A sport that combines elements from dance, ballet and gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics presents these elements in five different categories, including: floor, ball, hoop, club and ribbon exercises. During each performance, gymnasts are judged and scored on their flexibility, pivots, leaps, balances, artistry and execution. One of the most beautiful and entertaining programs to watch in rhythmic gymnastics is the ribbon exercise.
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The ribbon is normally made up of satin. Ribbons can come in different colors and have different style patterns/designs on them. The length of the ribbon depends on what level the gymnast is competing at. At the senior level, the ribbon cannot be shorter than 6 meters in length, and at the junior level, the ribbon must not be shorter than 5 meters. All ribbons must be 4 to 6 inches in width, and at least 1 oz. in weight. Each ribbon must be attached to a stick, normally made of fiberglass or plastic, that has a diameter of 1 inch and a length of 20 to 24 inches.
The gymnast must incorporate regular, small, grand and combination pivots into her routine. Begin a pivot by semi-squatting with both feet on the floor. Quickly rise to your toes. Bring your free leg up, preferably below horizontal level, while simultaneously bending it. While performing these moves, your body is turning on the supporting leg. With the ribbon in hand, your arms can be extended or brought into the body. Remember to keep your shoulders aligned and your back straight while facing ahead.
Other ribbon exercises are spirals. These movements require a degree of coordination and quickness since knots are more likely to form if not done properly. Spirals are made up of a series of circles created by small circular hand movements. There are two types of spirals: vertical and horizontal. Vertical spirals can be performed in front, to the side, or behind the gymnast. With the wrist bent backward and the stick held horizontally, move your wrist in a circular motion. Movement should begin at the wrist then slowly move to the elbow and end at the shoulders.
Horizontal spirals are performed with the stick and hand held at a vertical level. Once in position, raise your arm and hold your forearm parallel to the floor. Move your wrist in a circular motion. Keep in mind that your hand must be pointed vertically downward at all times.
One of the most important rules a competitor must remember in the ribbon exercise is that the ribbon must remain in motion from the beginning of the program until the end of the program without it ever touching the ground. If at any point during the routine a knot is formed or the ribbon touches the floor, the gymnast is penalized and deductions are taken from her score.