Although the New York Liberty lost last Tuesday’s game against the Aces, another New York team walked out of Barclays Center victorious.
Students of Forest Hills Rhythmic Gymnastics & Dance gave the performance of a lifetime that evening, dazzling the audience with intricate choreography, captivating stage presence, and bendy poses that are enough to make you cramp up just looking at them.
Forest Hills Rhythmic Gymnastics & Dance has been providing intensive physical education to the Forest Hills community since 1991—with rehearsals in the basement of the Forest Hills Jewish Center.
It is owned and operated by the Spivak family, who hails from Ukraine.
Dedicated to teaching girls ages 4-16, the studio places an emphasis on organization, discipline, and growing self esteem through the art form and sport of rhythmic gymnastics.
“Rhythmic gymnastics is an elegant, century-old women’s sport that comes from Eastern Europe where girls express themselves through music and choreographed routines. It is very different from traditional gymnastics—there are no bars, beams, vaults, or trampolines—instead, they use ropes, ribbons, balls, hula hoops, and batons,” Alex Spivak said.
“It’s a mix of dance, choreography, ballet and gymnastics,” he continued. “They don’t come to play, they come to work.”
The girls attend two-hour practices for several days each week, each class consisting of stretches, warm-ups, laps around the room, and practicing routines.
The routine performed at Barclays Center was choreographed by Mila Spivak, and has been in the works since January.
It consists of four songs, open floor, hula hoop, and rope sections. Each girl wore a different color bodysuit to bring a sea of color to the court, with their hair tightly wrapped into a bun—or else they would probably step on it.
Although there was the typical sense of nervous energy backstage, the girls were excited to perform the routine they worked so hard to perfect for months.
“I really like how much rhythmic gymnastics challenges me and motivates me to continue doing it. And the coaches are all really nice,” Elizabeth Velasco, an 11-year-old student of Forest Hills Rhythmic Gymnastics & Dance, said.
“When I watch the other girls who are way more professional, I say to myself, ‘I want to do that, too,’” she continued. “So then you keep on trying to do it, and next time I go to class I might try to learn that trick. You could end up doing it in one of the routines.”
“I think it’s really cool once you’ve been here for a couple of years, and then you tell a friend in school who doesn’t do gymnastics or isn’t flexible. When you show them a weird trick, it just completely freaks them out,” Leana Rogovskaya, 11, said. “It’s so much fun to see their reactions.”
Their coach, Mila Spivak, said that a lot of the young women who come into her studio often stay there for years, and eventually go on to become coaches themselves.
She takes much pride in her students and loves them like her own, keeping every gift, drawing, or personal item they give her forever.
“I am so proud of the girls; they did an amazing job,” Spivak said. “Some of them are five and six years old, and just started this year. It’s important that they listen to the music and work together.”
The girls were congratulated by all their supporters once they got off stage, and performed a group cheer to commemorate the moment.
Spivak informed them that they will start a brand new routine once summer vacation is over, and that they will all move up a level.
Beaming smiles and excited giggles filled the room.