It was before I went to school. There is a photo of my sister and I wearing matching polka dot leotards and leg warmers. I remember marching in a rectangle and being careful at the corners. But I don’t remember why.
This series is partly about filling in the holes. It also aims to shed light on one of Australia’s oldest sporting institutions.
The Bjelke-Petersen School of Physical Culture was founded in 1892 by Hans Christian Bjelke-Petersen. Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, former Premier of Queensland, was his nephew but he never had any association with the company. It started as a medical gymnasium in Tasmania concerned with correcting health and posture in men and children. In the early 1920s BJP moved into the school system.
During World War II most male teachers were lost.
Today “physie” is the domain of Australian females of all ages and has modernised to include elements of dance. Competition is fierce and performers train intensely in an attempt to reach the pinnacle of perfection. They gather pace in Australia’s towns and suburbs and build toward an annual sell out finale at the Sydney Opera House.
Thousands of women do it but Physical Culture remains difficult to define.
It is a bit like a military drill. A bit like dance. A bit like gymnastics. A bit like synchronised swimming without water.