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October 22, 2022 / by Kay / In classes

How are you different?

Dance acro. Sounds hard, right? Two demandingly detailed skillsets to master at once. The name suggests wild and daring moves mixed with the sort of fantastic footwork and rhythmic ability that comes from a childhood steeped in it.

Firstly, it’s not that hard. Next: what’s that got to do with you being different? Everything.

At its core, dance acro is about how you as an individual express your body’s unique ways of moving, says instructor Michelle Ross, rather than whether you can learn to perform traditional movements in a prescribed and precise style.

You genuinely do you, only you learn to do it better…with a certain quicksilvery kinda quality as your movements become more fluid.

And…it’s not all done to music! Some of you who view that as an extra fear factor might be relieved to know that music may be introduced at some points, but it’s not central to the class.

“The most special thing about dance acro is that everyone does things in different ways,” says Michelle.

“Another reason I love it is that it’s never competitive – people are learning to do things and teaching each other how to do them.”

Whether you’re a complete novice or a seasoned aerialist, dancer or parkour expert, dance acro can open new avenues for you.

“It’s useful because it’s a different quality of movement and it can raise your acrobatic game,” says Michelle.

Michelle has joined Aerial Edge to teach all kinds of good things including dance acro, while she’s doing a Masters degree in theatre and performance practices.

She employs “playful acrobatics rather than super big massive acrobatic tricks” as she encourages her students to understand their movement quality and fluidity.

“It’s mostly simple, floor-based movements, understanding how to be soft in your joints as you’re moving, rolling and jumping. We teach it on a soft floor but it’s the kind of thing you’d be able to do on a hard floor. You wouldn’t want to be tumbling on a hard floor.”

In her class, Michelle guides you through some movement play, perhaps a few reaction games then some acrobatic and movement fluidity practice, and a section of more advanced acrobatic tricks. It builds towards creating a sequence at the end of the class from the movements and tricks that have been practised.

She explains: “The reason I teach sequences is that you learn it one week, then the next week you might relax into it without thinking so much because you remember it, and that’s really important. It allows your body to move more freely and naturally.

“It’s a quality that a lot of dancers already have, and that’s why I focus a section on learning advanced acrobatics trick. We’ll do a few movement things across the floor, then fuse them.

“You learn things you wouldn’t have done in a dance class, like handstands, cartwheels and other dynamic things, and you’re understanding how to move through those shapes, with those shapes, and in those shapes.

“After a few weeks, I give the creativity to students who want to put their own sequences together when they’ve had a chance to try a variety of movements.

“But again, even if we are all doing a sequence that I have put together, we will all do it in different ways and that’s what it’s all about, finding your own flow, the way your body likes to move. This is the beauty of humans, there’s so much individuality in movement.”

Fellow AE instructor Mete Mercan, whose life before Aerial Edge was largely devoted to parkour, was inspired by Michelle’s class.

Michelle says: “Parkour people are already creative but dance acro is good if they wanted to learn a softer quality to their movement, or some tricks to do between parkour.”

Mete adds: “From day one, I was using movements that felt brand new to me. As a long-time practitioner of other movement disciplines, it was especially useful to have fresh perspective on my own approach to movement and flow.

“Michelle is particularly skilled at breaking down rather technical and unfamiliar moves — she puts a big emphasis on how we’re able to lace different movements together and always has great insight that I can take away from the class each week.

“It’s a good class and will likely fill up fast.”

Most people who find themselves in the circus world in any capacity like to do things their own way, express themselves as individuals, and Michelle believes dance acro can be a pivotal part of your progress.

If you wanted to perform as an aerialist, you’d be expected to be moving on the ground as well as on the apparatus. Your body might be quite rigid from trying to do so many tricks, and dance acro can loosen that off, as well as inspire movements that can be used in the air and for transitions.

Michelle says: “I was at an international jam where a friend put up four moves then asked people to show how they’d put them together. It was a great illustration of how everyone moves in different ways thinks of different transitions, thinks about things in different ways.

“It was amazing to see how someone could put a forward roll and a cartwheel and a jump into a sequence and be completely different, and all of them had things that we could all learn from.

“So even though it’s a class, it’s individual to you, and I like that.”

Think you’ll like it too?

  • Michelle began training as an artistic gymnast aged five, then developed into breakdancing before going to London for her degree at the National Centre for Circus Arts. She’s been a teacher there and at London Youth Circus as well as roaming the world learning from a wide range of internationally renowned artists and teachers. And now we’re delighted and excited to say that she’s in Glasgow, passing on her expertise to you!