What is Acro Dance exactly? Is it just about the tricks? Is it safe?
I can tell you – if acro were just about the tricks, we would be gymnasts. Acro Dance is definitely NOT about turning dancers into gymnasts! If acro dancers were gymnasts, they would be focusing primarily on sticking their landings out of tricks or balancing perfectly on a balance beam. They would be working for a seamless floor routine and ironing out every kink possible in a trick. Acro dance is none of these things. Why? Because dancers are not just athletes, they are a unique mix of an athlete AND an artist! Dancing is about bringing thoughts, feeling, and emotions to life, and acro dance is a way to express this! Just like in a jazz or ballet routine, where a pirouette adds so much more to a routine, so does a back-walkover. And just like the pirouette can have so much more meaning in a routine than simply being a pirouette, so will that back-walkover. Acro dance is an art form that incorporates both fluid and graceful movements of dance and the difficult tricks from acrobatics. Dancers not only learn how to execute each move with strength, flexibility and technique, but also learn how to incorporate it into a dance routine. Although gymnastics and acrobatics are very similar, it’s the execution that makes them different. Both require a lot of strength, balance, agility, flexibility and coordination. Gymnastics is a sport that focuses on mainly speed and hard-hitting tumbling passes on four different events. Acrobatics is an art form that has a softer and more lyrical touch with a focus on strength. Acro gives dancers a solid foundation to build strength, flexibility, coordination and control of their body. Acro is a great creative outlet for their feelings and self expression. They’ll be able to express themselves through movement and learn how to channel their energy into positivity. Acro is definitely a difficult art of dance to learn, so mastering some moves will definitely give students a big boost in confidence!!
Something that is very important to us at TSDPAC is that our dancers learn and incorporate acro skills safely. We, as instructors, always want our students to reach their goals. Our students are keen to be their very best and want to progress as far as they can in their tricks. We would love to have them performing impressive tricks and wowing the crowd onstage. However, in order to make the “big tricks” happen, they must master the arts of patience and persistence. Acro is progressive. A cartwheel progresses to a side aerial, which progresses to a front aerial. A bridge kick-over progresses to a back walkover, which progresses to a back handspring. If you skip over the foundation of tricks,there will be inevitable holes that will become apparent later in their training. For example, I met a very talented dancer who had many impressive tricks. However, she never learned how to do a backward roll, so even though she had all the strength and power necessary, she wasn’t able to achieve a round-off back tuck as she got older. She was missing a part of her foundation, which resulted in not achieving a high-level trick down the road.
A risk of injury is created when rushing through important foundational skills and moving straight to the tricks you want to showcase onstage. In acro, I’ve learned that muscle memory is everything. We need to ingrain in our dancers that correct muscle memory is learned by performing a lot of drills, and by only executing tricks that are safe and manageable for their age and ability level. This way, they will progress properly, and when they enter the world of tumbling, we can be confident that they will maintain the proper technique. Not instilling this muscle memory during the beginner levels is a recipe for injury when students begin the art of acrobatics. Not only do we want to avoid minor injuries, we also want to avoid chronic injuries, caused by doing a trick with improper technique over and over again. For example, if a student skipped over bridge-recovers and was rushed into working on walkovers, she may end up having back pain in the future. Because she never learned through practice and repetition, how to roll properly through the spine and shoulders. We want our students to reach their goals but most importantly, we want them to be safe and go through the steps of each trick so that they can have healthy bodies as they grow into mature dancers.