In order to teach acrobatic movement correctly, engage an acrobatics teacher with good anatomical and kinetic knowledge. Starting acrobatic movement may be problematic for certain adult participants.
The following pedagogical aspects are to be considered for acrobatics studies and to realise one by one:
- To overcome fear
- Control in up-and-down positions, stay ‘cool’
- To develop courage
- Trust in the partner(s)
- Trust in the supporting teacher
- To make acrobatic movement dramatic (using aims and contradictions)
Acrobatic movement in acting training as a more complex training form was first reconsidered by Grotowski. It engages the entire body and mind and needs full engagement. It develops decision-making and practices the anticipation of movement. It also develops physical qualities and flow of movement. Clean starting and ending positions are very important to learn from the beginning.
Study the following 62 basic movements one by one. It will take time. Start with the simpler ones and repeat them many times. Try to find variations! Right from the start, demand precise starting and ending positions of the feet!
After half a year, they may be practised in dynamic packages of two or even three joint movements. Join them very carefully. If the students can do half of the movements in the list correctly after one year, it is enough.
Some of the acrobatic movements are for very advanced students and are marked with: (adv.)
From purely acrobatic movement to dramatic movement
To make acrobatics more dramatic, you make the student realise the directions of movement, as well as the force and counterforce (the oppositions in a movement). They may serve as aims for movement (hands on floor push downwards, the toes reach upwards, they want to touch the sky…). A dramatic contradiction arises in the body. Search and study these contradictions of direction for every movement.
Body positions 1: Prone, supine, sitting, kneeling, and standing positions.
The 64 acrobatic movements
Tumbling exercises 1.201–1.203
Exercise 1.201: Rolling relaxed, with a minimum of effort (movement impulse from buttock muscles and abdominals), diagonally over the floor. Contract/release the abdominal muscles.
Exercise 1.202: Rolling stiff as a stick, with tension.
Exercise 1.203: Three peoples rolling and ‘jumping’ over each other. Participants A and B lie opposite each other, while C lays in the middle and starts rolling towards A, who jumps over C (by using the hands), while B rolls towards the middle, and A ‘jumps’ over B …and so on. (The persons on the outside roll always towards the centre).
Splits exercises 1.204–1.205
Exercise 1.204: Split. Starting in the basic position, move one leg extended forwards, the other backwards, and support yourself with the hands.
Exercise 1.205: Split sideways, from a large position, opening the legs more and more, supported by the hands and arms.
Somersaults forward exercises 1.206–1.222
(cabollos and somersaults)
Acrobatic movement should always start with a clear position and end in a clear pose, or in a spring-bounded standing pose, legs together, arms brought forwards and upwards.
An ending sound can be added (circus-stop): jump with legs together immediately after the last movement, and extend your arms with a ‘ha!’ or a ‘hepp!’
Exercise 1.206: Monkey-’cabollo’ (rolling as a ‘round package’, knees close to the forehead) focus on the hands, put them shoulder-breadth in front of the head on the carpet. The body direction is forwards, but the hands push backwards. Keep the body and the neck well-rounded, and rise into a pose.
Exercise 1.207: The same Monkey-cabollo, but push on the legs and extend them after the impulse and bend them quickly again.
Exercise 1.208: Monkey-cabollo. After pushing with the hands, both hands immediately hold the calves. Quick arm movements (floor–calves) accelerate the rolling!
Exercise 1.209: Movement as above, 3–5 monkey cabollos enchained.
Exercise 1.210: Monkey-cabollo without arms. Put your hands on your thighs or extend them to the sides. The movement can be done with a slight jump at the beginning. (Take care about to encircle the neck!)
Exercise 1.211: Somersault (cabollo) forwards with stretched legs.
Exercise 1.212: Scissors: rolling forwards, opening the stretched legs to the side, and closing them again.
Exercise 1.213: Split-somersault forwards. Start with the split, put the hands on the carpet, and roll over.
Exercise 1.214: Somersault forwards over one shoulder: right leg back, left leg in front, left palm (and elbow high) on the carpet as support, right arm outstretched to the side (turn the arm in the shoulder, to the inside, with palm up), roll over the right shoulder, bend the right knee on the carpet, put the left foot down with bent knees and rise.
Variation: After rolling over the right shoulder, immediately roll over the left shoulder.
Exercise 1.215: 19. (Ukemi) Somersault over one shoulder, lift one leg, swing the arm on the same side to the front (via the side) and walk away. If the movement is well done, the knee should not touch the floor.
Exercise 1.216: Somersault with contact: From a walk, jump by lifting the right arm and the right knee (as if greeting somebody), go into an immediate somersault over the right shoulder, and continue walking without breaking the rhythm.
Exercise 1.217: Cabollo over a plinth (start to jump up to the plinth with legs together) or a crouching partner.
Exercise 1.218: High tiger-jump over an obstacle such as a table, a chair, a crouching person or a plinth (advanced exercise).
Exercise 1.219: Long tiger-jump over an obstacle (advanced exercise).
Exercise 1.220: Tiger-jump over a rolling person lying on the floor, moving horizontally towards you.
Exercise 1.221: Headstand, roll down (push down with the hands, roll down and forwards.
Exercise 1.222: Handstand (from a standing position, impulse with arms up and body forward and back leg up), roll down from the neck, and brake with the hands.
Backward somersaults exercises 1.223–1.228
Exercise 1.223: Monkey-cabollo straight backwards, round the neck and push with the hands.
Exercise 1.224: Somersault back over one shoulder, with the same arm extended to the side (palm up). The opposite arm with a bent elbow pushes with the hand, palm upwards.
Exercise 1.225: Same somersault over one shoulder, the opposite leg is stretched out. End on one knee, and rise into an arabesque position in one flow.
Exercise 1.226: Split somersault backwards.
Exercise 1.227: Scissors somersault backwards. Close and open the legs while rolling.
Exercise 1.228: Somersault backwards with extended legs and flexed feet, ending on the belly (flop).
Somersault sideways exercise 1.229
Exercise 1.229: Right knee on the carpet, left foot with bent knee in front, right arm with palm backwards close to the body. Roll over the right shoulder, search the floor far away from you, and push with your left hand (right shoulder on the floor, left arm beside the head, roll to the right side, up again with one foot in front).
Equilibres (balance) exercises 1.220–1.237
Exercise 1.230: Arabesque. Stand on both legs, lift one leg high, bend the body forwards. Arms as a prolongation of the lifted leg or outstretched to the sides (airplane).
Exercise 1.231: Rooster position (squatting, arms between the legs, bend forward, thighs over the elbows, and carry the body weight on the hands, head and neck lifted.
Exercise 1.232: ‘Yoga-headstand’ (hands over the head).
Exercise 1.233: 35 ‘Sportive’ headstand. With hands at shoulder breadth, build a triangle with the head in front.
Exercise 1.234: Change balance in a headstand: hollow your back, and then do the opposite, open your stretched legs sideways, move them forwards and backwards, and so on.
Exercise 1.235: Shoulder stand. Balance your body on a stable basis built by the right under-arm positioned on the floor (with palm up), right shoulder and the opposite left hand, palm on the floor (and elbow lift) as support. The right shoulder on the floor in front of the right hand, the head on the right cheek pressed onto the floor. Arms, right shoulder, and head form a rectangular basis. Lift the pelvis on the left side, bend the knees over the left elbow and search for balance. Afterwards, lift the legs upwards, with a bent lower back.
Exercise 1.236: Handstand. Balance on your hands, stretch your body upwards, and do not bend your spine.
Exercise 1.237: Go up into a handstand with joined feet.
Hyper-extensions of the back exercises 1.238–1.243
Exercise 1.238: Swan fall. (As a swan, letting itself fall into the water). From a kneeling position, bend the body backwards in an arch and move the pelvis forwards, impulse from the centre of the body, push the lower back, hands beside the breasts, chest extended and head to the side (very important), and roll from the knees to the cheek, keeping the body arched.
Exercise 1.239: Fishtail. From a handstand, (or a jump with joined legs, advanced exercise), move the chest (slowly by muscular force) quickly towards the floor, with legs behind and the body arched, and the cheek to the side.
Exercise 1.240: Russian somersault. Start to a somersault backwards over one shoulder, extend your legs towards the ceiling with an impulse from the lower back, hyper-extend, and roll over on the chest (head goes to the side!).
Exercise 1.241: Bridge from a kneeling position.
Exercise 1.242: Bridge from a standing position.
Exercise 1.243: The bell. Handstand, descend with one leg into the bridge, return by the same leg.
Jumps and ‘bascules’ exercises 1.244–1.247
Exercise 1.244: Jump from kneeling to squatting. Whilst kneeling, jump into a squatting position. The arms, from behind, make a violent movement forwards and upwards and give energy to the jump.
Exercise 1.245: Neck jump (‘the nail’). Push with your hands (placed beside the ears), tilt the pelvis and project the legs forward. Land in a squatting position.
Exercise 1.246: Head jump. Stand on your head, and descend the tensed legs to a horizontal position, as otkas, and pull with the arms.
Exercise 1.247: Back up into handstand. From a sitting position, bend the body forwards with stretched legs and feet, with an impulse back up into a handstand.
Spins exercises 1.248–1.254
Exercise 1.248: Eagle turn. Man fanshen (jingju pirouette)
- Standing in a T position, left weighted foot forward and the hips open, arms equally diagonally, outstretched to the side with left hand downwards, right arm up, hands in line (they stay outstretched to the end of the movement). Spine kept straight, look down ca. 3 m from the toes of the front foot.
- Bend the front arm 60 degrees. This is the otkas for the movement (female version: no otkas of the arm).
- The back foot (right) crosses over the left foot to the left side, with the toes now in line. At the same time, the hips turn 90 degrees to points forwards like the toes. Shoulders are in line with hips and feet.
- Extend your left hand, which initiates the rest of the body to follow – hips, feet and shoulders. Now the body has turned 180 degrees. The chest right up. Hold the eyes to the floor for as long you can, finally turning your glance up in the same direction as the chest.
- Look down again (back to the starting position), then the rest of the body follows so that the hips and shoulders are in the same ‘package’. Finish in the starting position. The weight is on the front leg. Shoulders and hips are in the same line with the arms straight from the start.
Exercise 1.249: First practise the five isolated poses of the movement as a drill, before they are joined in a flow. (It is advisable to stop after movement 2).
Exercise 1.250: Join the five movements into a flow. Also practise the other side and combine the later 3 turns continuously.
Exercise 1.251: Cartwheel.
Exercise 1.252: From a cartwheel, jump 180 degrees and land in a squatting (rondade) position.
Exercise 1.253: Maroccain rondade (Jump from a cartwheel, but with a full turn).
Exercise 1.254: Hand-support-flap forwards.
Advanced exercises 1.255–1.265
Exercise 1.255: Handstand balances. Open and close the legs forwards-backwards, to the side, move the pelvis, bend the legs, etc.
Exercise 1.256: Walk 3–5 steps in a handstand.
Exercise 1.257: Handstand on one hand.
Exercise 1.258: The fishtail. Sitting with extended legs, bending the body forward (otkas), with force and impulse in the lower back, throw the legs backwards and upwards into a handstand and descend with arm force (onto the chest), head to the side into the fishtail.
Exercise 1.259: Courbette.
Exercise 1.260: Cartwheel as the second arm reaches the floor.
Exercise 1.261: Aereal (manzi), cartwheel without hands.
Exercise 1.262: Ombrella (Flying feet and camel spin (feijio xuanzi), moving in a circle.)
Exercise 1.263: Flickflack.
Exercise 1.264: Flickflack ending in fishtail (on the chest).
Exercise 1.265: Salto backwards: (joined legs, jumping high, grouping the body).
Series of first two, then three acrobatic movements from the above list are harmoniously joined together and given a rhythmic flow.
The student realises the inner condition of the movements (what they mean or express).
Movement series – as examination at the end of level I
Connect the movements in a dynamic way.
- Standing in a tree position.
Describe a big circle with the right arm and extend it behind you, glide on the outer edge of the hand backwards and down to the floor in a long angle, with the pelvis lifted
- Extend the body on the back
- Contract into an egg position, on the right and left side
- Rolling forwards (cabollo)
- Take a big step forwards, into a forward lunge
- Swinging the arms and circle round every 3rd swing
- ’En planche’ (body straight as a plank, by force of the arms and hands) bend the arms and lie prone, supported by the hands and arms
- Jump ‘through’ the pushing hands onto your back
- Cabollo back over one shoulder
- Jump into a squatting position and make a half-turn
- Arabesque, arms extended
- Balance with plié and bent arms
- Back into an upright position
- Bend with stretched knees, hands touching the floor
- Sun salutation, to the right and left side
- Rise from lying supine to the dog stretching position
- Crow position
- Open the legs (half-split)
- Descend the legs, put the feet on the floor, rise
- Jump into a parallel position
- Kneel down
- Bend the spine backwards
- Swan fall forwards (cheek to the side)
- Rise into a knight position
- Rise with a half-turn
Attention! Acrobatics lessons should be conducted by a specialist. The risk for injuries is otherwise high!