Updated: Nov 13, 2021
The second biggest competition of this year – the World Championships - has now concluded. The event took place in Kitakyushu, Japan between 27th-31st October. It was a marvellous occasion to witness some of the most spectacular rhythmic gymnastics of the past year, and indeed – of the entire past Olympic cycle (2017-21). This is because with the turn of 2022, there will be a new Code of Points (the book that governs and makes up the rules of RG) which is expected to change the way the sport looks. As we bid goodbye to this fast-paced, adrenaline-fueled, but also astonishingly masterful and exciting gymnastics period, let’s focus on some of the best routines that have come out of it. One of them must undoubtedly be Italy’s mixed routine (with 3 hoops and 4 clubs) for 2021 with which they won the gold medals in the final at the World Championships. I think this routine is a beautiful apotheosis of everything that is great about Italian rhythmic gymnastics!
Of Butterflies and Kaleidoscopes...
Nicknamed ‘Farfalles’, which means ‘Butterflies’ in Italian, these five talented gymnasts - Martina Centofanti, Agnese Duranti, Alessia Maurelli, Daniela Mogurean and Martina Santandrea – truly spread their wings at the World Championships last week, winning three silver medals and one gold medal. 🥈🥈🥈🥇 They were hugely successful during the past Olympic cycle, always anticipated as being among the front-runners to contest the podium. Their career culminated with winning the bronze medals in the group all-around RG competition at the 32nd Olympic Games in Tokyo last summer.
While Italy's routines are among the most difficult ones out there, this is not at the expense of character and storytelling. Their style is distinct and memorable – a blend of sophistication, temperament, and supreme teamwork. Did you know that a group of butterflies is officially called a ‘kaleidoscope’ in English? How very poetic, and also fitting for the Italian group as they create symmetry and beautiful imagery on the carpet that border with magic!
... and Pixie Dust!
The mixed routine of the Italian group stands out with its beautiful music and soulful execution. I love to watch a composition that has a very clear directionality. With a delicate and yet commanding tone, this routine leads the audience on an emotional journey. This is underpinned by a piece of music that builds the intensity throughout the routine.
Composed by Italian Roberto Cacciapaglia, ‘Wild Side’ is an experimental musical piece, originally created to accompany a light-and-water show around a 34m installation called ‘Albero della Vita’ (The Tree of Life) at the 2015 World Expo in Milan, Italy. At the world fair which takes place once in 5 years, every country on the globe gets to demonstrate their contribution to the world. The project ‘Tree of Life’ was Italy’s own contribution in 2015. You can watch part of the show in the video below. As I was watching Italy's performance at the World Championships, I noticed that their leotards, shimmering with crystals as if sprinkled with pixie dust, have a curious detail in the skirt which appears to have been designed to resemble the Tree of Life in Milan! Maybe it is a coincidence, maybe not. 🧚♀️
The secret to why this routine is so captivating is in the collaborative work which is very clear, risky and exquisitely delivered. While collaborating to accumulate points is no novelty in the current code of points, Italy’s genius is in positioning their most impressive work as the centrepiece in their choreography. They really draw you in with their enchanting work of intricate masteries, packaged and presented to the audience like chocolate truffles in a pretty box. The choreography is so neat, it is a delight for the eyes.
Perhaps the most memorable element during this entire season, and among all of the groups, is that unbelievable moment when Alessia Maurelli balances a hoop on her head while Martina Centofanti leaps through it in the perfect split position (GIF here). This element has become iconic for the Italian team and it makes my heart jump every time I watch it. Some of the other eye-drawing moments in this wonderful routine, include Daniela Morgurean hand-standing through a hoop brushed off the floor by her teammates (GIF here), or the very clever distribution by Martina Santandrea in the centre of the carpet (GIF here).
I particularly enjoyed watching Alessia Maurelli perform the combination pirouette starting from a cossack turn on the floor and transitioning into a penchée turn - all performed by Alessia while she is also catching a hoop with her leg (GIF here). Similarly outstanding is the very original moment in the beginning of the routine when Martina Centofanti captures all of the hoops in a one-legged bridge (GIF here) - a bit like in a game of hoopla. The finale of this routine is a true blink-and-you-miss-it moment, as Agnese Duranti makes a fantastic last-second leap through a flying hoop before landing in a freeze just as the signal marks the end of the routine (GIF here). None of these elements would be half as remarkable, had they not been so cleverly positioned in the routine, as part of a constant flow of movement that is meaningful and moving as a whole, cohering with the music. This is what ultimately makes us remember some routines over others, and this is what will make me remember this one.
Which is your favourite moment from Italy’s mixed routine? Let me know in the comments below. If you enjoyed reading this article, click the little heart icon at the end (❤️) and consider sharing it with other RG fans. Thank you for reading.
See you next time,