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New Victory Arts Break – Acro Week

Welcome to Week 13 of New Victory Arts Break! Guided by New Victory Teaching Artists, Arts Break is a curriculum designed for the millions of families stuck at home to incorporate the performing arts into their learning. Show or no show, our nonprofit is committed to bringing the performing arts to the widest possible audience, and inspiring you to make art, and make memories, together!

What is that, a mood board? Gimme a break. An Arts Break, that is! We’re moving on from sets and costumes to the blood-pumping, awe-inspiring ta-dah world of acrobatics. From eagle pose to Superman, you’ll fly to new heights in this series of activities that safely explore balancing, posing and weight sharing. It’s Acro Week—hup to it!

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Monday

Warm Up! Balance! Stretch!

25 – 30 minutes, Ages 5 – 12

Acrobats perform extraordinary feats of balance, agility and coordination. How do they do it? For one, they pay careful attention to form—the shapes their bodies make every step of the way. The flexible contortionists of Bibi and Bichu’s Circus Abyssinia: Ethiopian Dreams (New Victory 2018) created unbelievable shapes with their bodies. Take a look:

Three acrobats
Photo: Che Chorley

Let’s begin our week of acrobatics with a simple body warm-up inspired by the contortionists of Circus Abyssinia. How many different shapes can you make with your body?

Step One: See if you can make your body into the following shapes.

Shapes

Think:

  • Can you make this shape as big as possible? As small as possible?
  • Can you make this shape with just your arms? Just your legs? Just your face?

Step Two: Now that you’ve practiced twisting your bodies into different shapes, it’s time to pass the pose!

  • Strike any pose you’d like and see how quickly your family members can mimic you.
  • Then, it’s their turn to strike a pose.

BONUS: Try any of these challenges for extra fun:

  • Keep passing the pose back and forth until someone runs out of ideas.
  • See how quickly you can pass the poses back and forth.
  • Try to hold each pose for as long as possible.

A precise awareness of your body is key for all kinds of acrobatic feats, balancing especially. In this activity, challenge yourself and your family members to a balancing act.

Materials: A small item of your choice, like a coin, a bottlecap or a ball of paper

Step One: Choose one small item and see if you can balance it. To get started, try balancing it on the back of your hand (not in your palm). Then try it on your thumb. Mastered that? Now try it on the top of your pointer finger. Some balancing tips:

  • Keep your eye on a fixed point—usually at the center or top of the item you are balancing.
  • Keep your body as still as possible.
  • Breathe and concentrate.
  • Most importantly, don’t give up!

Step Two: Try to balance your item on different parts of your body. Can you try:

  • Your knee?
  • Your forehead?
  • Your foot?
  • Your shoulder?

Step Three: It’s time to have a Balance Battle! Put your balance skills to the test as you compete to be the balancing champion of your home! Start a timer, or elect a referee to keep time. Take turns balancing your item. Whoever can keep the item balanced the longest wins!

As you work on your sense of balance and get ready to engage in more advanced acro, it’s important to make sure you’ve stretched and warmed up. Use the following series of yoga poses from New Victory Teaching Artist Patrick Ferreri to continue improving your balance, and to warm up daily.

What comes to mind when you hear the word “acrobat?”

Maria Tlapanco

When I hear the word “acrobat,” I think of performers doing handstands, trust falls, backflips, and a mix of gymnastics and balancing. – Maria Tlapanco, third-year New Victory Usher

Tuesday

Trust and Share

30 – 35 minutes, Ages 6 – 12

Acrobats don’t always go it alone, but what does it take to perform extraordinary acrobatics with other people while staying safe? Trust, of course! The artists of Gravity & Other Myths took trust to a whole new level in their show A Simple Space (New Victory 2019). Falling!

The incredible feats that the close-knit friends of Gravity & Other Myths create as an ensemble are only possible because they trust each other! In this activity, follow their lead and practice trust falls with your friends and family.

Step One: Talk to your family about the idea of trust. Ask each other:

  • What does it mean to trust someone?
  • What makes you feel safe?
  • What can I do to continue to earn your trust?

Step Two: Based on your responses, create a family definition of trust that everyone agrees upon. Write it down somewhere where everyone can see it. For example…

Trust is taking care to make sure we all stay safe!

Step Three: Watch this video to learn how to do simple trust falls safely with contact.

Tips for succeeding at trust falls:

  • Choose a room with enough space and with no sharp objects or corners in your way.
  • Always start by practicing trust falls with contact first. This means that the person catching should begin with their hands on the other’s back.
  • Verbal communication is the key to safety—always call out, “Falling!” when you are about to fall back. It’s just like calling a ball with “I got it!” in baseball.
  • Your trust fall partner should be about the same size as you. If not, the taller person should always be the catcher.

Step Four: Watch this video to try trust falls that begin with no contact. Stay very close to your partner, then back up, little-by-little, to see how far apart you can be and still feel comfortable.

Step Five: Watch this video for a full family challenge. Start with one person as the faller and see if the rest of the family can catch them!

When everyone has had a turn, ask each other:

  • How does falling into the arms of one partner feel different from falling into the arms of your whole family?
  • Does one feel more comfortable than the other?
  • Is one more fun? Why?
An example trust fall
Christopher Lucik, first-year New Victory Usher

Eyes! Grip! Hup!

Now that you trust your partner, it’s time to work with them to create a fantastic feat of partner acrobatics!

Partner acrobatics example
Melissa Rojas Martinez, second-year New Victory Usher

Follow along with New Victory Teaching Artist Lauren Sharpe and her family as they demonstrate how to safely approach weight sharing and partner acro through careful communication. Hup!

Here’s a closer look at a circus grip:

Circus grip example

How do New Victory Ushers rely on trust and teamwork?

Jules Evangelista

In order for us to have a good show, constant communication is required among the ushers and the managers. For example, the ushers on a floor trust their head usher to direct them in accordance with what the managers are communicating, and the head usher relies on the teamwork of their designated ushers to execute the tasks at hand. – Jules Evangelista, first-year New Victory Usher

Wednesday

Acro Adventure

25 – 30 minutes, Ages 6 – 12

The acro principles that you’ve practiced so far this week—balancing, posing, weight sharing—can be combined in unexpected ways. On Monday, you used your body to create geometric shapes. Today, with the addition of weight sharing, the shapes are getting more adventurous. Let’s start off with some full-body furniture—it’s morphin’ time!

Materials: Inspirational furniture, props and decorative elements

Step One: Find a piece of furniture to model yourself after and gather props and decorations that will help sell the illusion. For example, if you plan to transform into a table, you could incorporate a tablecloth or vase into your pose.

Step Two: Make the shape of the piece of furniture with your body. Can other people in your family guess what you are?

Step Three: Work with a partner to weight share and create a new pose modeled after a different piece of furniture. How ridiculous can you make it? What other furniture can you recreate using your bodies?

Create poses that resemble furniture!

From reading a book while tumbling to playing poker upside-down, the acrobats of Liberi Di…Physical Theatre applied acrobatic athleticism to everyday activities in their show Something (New Victory 2017). Watch the video below, and then get ready for a pair of challenges that will put all your skills to the test.

Challenge One: Balance Something

The performers in Something demonstrated extreme focus and balance in performing their tricks. Test the balancing skills you practiced on Monday and see how much you can handle under the pressure of this challenge.

Materials: Variety of household objects

Step One: Choose a variety of household objects, such as books, fruit, toys—anything you can hold that won’t break if you drop it.

Step Two: Challenge each other to balance one of the objects on a body part, trying to create the most exciting balancing act for your competitor (e.g. “I challenge you to balance that book on your knee!”). HINT: If you can balance it for more than 10 seconds, the challenge might be too easy!

Step Three: Repeat with different body parts and objects.

BONUS: Can you balance more than one object at a time, while standing on one foot?

Challenge Two: Recreate Something

Liberi Di…Physical Theatre hails from Milan, Italy. Bring the spirit—and the architecture—of Italy to your home in this challenge. We said the shapes would get more adventurous!

Step One: Study the images of Italian landmarks below. Can you name any of them?

Italian landmarks

Step Two: Individually create the shape of each building with your body. Pay special attention to line and symmetry.

Step Three: Now, recreate the shape of each building as a pair or trio using weight sharing. If you’re feeling daring, try creating the shape with only one person touching the ground.

Show off your shapes! Snap a photo of your most creative pose from one of today’s weight sharing activities and share it with us on Instagram by tagging @newvictorytheater.

Thursday

Level Up Your Acro

20 – 25 minutes, Ages 7 – 12

Acrobatics skills start off basic but quickly advance in difficulty as you become stronger and more practiced. Today we’ll warm up with a workout that’ll have you sweating, and then we’ll introduce a few more challenging skills. Let’s take some inspiration from the incomparable acrobats of Bai Xi (New Victory 2011) from Cirque Shanghai.

Remember, safety first! If any of the following exercises feel uncomfortable, please stop, readjust and try again. To prepare for leveling up our acro skills, we need to make sure our bodies are extra warmed up! Put on some upbeat music and get ready to move! Can you do…

  • 10 jumping jacks?
  • 10 push-ups?
  • 20 sit-ups?

With your family, add an element of competition! How many times can you repeat this sequence? Is there another more challenging warm-up exercise that you want to challenge a family member to? Once everyone is sweating, do 10 more! Now you’re an acrobatic athlete ready to take on some harder skills.

Standing on your feet is easy, but have you ever done a headstand? Join New Victory Teaching Artist Hassiem Muhammad as he teaches you two ways into a tripod headstand, plus some fancy footwork to try out once you’re firmly upside-down. Remember, safety first. Slow down or stop if you experience pain or discomfort.

Looking for a few more acrobatic tricks to practice? Try following Gymnastics HQ’s instructions for how to do a cartwheel. And if cartwheels are no match for your gymnastic prowess, try the spider! Share photos or videos of your acrobatic abilities with us on Instagram! Just tag us @newvictorytheater.

What’s the most impressive acrobatics act you’ve even seen?

Melissa Rojas Martinez

One of the most impressive acrobatics acts I’ve seen was during Circus Abyssinia, when the acrobats were holding their bodies up with their mouths. – Melissa Rojas Martinez, second-year New Victory Usher

Acrobats holding their bodies up with their mouths
Photo: Che Chorley

Friday

Time to Fly

25 – 30 minutes, Ages 5 – 10

You’ve built up quite the acrobatic skill set over the past few days’ activities. Let’s end the week with a set of additional partner acro poses for you to practice! These poses will feature more distinct roles than the poses you’ve practiced so far. Will you be the base or the flyer? Follow along with New Victory Teaching Artist WT McRae to find out.

Now it’s your turn to practice with a partner! Rewatch the video as you practice, or check out the images below to master some more strong, stacked acro poses. Remember that safe places for bases to bear weight in the haystack position include their shoulders and hips—not their spines! How many people in your family can you include in one pose?

Four partner acrobatic poses

With our week winding to close, now’s time to take to the skies and fly off into the sunset with one final feat of astounding acrobatics. Join New Victory Teaching Artist Gyana Mella and her son Lucas as they try out The Superman and wish you well on your acrobatic adventures.

We hope you enjoyed this thirteenth week of New Victory Arts Break. Check out past Arts Breaks here, and keep coming back for more arts-based fun in the weeks ahead.

You are a part of the New Victory community. We want to see you, and hear from you! Show us how you’re using New Victory Arts Break at home and share your creative work with us—tag us on Instagram @newvictorytheater.

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