If you're looking to enhance your dance curriculum, adding an acrobatics program is a valuable investment. From a business perspective, offering multiple disciplines is a good boost, not to mention an added convenience for the parents. Plus, contemporary choreography, whether on national competition or Broadway stages, is laced with intricate tricks like aerials, handsprings and illusions. But before you start adding cartwheels and back flips to your current schedule, there are a few important factors to consider.
- If you have the space and the budget, offering a full-blown gymnastics program (tumbling, balance beam, vault and single, uneven and parallel bars) is an option. If you're simply adding acro, panel mats are the only essential equipment needed, which can be purchased for a few hundred dollars. Consider extra teaching aids like crash pads and TheraBands (for strength and flexibility training) as your program expands.
Former Cirque du Soleil performer Aloysia Gavre with students from her circus training school in Los Angeles. Photo by Joe Toreno
- Spotting is a mandatory skill for leading an acro class. Encourage continuing education classes to keep your staff informed on the latest teaching techniques. USA Gymnastics offers certification classes, and some basic curriculums are available online if you need an aid in creating your own.
- Start simple with offerings that establish the foundations of acro pedagogy—you have to learn to do a somersault before attempting a flip. Acro tricks require tremendous back strength and flexibility. It's a mistake to consider acro technique any less important than dance technique.
Photo by Joe Toreno
- To decrease the potential for injury, keep class sizes small. Your dance studio liability insurance should be updated, and if you offer bars, beam, trampoline, etc., the cost of coverage will be higher. Make sure you have the right coverage for when accidents happen, because they will.