sport. Calisthenics is an enjoyable solo and team sport that encourages physical development, co-ordination and self discipline through a series of light dance, march, ballet and gymnastic routines, some with the use of apparatus all musically choreographed with singing and acting performed on a theatre stage for an Adjudicator, much like an Eisteddfod.
Calisthenics promotes team work and friendship, it also helps improve participants deportment and overall grooming, which continues to help them throughout their life. Students develop an appreciation for music, rhythms and melodies of all kinds. Stage presentation, make-up and hair design are also taught. Performances at competitions involve wearing stunning costumes, making the performances very dynamic and exciting both for the participants and the audience.
Between 5 and 8 routines are learnt by the participants during the year. Each routine lasts between 1.5 - 4 minutes. All routines are taught and performed with the emphasis of teamwork and uniformity.
Although originating in England and Europe, Calisthenics came to prominence in the Victorian Gold Rush. It provided exercises to help city dwellers keep fit. These exercises were often combined with apparatus to keep their wrists, elbows and shoulders supple. Clubs and rods are currently being used for this. Musical accompaniment gradually enhanced performances and it slowly became an integral part of the sport.
Public classes began in the 1880's. By 1903 the Royal South Street Society introduced calisthenics to its famous Eisteddfod in Ballarat. The competition in Ballarat is still the focus for many clubs in Australia. Calisthenics was introduced into Victorian State Schools in the 1930s.
The sport became so popular that Calisthenics Clubs spread rapidly, although mostly in Victoria and South Australia. It achieved national attraction when Victorian and South Australian coaches began moving throughout Australia. Calisthenics came to the ACT in the mid 60's when Florence Curtis started classes in Belconnen.
Australian Calisthenics, (Cali-dance), today is considered an artistic and performance sport, as are rhythmic gymnastics and ice dancing. It is a year round sport with a strong emphasis placed on team work. Participants are separated into sections according to their age and are then placed in teams according to their skill level and experience.