Calisthenics: body strength training or a performance art for girls?

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Topless Man with grey sweatpants stretching horizontally from a ladder
Girl in purple and green lycra costume in contorted position
Calisthenics (as imaged in Australia)

πŸ’ͺ🏼 Calisthenics (US English) or Callisthenics (UK English), one the biggest crazes in fitness worldwide, is a form of strength training using bodyweight exercises and minimal equipment…
except in Australia, where it means something rather different.

Do a search for “calisthenics” in Australia and what you’ll get are loads of images of young girls dressed in gymnastics, ballet or dance costumes (did anyone say “sequins”? πŸ™‹β€β™€οΈ) and who’ve gone heavy on the make-up.

Calisthenics (or “Caly” as it’s known by those in the know) in Australia:
🩰 is a competitive performing art involving solos, duos and teams
🩰 combines elements of rhythmic gymnastics and ballet
🩰 has a strong emphasis on theatricality (both musical and dramatic)
🩰 involves elaborate costumes, dance, marching and musical interpretation
🩰 is a completely female art form (though that’s slowly changing)
🩰 has been a unique part of Australian suburban life ever since it divulged from mainstream calisthenics in the 1950s.

And I should know; two of my nieces are Caly champions.

πŸ€ΈπŸ»β€β™€οΈ So what then is “calisthenics” (as its known everywhere else) called in Australia?

Well, we have a clash brewing between the local and global.

πŸ€ΈπŸ½β€β™‚οΈ Calisthenics clips from overseas on the net have brought the international meaning of “calisthenics” to Australia, and is the first thing that comes to mind for a small minority of fitness-minded, predominantly inner-city-residing young people (mainly male). But when these males mention to other Aussies that they do calisthenics, they usually get some strange looks 😳

🀸🏽 So there’s been a move to rebrand international calisthenics in Australia as “Calisthenics Street Workout” to differentiate it from what the girls do (and not to mention, to give some macho cred to ease some bruised egos).

πŸ‘―β€β™€οΈ But it’s not all one way. The traditional female-based performance art is feeling the heat from international calisthenics, so recently the push has been to either emphasise its geographic uniqueness by calling it “Australian Calisthenics” or its performance nature with the term “Cali-Dance”.

πŸ’‘ It’s those unexpected words like “calisthenics” that make it wise to consult localisation experts before you launch a product or service in any country.

Three topless men in different calisthenics positions
Calisthenics Street Workout