When athletics and art come together to make something new and beautiful. Physically demanding, emotionally captivating, welcome to the world of “Acro”.
As the fairly literal name would suggest, Acro Dance is a captivating style that skillfully combines classical dance techniques with precision acrobatic elements. Known for its athletic character, this form of dance often showcases stunning choreography, blending beauty and strength to create truly jaw-dropping performances.
Acro challenges dancers to seamlessly integrate these two disciplines while maintaining grace and poise. As a result, acro dancers are well-rounded performers who possess strength, flexibility, and fluidity. For budding and upcoming dancers, Acro Dance provides variety and training to develop an impressive repertoire of skills and abilities that can be applied across a wide selection dance styles.
How did Acro Dance develop? A whistle-stop history.
So who’s great idea was it to create this new genre? To answer that we need to go back a fair way to traditional Chinese dance (influenced by Chinese acrobatics, which has evolved since 475 – 221BC), and eventually found its way to the western world in the late 1800’s-1900’s. According to CityDance, this unique dance form became especially popular in the United States and Canada during the latter end of this period, as it was often showcased as an act in circuses and vaudevilles – which at this point had evolved well beyond its roots in French theatrical comedy, to be much more of a ‘variety show’ format of short impactful performances.
Although dancing and gymnastic acts were already being performed in vaudevilles before the 1900s, it wasn’t until this time that the two disciplines began to be combined into what we now know as acro dance. As acro dance continued to evolve, fluid movements, strength, and flexibility became the foundation for executing seamless choreographed routines.
The last few years has seen the spotlight and garnering the recognition it deserved. And rightly so.
Acro dance incorporates acrobatic elements, which include various tricks such as handstands, backflips, aerials, and contortions. The use of acrobatics in a dance context adds excitement and visual appeal for the audience.
It is essential for Acro dancers to develop strength, flexibility, and balance in order to execute these acrobatic moves with proper technique. The foundations of Acro focus on teaching dancers these fundamentals in a safe and methodical manner, allowing them to progress and build upon their skills.
Besides acrobatics, Acro dance also integrates classical dance technique into its unique choreography. This can include elements from various dance styles, such as ballet, jazz, and contemporary dance, allowing for a diverse range of expressive movements.
Dancers need to not only learn how to perform acrobatic tricks but also how to incorporate them into choreography, which is no small feat.
Popular Acro Dance Tricks & Poses
So let’s take a look at a few of the popular tricks and poses. Please note that dancers require a gradual build-up to these moves, the right stretching and support. We advise getting expert tuition to help you develop safely.
- Aerial cartwheel – Also known as a no-handed cartwheel. Where the dancer launches into the air executes a cartwheel without touching the ground with the hands.
- Back walkover – The dancers begins in a standing position with arms extended overhead, bends backwards into a bridge, kicks the legs over consecutively to perform the splits and returns to a standing position. This video has a handy hint of using a raised platform, for those who are struggling to perform the back walkover.
- Valdez – Similar to a back walkover, but performed from a seated position.
- Handstand – A fundamental acrobatic move that involves balancing upside down on the hands with legs extended together or in various positions, such as a split. Go to the full version of this video to see stretches to prepare for the move and also a selection of tips to help you balance longer.
- Elbow stand – A variation of the handstand, where the dancer balances on their elbows and forearms.
Obviously this is just a few examples of the many acro dance tricks and poses that can be incorporated into routines. As acro dance continues to evolve, dancers are always exploring new ways to push the boundaries of what is possible and add unique elements to their performances.
What to Wear to Acro Dance
Form-fitting dancewear is the top choice for acro dancers allowing for unrestricted movement during acrobatic moves and upside-down work. This will often be a bodysuit, paired with footless tights, as these allow for bare feet while still providing coverage and support for the legs. Tights are preferable over bare legs, especially for floor and upside-down work. Other suitable clothing options include black jazz pants or leggings, spandex shorts of appropriate length, and leotards for upper body coverage. When selecting apparel for acro dance, it’s important to ensure that it provides the necessary support, coverage, and freedom of movement required.
Training and Safety
Proper training is essential in ensuring the safety of dancers while performing complex acrobatic tricks and maintaining the artistic integrity of the dance style.
Here are some key aspects to consider for safe and effective Acro dance training:
- Qualified instructors: Ensure your instructor is certified and experienced in teaching Acro dance, as improper guidance can lead to injuries.
- Progressive training: Acro dance skills should be learnt gradually, building on foundational skills before attempting more advanced tricks. This allows for proper muscle development and reduces the risk of injury.
- Spotting: Instructors should always be present to spot students during the learning process, ensuring proper form and technique are followed.
- Proper equipment: Utilise appropriate mats and other safety equipment during training to minimise the risk of injury.
By following these guidelines, dancers can experience the benefits of Acro dance training while maintaining their safety and well-being.
Popular Acro Dance Performances
Vitori, by Cirque Du Soleil, is a great example, which showcases exceptional aerial acrobatics coupled with emotive storytelling. This world-renowned act continues to impress spectators with its breathtaking display of acro dance skills, strength and balance.
The USA 2006 Women’s Acro Dance Group left a remarkable impact at international competitions. The team showcased extraordinary acro skills and flexibility while harmoniously synchronising their dance moves. Such high-level performances require years of dedicated practice and training to achieve excellence.
Competitions and Events
Acro dance competitions are held across the world and often feature multiple age groups and abilities, making them inclusive events for dancers of all levels – each event may have its own specific rules and regulations. To keep the competitions engaging and varied, various dance styles, such as acro, ballet, and contemporary, may be encouraged by the organizers. By providing a wide selection of styles, performers can demonstrate the dancers versatility, while audiences have the opportunity to appreciate the diverse range of talents on display.
Finding Acro Dance Classes
To enrol in a suitable class, you can start by exploring local dance studios or schools that offer specialized acro dance programs.
When looking for acro dance classes in your area, consider the following tips:
- Search online for local dance studios or schools that offer acro dance programs and check their websites for information on class levels and schedules.
- Ask for recommendations from friends or family members who have experience with acro dance classes.
- Visit nearby dance studios in person to get a feel for the environment and teaching styles. This can help you decide if the studio is the right fit for you.
Once you have found a studio or school offering acro dance classes, don’t be afraid to try a few different classes or instructors to find the best fit for your needs and skill level. Remember, practice makes perfect, and soon you’ll be mastering the art of acro dance!
Header image by Ilana Bressler, CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons