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).
The sport is not an Olympic gymnastic discipline; although, possibly due to its recent growth in popularity, there are several campaigns to include it, with some suggesting the removal of rhythmic gymnastics to make room for acrobatics.
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.