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Acrobatics vs. Gymnastics

Updated: Aug 28, 2021



This is a question as dance teachers we are frequently asked and the answer is YES there is a difference, a very BIG difference.


Credit for this information can be found in this YouTube video created by Acrobatic Arts: The Difference Between Acro & Gymnastics

AcroDance is the beautiful fusion of traditional dance and acrobatic movement. While performing, dancers should maintain an emotional connection to the music and audience through their movements. Acrobatic tricks are meant to blend seamlessly with the dance choreography so as to provide an extra level of excitement and flair to the performance.


A gymnastics floor routine is the one apparatus that allows for personal expression and is choreographed to music like an AcroDance. That is where the similarity ends. It must cover the entire span of the floor and include a number of required movements. Most gymnastics routines have 4 tumbling passes. These passes demand power and stamina.



4 Main Differences Between AcroDance and Gymnastics


Gymnastics is considered a sport while AcroDance is considered an art. The venues where each of these athletes train are vastly different. While many of the skills look similar, the techniques and apparatus used to train are very different.


1. Art Vs Sport

Acro skills are comprised of balances, tumbling, and contortions executed with grace and long lines. They are often fused in a lyrical, contemporary, or jazz routine with the minimal obvious preparation and seamless transitions before and after a trick embracing the feeling, spirit, and character of the performance. As with any art form AcroDance is a vision and personal interpretation of the music by the dancer as they tell the story through expression with their body.


Gymnasts are powerful, meticulously trained athletes and must execute spectacular tumbling lines in conjunction with jumps and turns while encompassing the entire floor area. Ultimately, their objective is to become the best and to win - as is the goal with any sport. Gymnasts are trained to be highly competitive, learning a series of mandatory skills which are rated in a level of difficulty for scoring.



2. Training and Performance Venues


AcroDance is traditionally performed on a hard surface, usually a stage that is unforgiving. AcroDancers must learn to absorb the impact of the unforgiving surface in order to protect and maintain healthy bodies. The performance area is on average only a fraction of the size of a gymnastics floor area


Gymnasts train on a sprung floor with actual springs built into the mats (2”-4” springs under 1” of plywood, with 2 “ of carpet bonded foam layer overtop) This allows gymnasts to get a lot of height with their tricks and there is a forgiving surface with which to repeatedly practice advanced tumbling passes over and over day after day.



3. Performance Objectives, Expression, and Aesthetics


When AcroDance is performed at a competition, there are no mandatory requirements or points for more specific skills. Dancers are judged on a criteria reflective of the over-all performance. This includes technique and execution, presentation, including timing, rhythm, and emotion, age-appropriateness and the over-all impression. It is subjective to personal opinion. The overall appropriateness of an acro skill (does is belong in the routine or is it just there because the dancer can perform it) is also important. AcroDancers use music, fluidity, with dance to tell a story and elicit an emotion.


A Gymnast's goal is to be the best and win. The objective of a gymnastics floor routine is to be hard-hitting, with advanced tumbling lines, executed with power and precision, and sticking the landing to perfection. Gymnasts are trained to be highly competitive, learning a series of mandatory skills, which are rated by levels of difficulty for scoring and where every fall or wobble is a deduction to their overall score.


Both AcroDance and Gymnastics require a high level of training, passion and dedication to safely reach the status of an elite athlete or performer.



4. Technical Variances


Although many skills look similar, AcroDance must use different techniques to train their dancer to safely protect their bodies.


AcroDance

  • Unforgiving floor - Dancers must train to get the necessary lift from their bodies to safely make their tricks look light and effortless.

  • Dancers aim to engage the audience at all times, considering transition steps and placement of arms to enhance the artistic process.

Gymnastics

  • Utilizing the large performance area and driving into sprung floor the gymnast gains power and height to complete their complex tumbling lines.

  • It is the nature of the sport to get the optimal value from the performance.



Should AcroDancers Train in Gymnastics Clubs?


Dance Teachers often get the question whether dancers should go to gymnastics clubs for supplementary or summer programs. Parents and dancers are always looking to “fast track” to the wild skills and will seek out other avenues to get there. However, the recreational gymnastics programs that are often offered in clubs are taught by younger, less experienced instructors and the classes are designed specifically to generate revenue for the club and to introduce children to gymnastics and advance them into their programs. A mini session in a summer gymnastics program could undo much of the work and training your dancer has done so far, possibly setting them back months to undo the incorrect technique or bad habits they may have developed during this training. If you’re going to allow your dancers to attend a gymnastics club the parent should speak to the owner of the gym and ask the following questions:

  1. Does the club understand the different needs of an AcroDancer compared to a Gymnast?

  2. Are their instructors trained to teach the different required techniques to ensure the AcroDancer will be able to safely perform on a solid surface?

  3. Is the club building skills through progressions, developing strength and flexibility?


Better choices for an AcroDancer to excel more quickly in their Acro Classes:

  1. Take supplementary classes whenever possible (acro camps and open classes offered at the studio)

  2. Take ballet, jazz, contemporary, and/or modern dance to better condition the body and get the most out of each acro class

  3. Take private AcroDance lessons to focus on specific goals



AcroDance is no longer a unique attribute held by a few dancers. With the evolution of dance over the past decade dancers of all genres are now expected to be able to perform many skills traditionally to be Acrobatic.


Using a well-developed AcroDance program like Acrobatic Arts will aid you in developing a well-rounded and balanced dancer. A dance schedule that includes true AcroDance classes will create stronger, safer, and more diverse dancers, which will, in turn, create more impressive, exciting, and artistic dancing. Those dancers that participate in an AcroDance program will be prepared to meet the challenges and expectations of today’s performers.




Credit for this information can be found in this YouTube video created by Acrobatic Arts: The Difference Between Acro & Gymnastics



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