Gymnastics includes four apparatuses: vault, uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise. In floor exercise, gymnasts perform a 90-second choreographed routine that includes dance elements and acrobatic skills on a square spring floor. This specific apparatus, with its musical element, showcases each gymnasts‘ rhythmic movements and tumbling skills and ties them up into a harmonious whole.
Because the floor exercise allows room for personality, the event, which is usually the last for the home team, is both a dynamic and entertaining finale for the home crowd.
“I keep in mind that it is entertainment,” said coach Valorie Kondos Field. “And that we have to catch the audience‘s attention.”
While these are the main things that Kondos Field emphasizes when choreographing, the coach said the individual‘s personality is what adds life and form to the performance itself.
“The one part that I pull my leg behind my head and shoot the audience ... that pose is in all my college routines so it‘s like a signature thing,” said junior Danusia Francis.
With the James Bond theme song playing in the background, Francis warms up with a quick side aerial jump into an illusion turn and dances into one of the corners. The Bond girl takes a deep breath, makes a gesture as if she‘s holstering a pair of handguns before she bolts into a roundoff into a back layout, then transitions into a back handspring before finishing with a double pike.
“I always want to impress the audience and be memorable, not just be another floor routine,” Francis said.
She keeps her character as the Bond girl throughout her performance. She pulls off her signature move before gesturing shooting a gun at the audience. The crowd erupts in cheers with some audience members playing along by mimicking getting shot. As both the audience and Francis feed off of each other, the routine becomes a performance.
“She is the next James Bond girl,” Kondos Field said. “The choreography was very very simple and she is a great performer. She‘s got beautiful lines and so she was not difficult at all (to choreograph for).”
Another standout performer on floor is redshirt junior Sadiqua Bynum, who has been consistently taking the anchor spot in the past meets. The anchor in lineup is held by one of the top gymnasts on the team to ensure a high score to boost the team‘s total score for each apparatus.
“My goal is to be really powerful, get high tumbling passes and have a choreography that makes me look like I‘m having fun,” Bynum said.
Bynum recreated a legacy routine by Onnie Willis Rogers, who was the first Bruin to win an NCAA all-around individual championship back in 2001. While Bynum said she feels honored to pay tribute to Willis Rogers‘ routine, Bynum brings more “Sadiqua” - as she puts it - into the routine by adding a moon walk.
Another aspect of the event is the lineup, which could be a strategically structured tool that is both important for the overall score and for entertainment.
“You want to start off with someone that you know is gonna go up and hit. It calms the rest of the team when they have that confidence,” Kondos Field said. “If (there‘s) someone who is a really dynamic performer, you don‘t want someone who maybe is not as dynamic to go after that because they will be overshadowed.”
These routines that show off each gymnast‘s abilities, like Francis‘ flexibility and Bynum‘s athleticism, entertain, while their respective personalities glue the story together. Essentially, the gymnast has to be in sync with her performance.
This article was written by Julie Song from ULoop/UWire and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.