Getting in rhythm

National rhythmic gymnastics competition comes to town

At 5, Brenann Stacker watched girls doing Cirque du Soleil-like moves with balls and ribbons during a rhythmic gymnastics show. At 19, the Lincolnshire resident is the No. 3-ranked rhythmic gymnast in the United States.

"[Rhythmic gymnastics] had everything she loved: music, tumbling, dance, theatrics," says her mom, Natalie Stacker.

Stacker and other top rhythmic gymnasts will perform along with younger local gymnasts in Deerfield on July 8-9 at the Rhythmic Western Championships and Gala. Top scorers will qualify for the national championships in August.

"It’s a gorgeous sport," says Stacker’s coach, Natalia Klimouk, owner of North Shore Rhythmic Gymnastics, host club of the events. Unlike artistic gymnasts, who perform on balance beams and bars, rhythmic gymnasts combine artistry and athleticism. The girls perform choreographed one-and-half-minute routines on a carpet, telling a story through moves and costumes and using ropes, balls, hoops, clubs and ribbons. Expect to see intricate tricks, such as a gymnast spinning a hoop on an ankle while doing a walkover.

It also presents an alternative to those with a fear of falling from beams or bars. Elizabeth Abushevitz, 14, of Highland Park, switched from artistic to rhythmic gymnastics three years ago. "It’s not as scary," she says.

Organizers hope the competition and show will build interest in rhythmic gymnastics, which became an Olympic sport in 1984.

In addition to Stacker, U.S. stars include Lisa Wang, 17, and Marlee Shape, 13, both of Buffalo Grove. Unlike their Eastern European counterparts, American rhythmic gymnasts are not household names because the sport is rarely broadcast on television in this country. When girls do see it, though, they say, "Mommy, I want to do that!" says Brooke Toohey, Junior Olympic rhythmic program director for USA Gymnastics.

The July 8-9 events will be at Meyer Sports Complex at Trinity International University, 2065 Half Day Rd., Deerfield. Tickets are $10 per day for the competitions Saturday and Sunday, $5 for the 6:30 p.m. show on Sunday, free for kids 2 and under.

For information, call (847) 383-4698.

Karen Springen

Kids Eat Chicago

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