If you are like most acro teachers, the opportunity to have a boy in your class is not a common one. When one does come along, you might be wondering how to nurture your boys as they develop into an older, more masculine, male acrobat.
Maybe you are not even sure how to approach teaching a boy because the experience is brand new to you.
At the beginning of my acro career, I had the opportunity to teach one of my first male acrobats: Shawn. He was a very sweet and eager little 9-year-old guy when I first started working with him.
He had a lot of challenges. He was very small and weak, and he was awkward and uncoordinated compared to girls in his class. He also had a lot of energy and was challenging to manage in class at times.
Shawn was also extremely keen, excited to learn, and loved acro class!
I worked with him consistently for 10 years. The first three years were spent focusing on motor skill development and flexibility. Straight legs and bridging were his biggest physical challenges, so we worked extra diligently on his splits, and his shoulder and back flexibility. We continually worked on strength as well, but that came more naturally to him than his flexibility did.
By the time he hit puberty, Shawn was really starting to grow into his body. He had the coordination and flexibility at this point, and I was amazed at how quickly his strength soared!
By 15, he was a very strong and flexible young man with a tumbling ability that was growing exponentially. It was so fun to be able to use his masculinity and skill to incorporate into choreography. Because he was so strong, he took lifts and partner work to another level!
Shawn has since gone on to have a professional career in acrobatics and only got better and better as he went into his late twenties and early thirties.
So, what is the best way for you to approach teaching your young male acrobats?
Step #1: Work heavily on motor-skill development and flexibility for the first few years. Most boys will be very uncoordinated, awkward and tight so focusing on stretching behind the knees, shoulder flexibility, and bridge work is a must!
Step #2: Your boys will start growing into their bodies, and naturally get stronger between the ages of 14 and 16. Stay the course, keep focusing on their challenge-areas, and know that this new-found physicality is coming soon.
Step #3: Encourage them to keep working hard! Males tend to have a longer career as an acrobat and as a dancer. This is because they have narrow hips and their centre of gravity is at their chest. They are naturally more aerodynamic and stronger than women, whose centre of gravity is at their hips.
So, be sure to nurture those young male acrobats at your studio. They are going to grow up into refined men who will bring another dimension of grace, flair, and power to your choreography and your acro program!