This subject seems to come up from time to time and I’d like to share my thoughts.
I think there’s a difference between the different kinds of partner acrobatics. Circus acrobatics, adagio (dance acro), and cheerleader stunting seem to have different focus than what I call acro yoga. To me acro yoga is about play and fun and connection. It’s more of a practice that is it’s own end. The other three seem to focus more on performance. Acro yoga requires the base and flier to work together to create balance through strength, while the other 3 seem to have much more rigid roles, i.e. the base lifts the flier, the flier holds their shape.
And to me the yoga in acro yoga is very important. While the acro poses we do have become less and less asana-like, the other yogic limbs are very present: ethical standards like compassion, non-violence, truthfulness, generosity, self-awareness, contentment; breath control, non-attachment, sensitivity, inner peace, focus, pursuit of truth, and selflessness. I know that not everyone practices or thinks that way, but to me the goal of yoga is finding the union of all the diverse aspects of oneself while ignoring external impulses, and the goal of acro yoga is finding union with another person or persons. Maybe other people can find all that through adagio, circus, or cheerleading, but I haven’t. Yet.