There are technical rules for all dance styles that are universal.
Alignment, control and placement are as important in acrobatics as in any other genre and vital for consistency and injury prevention. These techniques are developed and prioritised in progressive stages of acrobatic training and underpin all acrobatic skills. Line, extension, good core control will enable acrobatic skills to be choreographed seamlessly into many dance styles. Encouraging good technique will assist students to not only achieve their acrobatic goals but allow them to be mastered.
How these technical rules are applied is dependent on the experience and background of the teacher, desired outcomes and the personal aesthetics of the teacher and studio.
For example: If the teacher is gymnastics trained there are variations in skill execution as compared to a teacher with a dance background. Gymnasts train for many hours a week on sprung floors developing power and strength. They are generally trained to achieve extraordinary feats on a variety of apparatus without musical interpretation (with the exception of female floor routines and rhythmic gymnastics).
More often than not, the acrobatic dance teacher has their students attend one acrobatic class a week with high demand on student outcomes and the need to combine acrobatic skills within choreography and dance performance.
These demands for students to achieve skills are sometimes unrealistic, both from students and parents alike, and can lead to shortcuts. Patterning alignment, placement and control within muscle memory are required in slow work before students attempt the more difficult, dynamic quick work skills. For example, expecting to achieve an aerial cartwheel without the groundwork of a technically sound cartwheel can lead to inconsistent execution and instability. A student requires an understanding of lift and elevation, and a well-established front walkover to be able to execute an aerial front walkover with ease and grace.
Within these limited timeframes, acrobatic teachers can draw on the techniques that students achieve in other dance classes such as in classical, contemporary and jazz and encourage students to utilise these techniques in acrobatics. The rules of good technique are embedded into the execution and progressions of acrobatic skills as much as they are in any dance style, and should be reinforced in every class. Teaching a student to apply these technical rules allows them to become efficient, safe and successful in all areas.
In reality, acrobatic skills are only useful to a dancer if they can be choreographed. Dancers need to perform these skills while dealing with all the variables of floor surfaces, costumes, footwear, stage sizes, and musical timing. Good technique allows dancers to experiment and extend themselves in choreography with the knowledge and confidence that their skills are secure.
An acrobatic class should also run like every good dance class. Rules for attire, behaviour, respect for the art, the teacher and the studio need to be upheld as part of a dancers development.
By maintaining high standards and treating acrobatics class like all other dance classes it will aid in elevating acrobatics as a valid dance genre.
A dance students’ acrobatic skills must be technically sound and demonstrate grace and line if the student is to be a versatile and “in demand” dancer.
Stacy Mitchell (for Dancetrain Magazine)