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Gymnasts at World Gymnaestrada

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SEVERAL kinds of Manitoba creativity will be presented on the world stage this week at the 12th World Gymnaestrada in Lisbon, Portugal.

The World Gymnaestrada is an exhibition of gymnastics and dance, attracting thousands of performers from an estimated 40 countries. Two Winnipeg groups -- one based at Monica's Danz Gym on Scurfield Boulevard, and the other at the Max Bell Centre at the University of Manitoba -- will strut their stuff at the international showcase.

Though the event is little known in Canada, it's a huge attraction in Europe, says Tracy Sterdan, coach of the Manitoba World Gymnaestrada Team, a 43-member group of artistic and rhythmic gymnasts and dancers that's been rehearsing at the U of M since last summer.

"It was unbelievable," Sterdan says of her experience at the 1995 Gymnaestrada in Berlin, Germany. "The World Gymnaestrada is a real big deal in Europe."

Part of the appeal is that it's a wide-open showcase, rather than a competition. Performers range from young children to 80-year-olds. Members of the two Manitoba groups range from 10 to their 40s.

The Manitoba World Gymnaestrada Team will present two 15-minute routines per day on July 21, 23 and 25. Sterdan's team will perform acrobatics, routines involving rhythmic gymnastics apparatus such as ribbons and balls, and a variety of dance styles to music from Broadway hits such as Rent, Grease, the Lion King, Footloose and Victor Victoria.

"Anything you can dream up you can present," says Monica Goermann, a former Olympian and the owner of Monica's Danz Gym, home base for the 13 performers called Mosaik of Manitoba. Like Sterdan's group, the Mosaik team accommodates a variety of ages, even including the mother-and-daughter duo of Yannick Legrande Polejewski and Katianna Polejewski of St. Boniface.

The Mosaik team brings something different to the World Gymnaestrada -- aerial arts performances in which dancers hang suspended above the floor on long strips of fabric or in hoops. Goermann's studio has been developing an increasing focus on aerial arts, moving to a higher-ceiling facility last year to allow the gravity-defying discipline.

Taking aerial arts to the Gymnaestrada involved another kind of creativity. Creating a portable scaffold that could be transported by airplane, then assembled and taken apart quickly, turned out to be a challenge for Goermann's husband Michael Thomlinson, a design engineer.

After departing July 17, the Mosaik team was scheduled to appear in the July 20 opening ceremony, then perform on July 22 and 24.

For Goermann, who competed in the 1980 Olympic Games, international gymnastics events are not new. But she cherishes the opportunity to celebrate the sport, and the art, with performers and coaches from around the world.

"There's just so much to learn by meeting everybody and seeing other performances," she says.

PHOTO LINDA VERMETTE/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 23, 2003 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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