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PNE crowd 'goes wild' for local gymnasts

Girls perform for sold out audience in circus-themed BC Gymnaestra event

It was a day under the big top the Squamish Gymstars will never forget.

The annual B.C. Gymnaestra, which this year was themed Circus in the City, was held at the PNE Saturday (May 30). The sold-out audience of 500 loved the 14 local girls who performed at the event, according to the troupe's teacher and choreographer, Amanda Morris.

"The routine finished with the big top lowering back down over the performers. Crowd goes wild!" said Morris.

With the event's circus theme in mind, Morris and her students - aged eight to 13 -began brainstorming a routine in April. By mid-May the girls were six weeks into a choreography that included stilts, tumbling, balance sequence of headstands, object manipulation of poi, staffs, hula hoops and scarf juggling, and acrobatic bar and trapeze series.

To add to the spectacle, the girls also created Morris's designed mini-big top circus tent and carousel as well as colourful costumes.

"Circus gymnastics allows for an incredible combination of music, costume, props and movement and is almost limitless when it comes to creative exploration," said Morris.

"Gymnaestrada is a demonstration event that really gives us the opportunity to do that. It takes place annually in B.C. and nationally and internationally as well. This was the seventh year that I have taken the Squamish group to the gymnastics B.C. event."

The routine started with the gymnasts underneath the lowered big top. The troupe's littlest and most flexible gymnast, Mayah Bradburn, emerges from a city building as the ringleader and welcomes the audience inside the electric circus. The big top is slowly raised up exposing the gymnasts beneath, while the tallest, Eliza Darby on stilts, emerges from inside a giant set of wings.

Balance sequences are performed as the carousel is set into motion. Object manipulation follows with acrobatic bar and trapeze series. The five smallest athletes then perform tricks on the bars as the bigger girls support the structures.

The final part involves traditional gymnastics skills and advanced tumbling as Eliza completes a bouncing sequence on the stilts.

"After teaching gymnastics for about 20 years, I have come to live for this particular event," said Morris. "I create all the music, choreography, props and costumes myself and love every minute of it. It was extremely rewarding for me."

Most of the girls are now returning to the regular gymnastics program routine and are working on skills in the Can-Gym badge program during the course of the year.

Morris's teaching programs are open to children aged one year and older. Anyone interested in participating in or supporting the programs is asked to contact Morris at squamishgymnastics@hotmail.com.

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