Natives to the Nashville area, Ashley Dance and Dustin Del Rio have made a name for themselves in the acro community. While Ashley grew up performing gymnastics, Dustin played sports such as football and pole vaulting. These backgrounds that eventually help them form the foundations for their blossoming acro careers: Acrobatics for Ashley and strength training for Dustin.
Acro is a unique practice of midline stability and core strength. Unless you’ve been exposed to circus acts before, the contortion of the body and steadiness of the movements can feel foreign and unfamiliar, especially when you’re practicing for the first time. “You fall and laugh a lot, but that is expected and actually encouraged,” the two joke with one another. There is a lot of room for creativity and it often brings out an individual’s true personality.
Both Ashley and Dustin separately began beginner workshops to learn the basics of acro before practicing together. Even though they are both personal trainers today, they have steadily been working out most of their lives. “There are times when you can get burnt out on fitness, especially when it’s your full-time job,” Ashley says. “But acro captured our interest immediately because it presented a new workout challenge for us both.”
“To be honest, it’s also been very social as well since it requires at least one other person and often several spotters to ensure safety. So along with the enjoyment to the sport came community too.” Acro gave Ashley and Dustin a reason to want to train themselves (and eventually others) again and again. “We have a hard time exercising just to exercise, but when there is a goal in mind and it’s functional, it’s more enjoyable.”
“I have to trust that Dustin will hold me up while I fly through the air, often upside down. He is laid back, funny, and patient, which are all significant qualities in a partner. He encourages me and is ambitious with our workouts. Plus it helps he’s cute!” Ashley says.
Acro is exceptionally easier when you have a strong base, so Dustin often utilizes his strength training exercises, while Ashley trains handstands. “We wanted to learn more advanced acro skills and that meant not worrying about falling due to lack of strength.”
On the other end, Dustin admits, “I have to trust that Ashley will maintain her shape so that I can hold and balance her properly. She’s stronger than most give her credit for and is a great flyer. Her confidence grows every day and makes learning new skills addictive in the gym. She shares the same laid back personality as me and has a beautiful, youthful spirit, which is always a joy to be around. Her ability to move well is motivating and inspiring to me too.”
Ashley currently works at Nashville Strength Company (formally Life Fitness Academy), which specializes in calisthenics and body weight training. She also dabbles in Ninja Warrior-style training competitions, keeping a variety of tricks up her sleeves during her fitness routines. Dustin has his own personal training studio called Core Fitness Nashville where he specializes in strength and conditioning programming: Throwing around a barbell, climbing ropes, and playing on a pullup rig consistently while he waits on clients.
“We were lucky enough to meet each other early in our acro journey and practice together constantly now. So we’ve grown together. We’ve learned to communicate with each other better as time goes on and that is a key component. It’s helped build our relationship outside of acro as well. Trust is a defining factor inside and outside of fitness,” Dustin says.
Ashley and Dustin share similar traits not just with one another but with the Nashville fitness community as a whole. They enjoy meeting new people through acro and believe the scene to be growing exponentially and has brought many wonderful people together. “We want to share the joy of acro with the entire city and continue to better ourselves through this unique sport!”