Get rhythm

Gymastics coach training a student.
Coach Magda Ortiz opened Allegheny Rhythms Rhythmic Gymnastic Club last year in Bridgeville to give children a chance to practice the sport without having to travel out of town.

Rhythmic gymnastics made its Olympic debut at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. Now, a Mt. Lebanon woman is responsible for bringing it to the South Hills.

Originally from Romania, where she participated in artistic gymnastics but fell in love with rhythmic gymnastics, Magda Ortiz, Mt. Lebanon Boulevard, was surprised to learn—aside from a gym in Cranberry Township—you have to travel to Philadelphia and surrounding areas to find rhythmic gymnastics programs in Pennsylvania.

That prompted her to open Allegheny Rhythms Rhythmic Gymnastics Club last summer. At first, she had trouble finding the proper space, since the minimum ceiling height required for the sport is 26 feet.

Two locations in Bridgeville fit the bill: GYMSPORT and REL Academy.

“I believe that each child can and should be able to practice an art form or sport of their choice, and reach their own full potential in that, whether it translates to an Olympic medal, or just a couple of fun times at local competitions. The journey is what makes this special more than anything, and the enjoyment from doing something so beautiful,” Ortiz said.

Although the sport is popular in Europe, it’s not as well known in this country. In order to showcase skill, flexibility and musicality, rhythmic routines are performed at competitions using four of the following: rope, ball, hoop, clubs, ribbons and a free hand floor exercise.

It’s the only Olympic sport that has two separate challenges: rhythmic gymnastics individual and rhythmic gymnastics group. “It’s very spectacular to watch,” Ortiz said. “RG helps those who practice it express who they are, what they are passionate about, or what they feel strongly about. It helps raise amazing humans who stand strong for their values and beliefs, and gives us, their teachers and parents, a chance to encourage that expression through art,” she added.

Allegheny Rhythms Rhythmic Gymnastics Club offers classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Photography by Marilee Kline