We’re constantly looking at the technique of the Acrobatics itself, but rarely do we look at the ‘technique’ of being part of a duo/trio/group.
One major aspect of this is communication. Communication in a partnership is like a handstand, it’s a foundational element that everything else is built upon. Think of the following advice as the ‘push your shoulders tall’ of talking to your partner.
We Not Me - Us Based Language
No matter what discipline of partner acrobatics you’re involved in there is one undeniable, integral constant: you’re working with someone else. You have a partner. It’s exceedingly difficult to do partner acrobatics by yourself.
We need to remember this when we’re playing or training together. It’s incredibly easy to get locked into language of “you need to do X” or “You did X”, and have every discussion become a back and forth of giving instructions to each other. Which can lead to people feeling more like they’re in the Marines than an acrobatic practice.
One of the simplest and easiest things you can change in your practice is remembering you are a ‘we’. Simply by changing “You need to do X” to “we need to do X” you can help to create a much less fascist environment, and one where we’re constantly aware that what we’re doing is a team effort.
This works on a broad scale. It won’t solve how to best offer specific, nitty-gritty advice or cues (although, we’ll get to that) but it helps with larger scale issues.
Let’s say you you’re constantly losing the balance and falling out of the same trick in the same place each time, but you’re not really sure why? Instead of “You need to fight to keep the balance more”, change it to “We need to fight to keep the balance more”.
It’s really one of those stupid, overly simplistic pieces of advice you’d expect to read on the blurb of a self help for couples book. But, it works.
This was one of the changes we made in our duo that had a large impact on the number of arguments we would have during training.
We went from ‘a lot’ to ‘not as much’. #progress
From Problems to Problem Solving
Again. I literally can’t write these pieces of advice without sounding like I’m about to sell you my upcoming paperback: ‘10 Secrets To A New You: Live, Love, Laugh’ but;
Focus on solutions and not on problems.
Say you’ve come down from a trick that didn’t go so well, you weren’t able to catch the flyers foot and so the trick fell, or it was a little less than perfect. Rather than coming down and immediately just saying what we both already know:
“I couldn’t get your foot / You didn’t catch my foot”
Take a hot second to think about ‘Why’ we couldn’t get the foot.
Because that’s what’s going to help us get better. Don’t let yourselves get into the habit of thinking you’ve identified the solution because you’ve identified the problem.
What I mean is; “We’re going to get the foot’ is not always the solution to ‘We couldn’t get the foot’.
You’ve identified what you should’ve done instead, but not how you’re going to fix the problem that led to the mistake in the first place.
Identifying the problem is only the first step to making an improvement, and it’s normally the most obvious step. The difficult part is identifying the solution.
Sometimes the solutions are really obvious, and your body might have just done something of its own accord, you can identify that easily and you know for next time.
The idea is to change your default process from:
- Verbally identifying a problem.
- My work here is done.
- Thinking about and identifying the problem in your head.
- Communicate that to your partner
- Suggest a solution if you have one
- Or, even better, asking for ideas about a solution and brainstorming them together as a team.
Which brings us to our next point.
What Can I do?
Always ask yourself or, better yet; your partner, ‘What could I do to help them / you?’.
Partner acrobatics is a team effort. Every trick’s success is made up of two people performing their individual roles successfully. Being able to complete and perform those individual roles can be positively or negatively affected by the other partner.
If your partner is struggling to complete their role, don’t assume that it’s their gross negligence that’s causing it and its solely their responsibility to fix. What you do, affects them. Ask them if they need you to do something different.
You might be doing it completely right mechanically, but you’re going a little too fast or too early for them. So, you can either ask them to speed up, or you can make the decision and the effort to slow down to help them.
Make sure to actually try what they suggest, don’t just ask the question out of politeness and then go back to doing your own thing.
Honest self-reflection moment:
I typically find this to be very difficult.
Sometimes my partner will suggest something I think is wildly wrong, and I’ll be reluctant to make the change requested. But then I remember my own advice and make the change. One of two things will happen:
Either she was wrong and it doesn’t make a difference, and we just both move on to the next idea.
Or, she’s right, and we find success and I now have the difficult mental seesaw of ‘We found success, but Isis was right’. So I’m simultaneously happy and sad and find myself living in a state of acrobatic ambivalence.
Hopefully you found these tips helpful. If not, let me know via some constructive communicative feedback. Because the internet is known for that right? Or alternatively just send me an expletive-and-emoji laden message. Either or.
The important thing, I think, is to remember you’re a team and you’re both in this with the same goal: to find success. Don't get in each other’s way, you’re not enemies in this process. At worst you’re frenemies. At best your comrades in arms, fighting against capitalistic gravity.
Finally, to any ex-girlfriends reading this; I do appreciate the irony of me writing a blog post about communicating better.