Dance is as old as the human race. It can be described as a series of well-articulated movements that are at tandem with rhythm and beats of music. The dancing that was done by the ancestors used to play different roles, which included invoking gods and some cultural values (Clarke et al). Today, there are different dance categories and styles, many of them have sprouted with the advent of hip-hop and the computer generation. One of the complex and enjoyed dances is Acro dance. Acro dance can be defined as a classical dancing technique that involves acrobatic movements which require a lot of precision. The dancers portray an athletic character with a unique combination of choreography that blends with the acrobatics and the seamless blends of this dance. Circus productions and amateur competitive dances employ Acro dance in a wide scale. It should, however, be noted that Acro dance and artistic gymnastics are different. The later is a sport that has its governing bodies. According to Muse, other names of Acro dance are gymnastic dance or acrobatic dance. Acro dancing requires extensive training, practice and acrobatic skills. These can be attributed demands of the dance physically. This paper will focus on delivering the key distinguishing characteristics of Acro dance and its evolution to the present day state.
This dance dates back to 1900s, tracing its roots to Canada and the United States. Many people view Acro dance as the successor of vaudeville acrobatic dance with the main difference being in the form, precision and movements that are witnessed in the Acro dances today. Vaudeville had a depiction of an acrobatic done in a musical context while the Acro dance is a dance that has acrobatic movements. Today, this dance is popular, but it is not taught extensively in schools owing lack of facilities. However, in South Africa, the dance has been in operation for over 50 years. The earliest recorded dancers of Acro dance are Tommy Woods and Sherman Coates. Notably, this dance has the ballet movements as the foundation for its performance.
Diversity within Acro Dance
Acro dance is a dance that has diversity within itself. The dance moves are in four different styles, namely: lyrical, ballet, jazz and modern dance. These are the key distinguishing styles that are used to classify Acro dance. Failure to feature anywhere in the dance would make it to be disqualified as not being an Acro dance. Many skills are required to portray these styles as these movements that are usually referred to as tricks. They require complex body and body parts movements. If a trick is more complex, it might require more than two dancers to articulate thus; it is not a dance of only two people, but it can be played by several people. More than two people can perform triple cartwheel or bridge pyramid movements. Additionally, there are tricks that are done by individual dancers. These are commonly referred to as solo tricks. These include cartwheel, chin stand, back tuck, side aerial, kip-up, handspring, elbow stand, and round off. For two individuals partnering tricks are encouraged. These include double cartwheel, swizzle, vault summer Sault, and lawnmower. The choreographic requirements of Acro dance are very high. A lot of instructions is required to master the upper body strength and flexibility.
Difference from Gymnastics
This dance is performed on a venue that is dedicated to it only, and not on gymnastic stages. There are professionals who adjudicate it on this venue as opposed to being in gymnastic venues. The most notable characteristic is the absence of balance beams, sprung floor, and pommel horse, which are a characteristic of gymnastics. Gymnastics do not portray a lot of musical rhythm as in Acro dance.
Competitive Form of Acro Dance
After its evolution in the 1900s to date Acro dance has taken a new dimension, where it has been included in the competitive dance industry. The competition requires a minimum of four tricks with which fifty percent of the dance is acrobatic (Lamberson Jim). There has been a lot of controversy in the competitive form of this dance since most competitions require different standards of the acrobatic content of the dance and the accompanying tricks. This, though, has not deterred Acro dance enthusiasts from participating in this captivating dance. Characteristically, Acro dance is a smooth dance with acrobatic movements introduced by graceful transition between them.
Just like the way athletes wear light clothes and shoes to run efficiently and how football players wear shorts and spiked shoes, the Acro dancers require a special costume kit that would enable them to make their movements easily. Firstly, it is the footwear. The floors on which Acro dances are performed are hard. Thus, Acro dancers would use shoes, as opposed to general gymnastic attendants who would prefer using barefoot. Their feet are protected in case they decide to dance barefooted by a foot thong, which is placed on the upper part of the foot. The feet thongs also play an aesthetic role in making the dancer’s feet look more beautiful and presentable. Jazz boots are favorite footwear for most Acro dancers. These shoes are light and tight, thus, are able to prevent shifting of feet inside the shoes while performing the tricks.
The clothing requirements of these costumes are aesthetic value and safety. Consequently, tight fitting costumes are a decision made for this dance. The reasons are that the tight fitting costumes are in synchrony with the tricks and are less likely to interfere with the center of gravity of the dancer, thus, maintaining control. Many injuries have happened in the past, where the dancers had worn loose clothes (International Dance Teachers Association). Broken legs, arms, and necks have led the dance to evolve not only in styles, but also in costumes. Acro dance is a dance of the tight fitting clothes, which exposes the body parts during the dance, thus, adding more value to the audiences (Jordsprings).
My perception of Acro dance was that it is a gymnastics competition or performance that is done on a music background. This has, however, been decimated by the fact that the dance requires movements that are in synchrony with the musical beats. Additionally, the common picture of beams and tables found on gymnastic stadia are not characteristics of this dance. Additionally, I originally thought that Acro dance was a dance of the acrobatic people only. However, I have found out that it can be learned through practice by people with flexible bodies.
In conclusion, Acro dance is over a century old. It requires complex body and body parts movements, which should be at tandem with the music. This dance portrays an athletic character choreographed uniquely to blend with the acrobatics and its seamless blends. It has found most use in circus productions and amateur competitive dances. It is indefinable by its four characteristic movement styles, namely: lyrical, ballet, jazz and modern dance. Personal perception of Acro dance was that it is a gymnastic performance that is done on a music background. The costumes for this dance include jazz shoes, foot thongs and tightly fitting clothes. These enable them to make their movements easily. The tricks performed are done by one person, two people, or multiple people depending on the complexity of the style.