Standing for the National Anthem.
Standing for the National Anthem.

With Mongolia’s relatively small population, you wonder sometimes if certain aspects of performance, culture, and art matriculate into modern Mongolian consciousness. While you may not get much of it in the villages, due to lack of people who know how to coach or train athletes and performers, you tend to get a fairly healthy sampling while in the cities.

During the cold winter months, I was told there would be a performance by our school’s gymnastics team in our modest gymnasium. I figured it would be a few students, maybe 15 or so, doing performances similar to what I was used to seeing with cheerleading back home. If I was lucky, maybe I’d see some floor performances. I must admit ignorance here: I had, and still have, no real clue as to what is considered “essential” for modern gymnasts in terms of skill sets.

I showed up late, due to slight confusion on my part as to where everything would take place. Upon arriving, I was banished to the side of the gymnasium the performers put their backs to. My desire to take pictures was thwarted by many tiny backs lined up before me.

Regardless, there were some very impressive things to note.

I never knew this boy, who I have been teaching for 7 months now, could dance.
I never knew this boy, who I have been teaching for 7 months now, could dance.

First, the team was large. Very large. They filled the entire gymnasium, and there were many students from all grades. There was also a relatively healthy mix of boys and girls, about 40-60. On top of that, they were very well decorated. One little girl had her entire jacket weighed down by medals she won in competitions.

The performances themselves were large, choreographed dances, often times involving props. Our school also had a few contortionists, all of whom were covered with medals. They twisted and turned, did things that made the older, less nimble members of the audience cringe slightly. I saw one of the girls again at our New Year’s party, where she did a short number on a trampoline. I assume the trampoline was used mainly to make her more visible to those sitting in the back of the auditorium.

It’s always nice to see that your students are involved in activities outside of your classes. It presents to you a new side, a side that adds to the dimensions of their person. I like that it makes me feel more involved in my student’s lives, that I get the opportunity to share their hobbies with them, if only for a short while.

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2 thoughts on “Gymnastics

  1. I wish I’d been able to see this! I have such a hard time explaining to people here that I was gymnast. You wouldn’t think that would be the case in a country with such a history of performance contortionism…


    1. Most of their gymnastic repertoire involves a great deal of dance routines. They have the occasional flip, and some routines that mirror cheer routines, but it’s not really what we would expect when wear hear “gymnastics” in America.


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