The pitter pat of hands and feet on tumbling mats is a common sound heard at the Sequim Acrobatics gym in Carlsborg as little bodies fly across the room during an intermediate performing team warm-up class on a Thursday afternoon.
The young girls in the gym practice a variety of individual and partner skills, contorting their bodies into elegant poses and holds that test both strength and flexibility.
Flexibility is a key skill coach and founder of the Sequim Acrobatics program Alicia Laxson focuses on with her young students.
“Being flexible gives your muscles some give,” Laxson said.
“When everything is tight it’s really important, I hope (students) are able to take that away (from the program) and how important it is to stretch.”
Laxson describes Sequim Acrobatics as a combination of acrobatic gymnastics and performing arts incorporating both individual and partner skills.
“We do a little bit of everything,” she said.
She said acrobatic gymnastics is a World Cup sport that is trying to get recognition on an Olympics level.
“This is an ever-growing practice,” Laxson said.
“You’re constantly practicing for your own personal development and pushing to see how far you can go and what you can achieve personally.”
Laxson started the Sequim program in 2011 and has tried to find a building with high enough ceilings to incorporate skills such as aerial acrobatics — which she hopes to try in the current building on Business Park Loop in Carlsborg.
She said the program serves an estimated 50-60 students ranging from ages 4-18 and places each student in a corresponding class based on the athlete’s skill level.
“What I see in each person is their potential even if they don’t see it,” Laxson said.
“I would like as much as I possibly can to show them what their potential is.”
Laxson has a background in competitive gymnastics and dance and has experience as a mixed martial arts instructor.
She said during her mixed martial arts instruction at the Lenderman Academy of Martial Arts in Tacoma — where she lived until 2005 — it was a positive experience she hopes to bring into her instruction at Sequim Acrobatics.
Sequim Acrobatics classes range from a beginner level where students learn basic skills to a team level where students learn performance skills.
Laxson said she instructs her students to spend the first 20 minutes of every class stretching followed by practicing learning skills such as tumbling and then circuits depending on the class.
She said her emphasis on flexibility also is a skill she has ingrained in her son Logan — a teen known for his achievements in track and field who is competing in the Junior Olympics this month in Tacoma — and a skill she hopes to instill in her students.
“I hope that (students) also take away from this experience the importance of staying strong and flexible,” Laxson said.
“I think one of the biggest problems with injuries in other sports is how little attention is paid to flexibility.”
She said many of her students also compete in sports outside of Sequim Acrobatics and she believes flexibility is able to give them a different athletic edge.
“The whole idea is to give them skills to help them do better in other things,” Laxson said. “To give them the edge.”
Laxson said her program also teaches students other important life skills such as discipline, commitment and communication.
“Kids are dying for structure and discipline in their life,” Laxson said.
“They know what is expected of them here and they get tons of praise when they give me 100 percent.”
Laxson said in acrobatic gymnastics athletes are often grouped together to work on skills and perform in pairs, trios and quads and students must learn how to communicate and work together.
“The commitment is really important because when they’re doing partner skills, the partner that shows up is depending on you,” Laxson said.
“Having to learn how to communicate and compromise and negotiate with anybody is a wonderful skill to have.”
She said one of the main reasons she started Sequim Acrobatics was to help youth feel empowered.
“I wanted to be able to help empower kids and teach them about their body and what it’s capable of,” Laxson said.
“I think that when they learn how to overcome obstacles to persevere, these are things they can take into their whole life,” she said.
Each year, Sequim Acrobatics students perform their skills for a local audience. This year, Laxson said students performed at Sequim High School and sold 300 tickets for the show.
The Sequim Acrobatics program offers classes starting at $50 for beginners. There also are intermediate, pre-team and team class options.
For more information about Sequim Acrobatics, visit https://www.facebook.com/Sequim-Acrobatics-109983935788326/ or http://www.sequimacrobatics.com/ or call 461-6974.