One of the many indicators that attitudes among most of the (male-dominated) federations to female bodybuilding are 'wrong' has, in my opinion, been the demise of the routine. Once upon a time, they were so much more than just a race to get through as many poses as possible before the music was cut and the next competitor ushered onto (and then just as quickly off) the stage.
Now a minute long if you're lucky, competitors were once upon a time given a full three minutes each. Women like Diana Dennis, rarely hitting a traditional pose in the course of her routine, made them into true performances, with all the artistic connotations of that word. There are still some true artists out there, Sheila Bleck, for example, commissions original pieces of music for her routines and gives each its own unique muscle flexing choreography, but she is very much in a minority.
I think it's a real shame that this aspect of the female bodybuilding show has declined in importance so much. Competitors' muscularity and proportions have already been judged by the time the evening show comes around. What's the point of a routine if it's just a quick run through the same poses we've already seen in previous rounds? And furthermore, if these federations are, as they claim to be, so concerned about competitors' femininity, why are they deliberately downsizing the one part of the contest where feminine expression is most possible and desirable?
I don't think it's a coincidence that the vast majority of the routines nominated by you lovely readers date from the 1980s, 1990s and the first few years of the new millennium, before, I would argue, the rise in new divisions (male and female) squeezed all the time out of the female bodybuilding evening show. These days, the biggest show is in the Fitness division, but though we might gasp at the truly amazing athleticism you see there, it just isn't the same.
So, as my little reminder of what once was, and what could be again, today FMS presents three of our collective favourite artistic posers. One reader choice and one FMS pick for each of the two women we'll see in competition, plus a guest posing routine nominated by one reader which I'd never seen before and which will, I reckon, leave you quite nostalgic for the days when every routine was an event.
With her background in ballet and gymnastics, her stunning Italian beauty and her physique worthy of two Ms Olympia appearances, it's no surprise Claudia's routines have proved memorable. Does sex appeal have anything to do with it? wonders Eurosport commentator Simon Reed - perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not - just moments after a close-up of Claudia's crotch in the first of our two Montemaggi classics. The second was nominated by a reader who wanted to thank FMS for posting the clip in April 2013. I've never heard a routine get such an ovation, he says.
1989 World Games
1991 Ms Olympia
Proper theatre, with costume, prop and a beginning, middle and end. By 1999 Diana Dennis may have been well past her prime as a competitive bodybuilder, but as this clip amply demonstrates, she was still taking guest posing to new heights. I don't mean to be rude or to labour the point, but compare this to a much more recent Monique Jones guest posing routine here. Monique is huge and her outfit is fun and everything, don't get me wrong, I do enjoy Monique's turn, but I'm hypnotised by Diana.
I'm just a fan, says the woman who captured the first of our Elena Shportun clips. I went to the 2006 and 2007 World Champs and shot this. Checkout the ab roll at 0.39! Best posing routine ever! she says. "She" happens to be Johanna Dejager and she also claims that the following year Elena returned with an even more ripped look. Sadly, no footage of that routine appears on Johanna's or anyone else's channel as far as I know, but the following 2009 Oslo Grand Prix routine is also one that lives in the memory. In her time she was in a class of her own with her posing, reckons our nominating reader. The aforementioned Sheila Bleck apart, I have to agree.
2006 IFBB Worlds
2009 Oslo Grand Prix
Tomorrow, in our final installment, your three most nominated routines...