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Interesting article .. The Acro Invasion


annaliesey
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My old ballet school and my new one also run Acro classes. I have to say that I agree with the dancers. It isn't pretty, it is detrimental to a dancer's long term development and I don't think it should be encouraged. Here endeth the rant!

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I saw this posted on Facebook and I totally agree. While there is a lot we can learn from gymnastics training  in terms of conditioning (active flexibility exercises, jump training, strengthening) I have never liked seeing "acro" sections at festivals and comps (mostly because there tends to be a significant LACK of control and technique involved which makes me cringe!). The 'Dance Moms' / YouTube / Instagram influence has seen even more acro moves 'thrown' into lyrical and modern dance which is so unnecessary and IMHO it takes away from the intention of the dance.

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I quite agree. In fact I would go further than saying the current trend is blurring the line between dance and gymnastics - some of the tricks you see nowadays look like they are more on the border of gymnastics and contortionism. Not attractive in my eyes and I can't believe it is good for young bodies to be stretched into some of these positions. Of course dancers need to be flexible, but I do think that current trends are taking that far too far.

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Just to slightly balance things, appreciating that this a ballet focused forum, both of our DDs have cut doen on gymnastics in order to focus on dance and have found dance acro to be a fun discipline which helps them maintain their skills. They are fortunate to have a teacher who is very skilled in choreography and has incorporate the odd move into their (Modern only) festival routines whilst ensuring that the focus remains dance and musicality. DD1 is currently at an Associate scheme where during additional events it has been emphasised that most dancers have to demonstrate ability across a range of disciplines these days to increase their prospects if employment further down the line. I am sure Acro is not right for everyone and don't disagree with the gist of the article nor the other posts outright, I just thought it might be worth putting forward an additional view!! I guess for those that already know they want to have a career in ballet then this won't be a route they will take, but for others keeping their options open it can be a positive thing, if taught well of course.

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Personally I don't mind seeing the acro sections at comps and festivals but i really wish more comps/festivals would limit the amount of acro allowed in each routine that isn't in the acro category.

 

Seems to me that it doesn't matter if it's jazz, hip hop, lyrical, contemporary or modern there's going to be aerials, front flips, back flips, walkovers or whatever in there just in different orders and the ones that place high do tend to have them.

 

My dd loves doing tricks and has had aerials in her routines for a while but when she choreographed her last piece herself she tried really hard to incorporate it into the meaning, music etc and was complimented in the critique.

 

But you can sit in the audience and just watch trick after trick without any sense of artistry sometimes.

 

The piece she's working on at the moment deliberately doesn't have any acro just to see how it compares in terms of scores and feedback

 

Can't wait :)

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I think that is a really interesting article, and to offer an alternative view point from someone who has recently been through the audition rounds, it is a difficult issue as there is a pressure on the dancers as we are being told not to overstretch but also often expected to be crazy flexible and able to trick, as I personally feel that especially at musical theatre auditions, we are expected to be very flexible and some tricks are expected to an extent and are also seen as positive such as in the freestyle/improv sections in the Jazz classes.

Ofcourse many talented dancers gain places without being able to trick but I personally would have felt much less confident in auditions if I had nt been able to do some of these moves, especially when the people around you are throwing our excessive backflips and scorpions like there's no tomorrow.

I also see the dangers of social media encouraging unsafe stretching at home and definately think that only approved excercises learnt in class should be practiced.

That's why I feel like acro has benefitted my dance training, but I do acgnowledge the risks to my body and therefore try to only perform certain moves like chin stands or backflips and arials on hard floors when nescesary such as competition.

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I completely agree with you littleballerina. My dd is at a vocational school and surrounded by children who are ultra flexible and pushing their bodies into all sorts of strange positions. The teachers apparently tell them to stop and explain how it's not good for their development, but dd says they do it anyway when they are out of class and she sees it all over Instagram anyway!

I don't like it but do feel that unless you are going down the classical route these kind of moves are becoming the norm and young dancers are expected to be more versatile than ever.

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My dd loves doing tricks and has had aerials in her routines for a while but when she choreographed her last piece herself she tried really hard to incorporate it into the meaning, music etc and was complimented in the critique.

 

But you can sit in the audience and just watch trick after trick without any sense of artistry sometimes.

 

 

 

I completely agree with this. One or two acrobatic moves can enhance the performance if they are well choreographed into the routine, but there are too many routines with excessive acro that actually detracts from the performance. My least favourite are some of the downright ugly isolations intended to show off flexibility. The one where they make themselves into a human hula hoop on the floor, an ankle in each hand dragged up to the ears, is not nice to watch but seems increasingly common. My other bugbear is little ones attempting tricks that they are far from mastering - surely you should perfect them in class before competing in front of an audience with them!

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Even if you are flexible, repeated hyperextension of the lower back - eg forward aerials/walkovers etc - can cause dreadful stress injuries in the spine, especially in young people who are still growing.

 

Fortunately, people like Lisa Howell are now coming forward to warn about injuries caused by tilts, scorpions etc but I still cringe when watching Dance Moms etc and see so much repetitive contortion and gymnastic moves involving the lower back.

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If we could see inside of the body when children are attempting these moves then I'm sure some parents would think twice about them. Look at the backs of the vertebrae touching and getting compressed (near label 'angle 1)..... if this is done quickly then stress fractures will occur. Bone fragments in a spinal cord is BAD news. Whiter parts on an X-ray indicate areas of stress and thickening of bone. 

 

b287b3cc55e5935f62e24b8715144dc2.jpg

 

Another thing to think about is repeated stress at the hip joint in oversplits, kicks behind the head etc. The video below shows the range of motion at the hip joint and the animation only shows as much abduction (ie leg moving to the side or a la seconde) as a dancer would do in a battement jete! Imagine how the bones will grind together if the leg went even higher!

 

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I just watched a TV programme last night about some young ice skaters and they all seemed to be developing these truly ugly spins with the leg held up in front at a horribly contorted angle

 

You could see the pressure on these young girls at competitions when they see other skaters performing these feats....they feel they will only get the marks if they can do them too and I felt in the end there was a pressure on the girls trainers to make them aim for things they weren't actually ready for and then they would fall over a lot and get really low marks.....soul destroying .....especially when they know parents are making so many sacrifices to keep them skating ( as in ballet of course)

Too much too young is my feeling

Of course there are those more unique individuals who do have unusual joint arrangements and can do these things more naturally but that isn't most people.

The girl who immediately stood out in the competition the girls attended was a young Russian skater ......who eventually won ....but the reason she stood out ( apart from being able to jump well) was her dance quality.....just so much more expressive and interesting to watch!!

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Another telling moment in this programme last night which has a link also with the above article is that for one of the girls it is thought her mum is more enthusiastic about it all than the girl herself!! She is even told to avoid too much contact with mum before she is due on the ice to do her solo.....also three mins long!! Her mum was putting her off by getting too over involved with her performance.

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I think there is a HUGE difference between a relatively physically mature student in his or her late teens putting a trick or two into a modern solo and the full on across routines that seem to be seen ever more commonly these days. Especially when the performers are very young. It just can't be good for them.

I have to confess I have become a bit fixated on this kind of issue since my younger children took up a couple of different sports and I have observed the difference in attitudes to health and safety compared with what I have observed in the dance world. (And my DD has had sensible teachers who seem pretty cautious compared to many.) I never thought a huge amount about it until I noticed how strict the safety related rules at my boys sports clubs are in comparison. Maybe it's partly to do with there not being a single governing body in dance such as many sports have, perhaps it's just cultural, I don't know. And maybe I've just been lucky with the sports my boys have chosen - obviously there are similar issues in some other fields. But I'm increasingly convinced that the dance world needs to tackle this - hats off to Dr Dance and her colleagues who are working so hard to raise awareness, but maybe as parents we need to be putting our collective feet down more on this issue?

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One problem I think is that the younger children see older children who do these tricks and have been doing them for years and when you warn the little ones that there could be long term damage being done they say "well so and so has been doing them since she was 6 and she's okay" also some teachers who say "I've been doing acro my entire life and it's never done any damage to me or any of the children I've taught over the last 20 odd years!"

You try to install safe training into your child but your the only one, and then the child feels held back as others are "better" than them, get placed at festivals as they can do all the tricks, get picked for the best parts etc, I think we have a very long way to go in changing people's attitudes, especially those of old school local teachers in festival type schools!

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One problem I think is that the younger children see older children who do these tricks and have been doing them for years and when you warn the little ones that there could be long term damage being done they say "well so and so has been doing them since she was 6 and she's okay" also some teachers who say "I've been doing acro my entire life and it's never done any damage to me or any of the children I've taught over the last 20 odd years!"

You try to install safe training into your child but your the only one, and then the child feels held back as others are "better" than them, get placed at festivals as they can do all the tricks, get picked for the best parts etc, I think we have a very long way to go in changing people's attitudes, especially those of old school local teachers in festival type schools!

I actually think it's the attitude of parents and students that needs to change. It starts with us. If we are so crazy for best parts, festival placements, at the risk of longer term health damage then we need to take a long hard look at how we support and encourage our children in their careers that we hope are long lived and relatively injury free.

 

I don't mean this comment in an aggressive or confrontational way but my view is that there are always going to be accidents without asking for trouble!

 

DD and I have spoken about this and agreed chin stands, scorpions, tilts, front aerials, are all on our banned list. I still let her do side aerials, supported front walkovers (but not repetitive) and there's a few things I'm not sure about such as toe rises and contemporary knee drops.

 

But she knows her own body and it's changed pretty well even at her age, she can tell if she's pulled or strained her hips, knees etc

 

One of the most horrific videos I watched was a six year old who tried to do a walkover at home with disastrous consequences and that video will stay in my mind for a long time. I'll post a link but it's quite upsetting so I understand if the moderators want to remove it

https://youtu.be/69R0CQ7669E

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.... Look at the backs of the vertebrae touching and getting compressed (near label 'angle 1)..... if this is done quickly then stress fractures will occur. Bone fragments in a spinal cord is BAD news. Whiter parts on an X-ray indicate areas of stress and thickening of bone.

 

... Imagine how the bones will grind together if the leg went even higher!

 

 

These are so informative .. Thanks so much for taking the time to post????

 

With the vertebrae in the back is the risk of damage only if it's done quickly? What can parents think about with dance teachers who are able to go on a short course (2 days!) and become accredited acro teachers? I understand from Point-less' view that it's difficult when faced with a "qualified acro teacher" telling you it's all safe :(

 

My son had perthes disease when he was younger and he was on crutches for over 2 years and we saw countless X-rays. Things were explained to us about how the top of the hip bone effectively grows more bone and then someone else explained that with dancers doing repetitive and extreme hip stuff (tilts, leg mounts etc) that the hip bones grow extra bone and that rubs in the joint.

 

Or is it risks of dislocation? Early arthritis? I hear so many myths (none of them good) but it would be nice to know :)

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These are so informative .. Thanks so much for taking the time to post

 

With the vertebrae in the back is the risk of damage only if it's done quickly? What can parents think about with dance teachers who are able to go on a short course (2 days!) and become accredited acro teachers? I understand from Point-less' view that it's difficult when faced with a "qualified acro teacher" telling you it's all safe :(

 

My son had perthes disease when he was younger and he was on crutches for over 2 years and we saw countless X-rays. Things were explained to us about how the top of the hip bone effectively grows more bone and then someone else explained that with dancers doing repetitive and extreme hip stuff (tilts, leg mounts etc) that the hip bones grow extra bone and that rubs in the joint.

 

Or is it risks of dislocation? Early arthritis? I hear so many myths (none of them good) but it would be nice to know :)

Well, I hurt myself when I was about 5. I was rather stupidly walking along the top of a fence (obviously my parents had already told me not to!) and I fell off, catching my leg in the fence as I went down. Years later I had pain in my hip and after x-raying it the doctor asked me if I'd ever injured it. Turns out that wrenching my leg all those years before had caused the bit where the tendon joined on the bone to calcify and grow an extra knobbly bit to protect and strengthen itself. That extra bit was what was causing the pain.

 

If I could manage that much damage in one silly fall, I dread to think what some of these youngsters are doing to their joints with all these extreme moves year after year.

Edited by taxi4ballet
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These are so informative .. Thanks so much for taking the time to post

 

With the vertebrae in the back is the risk of damage only if it's done quickly? What can parents think about with dance teachers who are able to go on a short course (2 days!) and become accredited acro teachers? I understand from Point-less' view that it's difficult when faced with a "qualified acro teacher" telling you it's all safe :(

 

My son had perthes disease when he was younger and he was on crutches for over 2 years and we saw countless X-rays. Things were explained to us about how the top of the hip bone effectively grows more bone and then someone else explained that with dancers doing repetitive and extreme hip stuff (tilts, leg mounts etc) that the hip bones grow extra bone and that rubs in the joint.

 

Or is it risks of dislocation? Early arthritis? I hear so many myths (none of them good) but it would be nice to know :)

The damage can be done if the movement puts excessive force into the area (spine/hip) - this usually is during quicker movements as the dancer tends to 'throw' themselves into the position. However excessive force can also come from repeated slower movements.

 

As for the long term implications - it is my understanding that any bone that is put under stress, particularly when growing, is at risk of thickening/developing more bone/developing bone spurs. Once that happens in the hip, for example, the surfaces of the bones become closer to each other, and articular cartilage is more likely to become worn out prematurely which causes arthritis. It also explains why so many young dancers (especially if vocational) develop bone spurs / os trigonum in the ankle around about age 13/14. This is especially common in girls with lots of pointe work. The bones in the ankle get repeatedly pushed together or stressed, so extra bone develops which either causes pain and restricted pointing of the ankle, or can sometimes break off. Repair requires surgery and not all dancers fully recover from it.

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I guress almost all sports and dance, ballet included, do carry the risk of short and long term injury.

 

According to recent research in dance medicine and science (data from a large professional ballet company), the injury rate among professional dancers is more than 4 per 1000 hours. 

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Just out of interest how does that rate compare to other flexibility- related sports, such as ice skating or gymnastics? Is ballet behind in terms of injury prevention strategies being woven into training or are we culturally pushing our young elite to breaking point in all every discipline?

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