Gymnasts at Waconia’s Laketown Gym were excited last week, and rightly so, as legendary choreographer Geza Pozsar was in town to work with Laketown’s competitive athletes.
Pozsar, who has trained Olympic greats like Nadia Comaneci, Mary Lou Retton, the “Magnificent Seven,” and most recently, McKayla Maroney, spent last week at the Laketown Gym, working one-on-one with the Level 8, 6, and 5 gymnasts.
Each gymnast was allotted three hours to train with Pozsar, who choreographed individual floor routines based on the athlete’s personality.
Shaping a routine around personality is something Pozsar aims to do. He said that while some gymnasts gravitate toward a more lyrical or dramatic routine, techo-style music and “jumpy” routines fit better with others.
He believes floor routines are a great way to showcase an athlete’s personal flair and aims to give each gymnast “the look of a champion.”
“The dance parts can bring a routine up to a level that can give them the winning edge,” Pozsar said.
Born in Romania, Pozsar trained as a classical ballet dancer from the age of 9. He graduated from the Ballet Academy of Cluj, but later suffered a career-ending knee injury during a performance in 1973. Although he could no longer perform professionally, his passion remained and he turned his attention to choreography.
“I had to get into something related,” he said.
Pozsar has worked with nearly 30 World and Olympic champions over the years, as well as numerous silver and bronze medalists. He is well-known for his choreography of Nadia Comaneci (1980 Olympic Gold Medalist on floor) and the Romanian National Team that took second in the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.
He defected to the United States with famous Romanian coach Bela Karolyi (whom Pozsar has worked with for many years) in the early 1980s and opened his own gymnastics school in California soon after.
Since coming to the U.S., Pozsar has worked with dozens of talented American gymnasts, sending them on to capture World and Olympic titles, including choreography for Maroney and four U.S. Olympic teams, including the 1996 gold medal “Magnificent Seven” team of Amanda Borden, Amy Chow, Dominique Dawes, Shannon Miller, Dominique Monceanu, Jaycie Phelps, and Kerri Strug.
While there isn’t a signature move that defines a Pozsar routine, he said he likes to make it fun and catch the attention of the audience. He uses a lot of moves and gestures that inspire humor.
“I like humor, I like happy routines,” he said. “In order to make a memorable routine, you always try to plug in a little section that’s unexpected … I like to entertain.”
For instance, Comaneci’s 1976 Olympic bronze medal floor exercise incorporated a “worm arm” kind of motion, as Pozsar described it, a now well-known move that was used in many promotional materials and posters of Comaneci.
But Pozsar said his favorite, and one of his most well-known, routines was Bulgarian gymnast Galina Marinova’s floor exercise during the 1980 Olympics in Moscow.
With such a decorated list of champions who can cite Pozsar as their choreographer, he certainly knows what it takes to become a champion.
“In my opinion, it takes three factors,” he said.
First is the potential of the child, followed by the knowledge of the coach. Finally, the collaboration of the parents is the final key. Pozsar said parents often want to know right away how a routine or training session went, but believes young athletes need time to unwind.
“What I think we should be doing is giving them time to relax,” he said. “They are still children, they need to enjoy a children’s life.”
Throughout all of his years of working with budding gymnasts and elite champions, Pozsar plans to continue to train all levels of athletes and help them find their own style.
“The heart is there, and the flame is there, and the passion is there … I think that keeps us young,” he said.
Pozsar has been named a “Master of Sport” by USA Gymnastics and also has been named “Best Choreographer of the Year” twice by the United States Elite Coaches Association.