We have mentioned many times of how the sport of tumbling has become a requirement in sports. Of course, tumbling is a major part of gymnastics and cheerleading, but the requirements in Dance is growing rapidly. Each sports discipline has its own specific requirements for tumbling exercises. The skills that are popular in each sport varies. In this discussion, I will share my thoughts on how the sport of tumbling is incorporated in the dance industry.
There are several different types of dance disciplines that the dancer can participate in: jazz, lyrical, ballet, and more, but one discipline that is not seen as often is Acro. In the acro discipline, students combine tumbling skills into the dance choreography. These skills can range from very basic tumbling movements to more complex and advanced skills. The more advanced the dance student, the more advanced the tumbling elements. One of the biggest challenges for many dancers and dance programs needing to incorporate tumbling skills is proper training and development of these skills.
All disciplines of dance are very complex and students must commit many hours each week to develop the skills required in dance elements. In addition, many dancers on Company participate in several dance disciplines. Similar to gymnastics where the athletes participate in all the events, dancers may participate in Jazz, Lyrical, Ballet, Hip Hop, and more. This leaves little time for training the necessary tumbling skills the students would like to learn. The problem many dancers are faced with is that acquiring tumbling skills also takes many hours of consistent training to develop the skills (Tumbling: Importance of Building a Strong Foundation).
In the dance industry, the tumbling skills that are most popular are the front and back walkovers, front handsprings, aerial cartwheels, front aerials, and back handsprings. There are other skills that are seen but these are usually the major focus. The aerials and handsprings are considered the more advanced skills. These skills have a higher risk factor and takes, in most cases, years to accomplish.
Not only are tumbling skills required in the discipline of Acro, many of the other disciplines of dance are incorporating tumbling elements within their choreography. It seems the popularity of performing these tumbling skills is growing in the dance industry. This requires a higher demand of training to learn the skills that the students need to incorporate in their training schedule. Finding the time to train these skills is a big challenge for the students and program. In addition, most dance studio’s are also challenged with finding experienced tumbling instructors to train the students.
Since tumbling is not the primary objective in the dance industry, most dance studio’s have a challenge in hiring a full-time tumbling instructor for their program. This makes it difficult in finding a qualified instructor to commit to working with the program for the little hours allowed for this training. I am often asked by local dance programs to assist with training their students on a weekly basis. However, since my full time position is running my own gymnastics and tumbling programs, I simply to not have the time to accommodate them. This is the same scenario for many of the gymnastics and tumbling instructors in local communities.
For those dance programs who are challenged with acquiring a tumbling instructor, there are several options they can explore. One option is to bring in an instructor periodically to do tumbling clinics for the students. There are many tumbling coaches throughout most communities that are employed at local gymnastics programs that would love to assist in this area. Another option is to have the dancers either join a weekly tumbling class at a gymnastics gym or explore one-on-one private lessons.
The most important reason to seek out professional and experienced tumbling coaches is due to the risks involved with learning tumbling skills. An experienced tumbling coach knows the proper technique of the skills and the particular drills used to assist the athlete with learning the skills in a non-threatening or dangerous manner (The Technique Controversy).
In addition to learning the skills properly, spotting the skills is essential to help the athlete gain confidence and protection from injury. This is especially important in learning the aerials and back handsprings (The Art of Spotting). Many times when athletes attempt these skills without an experienced spotter, while still in the developmental stages of learning the skill, accidents may occur. The result could create such a fear, the athlete may get a serious “mental block”. When this occurs, it may take a long time to overcome – and some athletes will never overcome the block. This scenario needs to be recognized so it can be prevented.
One big difference the dance industry has compared to the other sports that incorporate tumbling, is that the dancers need to perform their skills on a wood or Marley surface. No matting is allowed. This certainly creates a higher risk to the dancer and intensifies the fear factor. This landing surface is much harder than the typical tumbling mats used in other industries. Not only is it a much harder surface, it can also be a slippery surface. It is needed for dancers to spin and pirouette, but creates a challenge for tumbling skills. This is another reason why the dancer needs to have their tumbling skills perfected prior to attempting on this type of surface.
We are getting an increased number of dance students either join our tumbling classes or taking private training lessons. Due to this increase in dance participants, we have started offering monthly Aerial clinics. These have been so popular that we usually reach capacity. The most common statement I hear from the dance parents is that their dance studio does not have the proper instruction to teach tumbling skills. Many dance programs that offer an acro class has an instructor but they lack the knowledge and experience in technique and spotting of the skills.
It is exciting to see tumbling skills incorporated in dance choreography. Many of the skills like the walkovers and aerials are elegant in their presentation and fits well within the dance routines. Let’s ensure the students learn these skills properly and safely. Through good technique, tumbling skills add a positive dynamic to the program. However, if the skills are performed poorly with bad technique, it will certainly have a negative effect in the presentation.
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