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AcroDance vs. Gymnastics

Sarah Reis.BKin.MEd • Acrobatic Arts Faculty  09/07/2018

What is the difference between acrodance and gymnastics? While the similarities are obvious there are several key variances between them.


Regulatory Committees: Gymnastics is highly regulated by governing bodies with specific licenses and requirements. Dance is ungoverned. There are several organizational bodies in dance but none of them are mandatory to operate in the competitive community.


Sport vs. Art: Gymnastics is considered a sport while dance is considered a performing art. Understanding this key difference shapes the technical foundations for how skills are executed. In gymnastics there are set point deductions for specific errors and difficulty incentives that create higher start values when executed well. Competitive dance does not have higher start values for difficulty or specific requirements and the scoring systems are highly unregulated compared to the universal judging deductions mandated in gymnastics.


Technical Variances: It is the nature of sport to perform skills with the optimal value in mind; it is the nature of art to allow for expressive preferences. As dancers we make choices in the execution of our form that enhance the aesthetic – as seen in the acrobatic arts selection of arms in the side aerial. Dancers are concerned with transitional steps and the ability to engage the audience at all times while gymnastics is viewed from stadium seating which encourages projection to all four sides.


Equipment vs Dance Floor: TheVault, Bars and Beam exercises found in gymnastics aren’t commonly found in dance performance; they do however show up in various ways in the circus community. The music and choreography in the gymnastics floor routine showcases similarities withacrobatic dance but gymnasts are aided by a sprung floor, which allows for the execution of skills you don’t typically see on hard floor. The way that a dancer tumbles on a hard floor also must adapt slightly to absorb impact and protect our joints.In order to aid the aesthetic priority we see more splitting and step outs from tumblers in acrodance as two footed skills are typically more hard hitting and louder. In gymnastics it is common to see more two footed tumbling skills on floor exercise as gymnasts utilize the sprung floor. In contrast splitting steps outs (back aerial) are most common on beam; this is simply because the small width of the beam is suited to land with one foot at a time.


In conclusion, the most important thing for acrodance choreographers to remember when comparing dance to gymnastics is the artistic process. In gymnasts there is a general outline pre-established by the required skills on that apparatus, tumbling passes and core content is then strung together by connecting steps. In a way this piecework of choreographic blocking limits artistic freedom. In dance the canvas is blank and there are no rules (or limited rules) about where you can go with it. Ultimately this freedom of artistic development is cornerstone to what makes dance a performing art and the technical choices we make at acrobatic arts are built on this foundation.


*Blog reposted with permission from AcrobaticArts

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