Does Acro Kill It At Competitions?

Throughout the years we have seen a number of dance “fads.” It appears safe to say that “Acro” appearing in competition routines seems to be the winning fad. However, many studio owners don’t have a background in gymnastics or acrobatics. So what is a studio owner to do? Here are some pointers that will help you deal with the new Acro fad!

To Acro or Not to Acro

First, actively choose if Acro is right for you. Is it something you would like to give your studio or do you feel it would not be the right fit for you? Either choice is great, but deciding whether you want to incorporate Acro into your studio is essential to figuring out your next steps.

If You Choose to Use Acro:

Be an Acro “Hub”

If you want to offer Acro at your studio you need to have the right safety equipment and the right teachers. Invest in some quality gymnastics mats to ensure no one will get injured.

Finding the right teachers:

Ay, there’s the rub. You already know that finding good teachers is difficult. But finding good gymnastic teachers in a field that you are not too familiar is even harder.  Consider the following:

  1. Partner up with a local gymnastics studio. Consider cross-sharing teachers. This could be added income for both the teachers’ and the studios’ viewpoints. This can be added income for the teacher and begin to build a relationship between you and a gymnastics studio (this relationship may bring you gymnastics students and bring them dance students.) Many gymnastics teachers will be willing to drive up to an hour if you can offer them three to four classes. If you do not have a gymnastics studio nearby talk to the local cheerleading coach or director.
  2. Send Your Students to a Gymnastics Specialist If you do not wish to invest in the mats and find the teachers necessary, consider sending your students to a professional in your area. This may require your students’ parents doing extra driving, but the results will be worth it. Call a local gymnastics studio and tell them some of your students are interested. Often you can strike a deal where they discount your students if you discount their students; you can then gain some of their clientele that may be interested in dancing in addition to gymnastics while they gain your dancing clientele that is looking to add acrobatics to their skills. If you do not have a gymnastics studio nearby talk to the local cheerleading coach or director.
  3. Have an intensive: If you do not have the resources necessary to offer acrobatics and there are no nearby gymnastics studios, fly in a professional for a one-week intensive.  This will require you to invest in mats, however, in one week’s time with the right teacher many of your students will be able to master basic gymnastics moves (such as round-off back handsprings and tucks). Find a reputable studio in a big city near to your studio and see if any of the teachers would be open to hosting a one-week intensive.

Whether or not you choose to do Acro, work on the judge’s four musts:

  1. Unison – Absolute unison in timing is essential! Talk to your dancers about being right on the music (not slightly before or after). Another important part of real unison is spotting as a group; the audience should see all of the eyes/heads come around to the front at the same time during pirouettes and turns.
  2. Precision – Absolute precision is also essential to winning! When your dancers are doing unison movement, every part of their body should be in perfect sync in terms of shape.  Body angles (aka where is their chest facing? Where are their hips facing?), hand positions, head angles, knees’ amount of bends, feet, line height, EVERYTHING!  A crisp and completely precise dance will always earn top scores.
  3. Technique – There is no substitute for good technique! An entire book could be written about this but for starters: no sickled feet, straight knees during battements, and ensure arabesques are placed directly behind you!
  4. Performance – A good performance will bring any audience to their feet. To start down the road to amazing performance, ensure no students are looking down.  This disconnects the performer from the audience. Also, explain the importance of “feeling” every movement both emotionally and physically to your dancers. Lastly, be sure to engage the audience whenever you can!

About the author:

Michael J. Clark is a dancer, choreographer and competition judge. Michael J. Clark & Artists has performed and choreographed around the US and has toured with the Walt Disney Company. In addition to dance, Michael specializes in aerial silk circus art. Michael is a graduate of the nationally acclaimed dance conservatory at State University of NY, Purchase.