Acrobatics for Children & Teenagers - Michael Blume - ebook

Acrobatics for Children & Teenagers ebook

Michael Blume



Children and teenagers find acrobatics exciting. The challenge of risking their equilibrium together and building human formations is intriguing. Team spirit and the willingness to cooperate are required. Many of the spectacular human pyramids and partner balances are easy to learn and considerable progress can be made in a short period of time. This book provides a vivid and informative description of the principles of partner acrobatics with children and teenagers. It provides suggestions on how to begin and how to design meaningful training sessions, as well as different options for the structuring of performances. In addition to the many preparatory exercises, the practical portion of the book introduces simple acrobatic formations that have been tried and tested. The individual chapters include detailed written and visual descriptions of the many different techniques, from pyramid building to fantasy formations, from dynamic elements to elegant partner formations. The Evolution of Acrobatics Acrobatics is considered a movement art with a long tradition and evolutionary history. The term "acrobatics" stems from the Greek word "akrobates", which actually means, "one walking on his toes" and originally referred to a tightrope walker. The oldest testimonials on acrobatics (approximately 2000 BC) were found in Egypt and consist primarily of drawings on limestone rocks. The first written evidence stems from an account of an Egyptian feast in the 4th century BC, during which acrobats performed and built tall human pyramids. Acrobats have always been on the fringes of society, were seen as infamous and as a "vagrant people" who remained without rights. Their circumstances changed little during the Middle Ages. Only the emergence of the circus at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century represented a definitive turning point for travelling artists and acrobats.

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Acrobatics for Children & Teenagers

This book has been very carefully prepared, but no responsibility is taken for the correctness of the information it contains. Neither the author nor the publisher can assume liability for any damages or injuries resulting from information contained in this book.

Acrobatics for Children & Teenagers

By Michael Blume

Meyer & Meyer Sport

Original Title: Akrobatik mit Kindern und JugendlichenAachen: Meyer & Meyer 2006Translated by: AAA Translations

British Library Cataloguing in Publication DataA catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

Acrobatics for Children & TeenagersMaidenhead: Meyer & Meyer Sport (UK) Ltd., 2013

All rights reserved, especially the right to copy and distribute, including the translation rights. No part of this work may be reproduced–including by photocopy, microfilm or any other means– processed, stored electronically, copied or distributed in any form whatsoever without the written permission of the publisher.

© 2013 by Meyer & Meyer Sport (UK) Ltd.Aachen, Auckland, Beirut, Budapest, Cairo, Cape Town, Dubai, Hägendorf,Indianapolis, Maidenhead, Singapore, Sydney, Tehran, Wien Member of the World Sport Publishers’ Association (WSPA)

ISBN: 9781782553502E-Mail: [email protected]




1.   The Acrobatics Experience

1.1 Joint Action

1.2 Physical Experience

1.3 Confidence – Trust

2.   Important Basic Biomechanical Principles

2.1 Correct Posture

2.2 Stress on the Spine

2.3 Stress on the Wrists

3.   Starting Out, but How?

3.1 The Framework

3.2 Important Information for Getting Started

3.3 Acrobatics with Children

3.4 Acrobatics with Teenagers

3.5 Planning Practice Sessions

4.   Putting Together Performances

4.1 Staging a Performance

4.2 Structuring a Performance

5.   Preparatory Exercises

5.1 Exercises for Self-Awareness and Awareness of Others

5.2 Partner Exercises for Body Tension

5.3 Trust Exercises

5.4 Partner Exercises for Balance

6.   Basic Principles of Building Human Pyramids

6.1 Glossary

6.2 Grips

6.3 Basic Elements of Building a Human Pyramid

6.4 Four-Person Pyramids

6.5 Five-Person Pyramids

6.6 Six-Person Pyramids

6.7 Seven-Person Pyramids

6.8 Pyramids with Eight or More People

7.   Fantasy Formations

8.   Dynamic Elements

9.   Principles of Partner Acrobatics

9.1 “Chair” and Variations

9.2 “Flyer” with Variations

9.3 Shoulder Stand with Variations

9.4 Standing One on Top of the Other with Variations

10. Bibliography

11. Credits


At a time of growing individualization and increasing physical inactivity, there is a valid place for partner acrobatics in the education of children and teenagers. Accepting and wanting the other person as a partner, building viable relationships and the ability to put aside one’s own interests for the greater good in my opinion are essential and contemporary skills that can be practiced superbly through acrobatics.

The skills that are acquired through the mutual quest for balance and physical interaction with each other are closely linked to a change of attitude and awareness toward the other person and positively affect one’s self-image. Therefore acrobatics also has an absolutely valid place in the social education of children and teenagers.

The photo material in this book shows the different aspects of working with children and teenagers:

▶ Acrobatics as a recreational activity without any major material and spatial requirements,

▶ Acrobatics as part of a social education project for the integration of children and teenagers affected by social burdens, and

▶ Acrobatics as a school and club sport.

Have fun with theory and practiceMichael Blume


Children and teenagers find acrobatics fascinating. Acrobatics is circus performance. When acrobats perform their tricks in the circus ring the children are totally captivated. Their eyes are aglow, their cheeks are flushed, and they watch with baited breath; they succumb to the mysterious magic of the circus. Going from watching the circus to being the circus is only a small step for children, and acrobatics is a major part of that. Many children and teenagers have lots of fun learning agility skills and working on their balance.

A great many spectacular-looking pyramids and partner balance skills can be learned quickly and significant progress can be made in a relatively short period of time. A sense of achievement motivates and inspires. Everyone can participate, whether chubby or skinny, big or small; everyone matters and finds a suitable place within the human structures.

Acrobatics is an adventure. Building acrobatic formations requires confidence – a willingness to climb up on others at the risk of falling. Other bodies are balanced in unusual positions, which can easily result in a loss of balance. Having to rely on the skill and abilities of others is both thrilling and unsettling. Mishaps and successes live side by side. Human works of art only happen if everyone works together.

Acrobatics is the art of movement. Imaginative human structures can be created with simple means. Creativity is only limited by the biomechanical laws of the human body. Children are especially productive when they search for motion sequences independently and are able to design them together.

Acrobatics is a sport. One learns to be in control of one’s body and to work on one’s balance. Important qualities like strength, agility, body tension, and spatial orientation are developed in a playful manner and practiced by working together.

In this book, I would like to introduce the principles of working with children and teenagers on elements of partner acrobatics. What I mean by partner acrobatics includes simple formations for two people as well as human pyramids of up to twelve or more participants that will be balanced on the floor without the use of aids.

When teaching these formations at school or at a club, there are some important things to remember because special situations do occur. Children and teenagers must learn to physically work with each other because without physical contact no works of art are created. In doing so, important experiences are created, which I have attempted to define under the phrase Acrobatics Experience. What are the contexts in which getting involved is involved and in which life situations may get in the way?

When creating acrobatic formations, especially human pyramids, physical stresses may occur that can cause potentially permanent harm to a child’s or adolescent’s body if executed incorrectly. During instruction, it is therefore imperative to consider the important biomechanical principles that will be outlined in a separate chapter of this book.

Much depends on the beginning and how the children and teenagers are prepared for the special demands in order to generate enthusiasm and joy in the art of movement. The various ways of structuring practice sessions in a meaningful way will be described, as well as different options for presentation and the design of performances.

The practical section will include many preparatory exercises as well as simple acrobatic formations from the various areas of partner acrobatics that have been tried and tested. The individual chapters offer detailed written and visual descriptions of the many techniques and types of movements, from building human pyramids to fantasy formations, and from dynamic elements to elegant partner formations.

Resources for the training process are thus made available to anyone interested in acrobatics so that many more children and teenagers may experience the fascination of this art of movement.





What makes acrobatics so special isn’t only the unusual movements or the creation of human pieces of art. Acrobatics has its own sphere of experience that is created by working with each other. There are no stationary, rigid apparatuses. They are replaced by human beings who act in direct interdependence and who must rely upon each other for the success of each routine. This routine requires that partners work closely with each other, and it makes acrobatics a valuable educational tool.

Team spirit and cooperation must be developed for a formation or a pyramid to be successful. Joint action requires specific coordination. Even just close physical contact creates intense physical experiences. Body consciousness, which still develops during childhood and adolescence, can become confusing but usually changes for the better. Personal experiences are also significant. Courage is necessary – be ready to take risks, accept disappointments, and develop that special ability of trusting one’s fellow acrobats.

I would now like to offer a more detailed description of the individual experience levels.

1.1 Joint Action

Joint action is the basic principle of acrobatics upon which everything is built. Building human pyramids requires teamwork. Each individual person must be in the right place at the right time to come together as one.

Individual interests must take a backseat to the success of the human structure. Each individual is an important building stone in the pyramid, but only cooperation between all the participants yields the desired results.

So many tense situations can develop: Is the person on the bottom really able to carry me? Do the people on the top climb up with the necessary care and caution without falling and without bringing everything out of balance? What do I do if the pyramid collapses? To build a successful pyramid, all participants must develop a particular vigilance for their fellow acrobats while at the same time concentrating on their own actions. The pride in the jointly accomplished performance can be seen in their shining eyes and happy faces. Building a human pyramid is a special yet risky event.

But how much coordinating, consulting, and arguing does it take to get that desired sense of achievement? First, we must clarify who takes what position within the pyramid. The individual building steps and associated commands must be agreed upon, as well as the form of presentation and the dismounting. Joint discussions are necessary if the pyramid is not coming together.

Positive and negative physical experiences should be shared: “This time you stood on my pelvis!” “You had your knee right on my spine, and it hurt a lot!” The bigger the pyramid, the more arrangements are required.

Communication is also an essential part of partner acrobatics. When a formation is unsuccessful it is often due to a lack of prior communication. It is therefore important to:

▶ Give the partner feedback and correct each other: “I am supporting your weight with only my right hand;” “Your left foot needs to be higher;” or “Your hip is bent!”

▶ Encourage each other: “I can easily hold your weight; you are not too heavy!”

▶ Give feedback during awkward situations: “You are really pinching my arm;” “Your bones are too hard; get off me;” “You are not holding me securely enough!”

Success and failure in learning are closely tied to communication between each person. Individuals also learn how their fellow acrobats experience them. Often there is a big difference between self-perception and the perception of others with respect to posture.

Working on these acrobatic formations is an excellent way for children and teenagers to practice important skills like teamwork, communication and cooperation.

1.2 Physical Experience

Without physical contact, there will be no stunts. Physical contact is an original form of social communication. The body’s surface receives stimuli; the central nervous system (CNS) processes the stimuli and transforms them into movement. Physical contact stimulates different receptors that respond to touch and pressure, and warmth or cold.

Touching another person becomes an action wherein each person reacts to the other. An active touch is induced by motor activity; a passive touch is the receiving of signals from external causes (see Argyle, 1989, pg. 255).

The physical interaction is a harmless way of facilitating physical experiences that are comprised of many sensations. A chief aspect in doing so is dealing with other, unfamiliar bodies. There is so much to discover. What do they feel like? What is their weight, size, shape? Are they soft, bony, muscular, etc.?

Many new impressions are perceived with just the eyes. One has other people lying, kneeling, standing, or squatting next to, under, or over one’s self. Depending on the viewer’s angle, there can be funny, strange, but mostly new and interesting, perspectives of the human body. These observations can have a potentially comical effect or, depending on sensitivities, can even be embarrassing to the young viewer.