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This Documentary About Competitive Calisthenics Will Make You Obsessed

The director of Graceful Girls sheds light on the uniquely Australian sport of calisthenics.

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Most of the world sees calisthenics as exercise based around using your own bodyweight to build muscle.

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However, down under, it's a little different. Competitive calisthenics is unique to Australia, a physically demanding sport where women compete for the ultimate title of "Most Graceful Girl".

BuzzFeed spoke to the director of the documentary Graceful Girls, Olivia Peniston-Bird, about the sport, and the incredible stories behind it.

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When asked to describe calisthenics, Peniston-Bird called it, "a cross between ballet, gymnastics, and theatre.

Australian calisthenics is something many people have never seen before. We have our own sport unique to Australia! How many people actually know that?!"

"For those involved, a tight-knit community which in many cases spans several generations of Australian women, they live for it."

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Within the film, Peniston-Bird follows several stories including the Synnott family whose matriarch, Enid, founded the Regent Calisthenics club. Her daughter Diane ran the club with unparalleled success until, suddenly, she closed Regent without explanation. A decade later, Diane's daughter Brooke re-opened Regent and, with the help of her mother, aimed to make Regent the club of champions once again.

Diane's return to coaching coincided perfectly with 23-year-old Brianna Lee's final attempt at winning the competition's highest honour; The Most Graceful Girl.

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"Brianna had come second three years in a row and this was her final attempt at the title. It was do or die." Peniston-Bird told BuzzFeed. "As with any epic sporting competition, there's blood, sweat, and tears. But in this case it's mixed in with lots of sequins and dance!"

Australian calisthenics has been around since 1927, and according to Peniston-Bird, Diane is widely regarded as having "transformed it in the '70s. She won't put up with anything less than 200% from the kids and parents".

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The director also noted the strong family ties uniting generations across calisthenics. "It struck me as unusual these days that the mums were so heavily involved. It's very easy to disengage with your kids' recreational activities," she said, "but here parents were sharing the experience throughout the year. It's pretty special."

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