Acrobatic gymnastics (previously called sport acrobatics) is a competitive gymnastic discipline where partnerships of gymnasts work together and perform figures consisting of acrobatic moves, dance and tumbling, set to music. There are three types of routines; a 'balance' routine where the focus is on strength, poise and flexibility; a 'dynamic' routine which includes throws, somersaults and catches, and (at FIG level 6 and above) a 'combined' routine which includes elements from both balance and dynamic.
The sport is governed by the International Federation of Gymnastics (FIG). At international level, there are four FIG categories of competition defined by age; 11-16, 12-18, 13-19, and 15+ (Senior).
Acrobatic gymnasts perform in pairs or groups and enter into and are judged at a specific level or age group category. In each partnership, the gymnasts' different sizes and abilities will be balanced to complement each other in order to carry out the complex moves. Some will mainly carry out supporting and pitching roles, and are known as bases. They are then balanced with smaller gymnasts who become the 'tops'. The different partnerships seen in competition are:
- women's pair (two females)
- men's pair (two males)
- mixed pair (a male base and a female top)
- women's group (three females)
- men's group (four males)
In competition, partnerships perform a routine to music, that has usually been choreographed specifically for them. The gymnasts carry out their acrobatic moves and combine them with dance, all in time to and in keeping with the style of the music. Partnerships are judged on artistry, difficulty of skill and the execution of skills.
The rules for the sport, known as the Code of Points, are governed by the Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique. These rules are subject to change every four years in line with the Olympic cycle, as in other disciplines of gymnastics.
Routines are required at a competition depends on the level at which the gymnasts are competing. At the junior and senior levels, all three routines are required, whereas at lower age levels, a single simpler routine is required. Each of the routine types has a different emphasis, but all include tumbling and dance as elements. The different routine types are as follows:
- Balance (formerly known as Static) - A balance routine requires that certain poses or 'balances' and must be held static for a specific duration. These moves require strength, poise, elegance and flexibility. Gymnasts will combine into towers, or pyramids with the tops holding a particular position balanced on their bases. Traditionally, balance routines were often performed to slower music, but not exclusively so.
- Dynamic (formerly known as Tempo) - These routines demonstrate power, strength and grace through the performance of acrobatic moves that involve the phases of spring, flight, rotation, and landing. This often involves the base, or bases in the partnership propelling the top through the air and through a series of somersaults or twists. The top is generally caught, or supported in the landing by their base(s).
- Combined - At the more senior levels of competition, a third routine must be performed that combines both balance and dynamic moves, along with the usual tumbling and dance.
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