I am constantly thinking about ways to provide the best training possible to my PacMo dancers, no matter what their dance goals are (this is seriously what keeps me up in the middle of the night). I realize that I may not always communicate what’s in my head with parents because I forget that everyone hasn’t had a lifetime of dance training or continues to obsess about dance like me. I want to be better about sharing exactly why I make certain choices for the studio. Why would I be “pushing” acro on my dancers when I want them to be dancers and not gymnasts? Here are the reasons behind my support of bringing acro into your dancer’s training.
It’s back “in.” When I was growing up way back in the 80’s, acro was a part of my regular tap/ballet combo class. Every dancer was expected to know how to do a bridge, a somersault, a cartwheel and basic acro tricks. As far as I can tell, acro remained big on the East Coast, but fell out of vogue in Southern California because we were busy doing MTV hip hop. Now, it’s made a comeback in a big way, and we are seeing acro integrated into jazz, contemporary, lyrical and hip hop competition routines. Just like high waisted skinny jeans came back with a vengeance, this is what is hip on the dance scene. If your dancer attends dance conventions, takes master classes, or plans to enter the world of competitive dance, she or he will be expected to have a basic grasp of proper acro training.
Acro provides cross-training that complements dance. Cross-training is important to dancers because it provides balance to the body to avoid overuse of certain muscle groups that can lead to injury. Professional athletes cross-train, and professional dancers should cross-train. It can be highly beneficial as long as the outside activity is not detrimental to dance. Acro is among the best cross-training exercises for dancers, in addition to Pilates, yoga, Gyrotonics and swimming. I’m going to go right out and say this...high levels of soccer are detrimental to dance. A small amount of running won’t hurt a dancer and is even encouraged to increase endurance and leg strength. But running for long periods without stretching afterwards and repeatedly kicking the ball out of dancer alignment with a non-pointed toe (gasp) goes against everything your child is learning in jazz and ballet class. Will a little recreational soccer ruin your child’s dance career? Probably not. But you aren’t seeing Misty Copeland playing soccer on the weekends. Just sayin.’
Dancers learn the proper way to execute acro when they receive supervised training. This is a generation of YouTube learning. Many kids are trying the things they see on YouTube at home and on the playground. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how dangerous it is for a child to try a flip they aren’t ready for, but maybe you don’t know the long-term effects of a child performing an extreme acro stretch improperly. Dancers can put pressure on delicate necks, tweak developing backs, and wrench shoulders into positions without the strength and flexibility to do so. Your dancer may be doing something that only hurts a little now but will have dire long-term consequences on the body. Lower back and neck injuries can lead to a lifetime of chronic pain, not to mention make it impossible for dancers to pursue their passion for dance. We don’t want that to happen. Acro allows dancers to work incrementally at accomplishing a trick, in proper alignment, with correct spotting by an instructor, and only when they are ready. As a 38-year-old who grew up doing acro properly, I have no major dance injuries (knock on wood) because my instructors always taught correct alignment and preparation. I want to make sure our PacMo dancers enjoy the same longevity in their dance careers.
This message was just to help everyone understand the importance of proper acro training and why I believe it is essential to developing our students into well-rounded and safe dancers. One more benefit to acro I forgot to mention...it’s a healthy dose of exercise in a fun-filled package! If we can get our children to pursue exercise and self-expression at the same time, it’s a win-win. I encourage all our dancers to add acro into your training, whether by taking a weekly class or just an occasional workshop. It will improve your dance training, fitness, versatility, marketability, and it’s just plain fun!