Discover Gymnastics Academy students Ava Evans, Chelsea Kupersmit and Caitlin McCarthy demonstrate an acrobatic gymnastics maneuver.

By Jacqueline Pillsbury

Last fall, Discover Gymnastics Academy added acrobatics classes for students ages 7 and up to their list of traditional gymnastics class offerings.

“We saw a need,” office assistant Natalie Reagan said.

No other schools in the area offered an acrobatic program, and DGA happened to have Oksana Vstryetyentseva, a nationally recognized gymnast from the Ukraine, interested in teaching a class.

The acrobatic program teams their students up based on age. Students learn a combination of dance and gymnastics with lots of stunting and tumbling on the gym floor – basically gymnastics without any apparatus. Reagan described it as combining dance and tumbling and bringing it all together in a new way.

“This is Oksana’s specialty,” Reagan said. “She wanted to try to build a team.”

Vstryetyentseva has been an International Master of Sports since 1997. She is the 2002 European Tumbling Champion, and 1997 World Champion Silver Medalist in Tumbling. She earned team titles in the 1996 and 1997 International Trampoline Federation World Championships, as well as earning European and World Championships medals in the International Gymnastics Federation in 1999, 2000, 2002 and 2004. She also has a master’s degree in physical education.

Acrobatic gymnastics relies on using body control in a variety of positions—both on the ground and in the air. Students work in teams to create various poses highlighting their strength, grace and flexibility. Teams may be comprised of men’s pairs, women’s pairs, mixed pairs, women’s groups of three or men’s groups of four. The teams are working towards the goal of competing. The men’s and women’s classes are comprised of students ages seven through 14.

You do not need to have a particular body shape, or come in with a certain set of athletic skills to enjoy acrobatic gymnastics, Reagan said. The groups of three are made up of a base, a middle and a top partner. Men’s teams add a second person to the base. The base athletes tend to be older, stronger and have great balance. The tops are younger, more flexible and agile students. The middles have a combination of all skills.

Acrobatics classes are offered on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Since DGA has the only acrobatics program in the area, it must sent students to Maryland, Connecticut and other states once they are ready to compete.

Reagan said the acrobatics classes have attracted existing DGA students, as well as new students.

“Word of mouth is starting to spread,” she said.

In addition to teaching acrobatics, DGA offers the traditional 10-week gymnastics classes starting with Big Person and Me classes for children two and younger. Once the children are ready to go to class alone, DGA offers straight tumbling classes and traditional gymnastics classes, which uses apparatus including the pommel horse, vaulting table, uneven bars and balance beam for students aged 3 through 18.

Through personal invitation, DGA offers USA Gymnastics and Jersey Optional Gymnastics Association girls’ team competitive programs. These year-round programs are for advanced gymnasts with a desire to compete against other gymnasts. They require commitment from the child, as well as from her parents, Reagan said.

DGA is located near the intersection of Route 130 and Kuser Road in Hamilton. The next 10-week classes run Feb. 1 through April 11. Free trial classes are offered for new students.

Discover Gymnastics Academy is located at 15 Black Forest Road in Hamilton. Phone: (609) 890-1112. Web: discovergymnasticsacademy.com.