Acrobatics is an exciting form of creative movement, transforming the seemingly impossible into the realm of reality.

Creating a world of intrigue and wonder, acrobats use the human body as their primary instrument. And they often go head over heels to make their gravity-defying acts.

The Deep Understanding of Acrobatics

Perhaps this definition sounds a lot like what we call dance.

But unlike most traditional dance forms, acrobatics is a distinct collection of physical disciplines that may be related to dance but rely more on a vocabulary of fantastic tricks as their central focus.

As a physically vigorous discipline, the many forms of acrobatics usually take years and years to master and perfect, and they have likely been passed down over the years through many generations. 

The ‘Who’, ‘Why’ and ‘Where’ of Acrobatics

Some people use acrobatics for exercise while others make a life’s career performing in circus and theatre settings, teaching new students, or even designing stunts for films, television, theme parks, and more.

Some may be born into acrobatics, while others discover it through curiosity.

Acrobatics contribute some of the most amazing acts in the world, but the practice often comes with great danger.

Many artists risk it all for the sake of perfecting and presenting their acts. However, if you were to ask them about this, an acrobat will probably tell you it’s worth it. 

Acrobatic History

Although a relatively exclusive art form, the incredible field of acrobatics is known today around the world and beloved to many.

Many different styles have evolved over time to present an array of fantastic feats, proving humanity’s limitless potential.

Eastern Influences

Chinese Acrobatics is a renowned, 4,000-year-old tradition dating back to the Xia Dynasty.

As an art form founded by the working folk, many of its disciplines used everyday objects like bowls, plates, and chairs as accessories to performers’ incredible physical skill.

While these forms were not originally presented in theatre settings, the growth of the national arts scene in China has seen these art forms elevated to their rightful status.

In modern times, Chinese Acrobatics is celebrated all around the world.

Over the years, Chinese Acrobatics has gifted us with arts such as Wushu, Pole Climbing, and the Lion Dance, among many more. Full-scale shows like the world-famous Shen Yun have toured the globe sharing their acrobatic magic.

Western Influences

Acrobatics takes its name from the Greek word meaning to walk on tiptoe and to climb up in the air.

In fact, rope dancing may have emerged from ancient Greek cultures, whose love of a good show may have inspired some of the forms that are still practiced today.

In Venice, Italy, for the annual Carnevale festivities, the Volo dell’Angelo or Flight of the Angel was born in the mid 16th century. During this event, an acrobat walked across a long rope, extending high above the amazed crowd of spectators.

The act quickly became an annual tradition. 

Each year a new, brave player would wow the crowd. Years later after the tradition was popularized, the acrobat was given costume wings with which to traverse above the square, thus earning the angel reference in the name.

The various disciplines of acrobatics from top left: Tumbling, Aerial Silk, Martial Arts, Cyr Wheel, Trampoline, Circus Acrobatics. Learn more.

Acrobatic Disciplines

  • Aerial Acrobatics 

Also known as aerial arts, this type of acrobatics involves feats of strength, flexibility, and agility that have a distinguishing feature: they take place high above the ground. 

Up in the air, typically climbing to heights of thirty feet or more, aerial acrobats perform routines on a piece of specialized equipment known as an apparatus. Some of the most popular apparatuses are the flying trapeze, aerial silk, and aerial straps.

  • Circus Acrobatics may refer to a number of different disciplines such as chair balancing, contortion, and group acrobatic stunts. While these disciplines may be performed outside the circus, they each have a distinct association with the famous tradition under the big top.
  • Martial Arts are popular all over the world for their blend of acrobatics, self-defense, and mental discipline. Some of the most popular forms of Martial Arts are Karate, Jujutsu, Taekwondo, Tai Chi, and Capoeira, all of which have been featured in TV and films.
  • Tumbling includes many forms and tricks, including flips, layouts, and back tucks among many more. Tumbling can also involve more than one athlete and usually takes place on the floor or ground. Tumbling is also an event in gymnastics. 
  • Selected Acrobatic Floor Apparatuses 
    • Handbalancing Canes: These are raised platforms on tall metal or wooden canes of varying heights. 

Handbalancing canes can allow for a gentle spin in a hand-balancing act, or remain static. They give the performer more height and presence and raise the stakes in terms of risk factor. 

Many handbalancing canes can disassemble easily for travel or can be mounted more permanently on other hard and flat surfaces.

  • Cyr Wheel: The practice of the Cyr wheel is for those who love all types of spinning. Artists step inside this giant rotating ring creating shapes and performing acrobatic feats, sometimes even inverting while spinning.
  • Hoops: Hoop artists use multiple hoops to create a mesmerizing effect as they rotate the apparatus around themselves. Dance and contortion are put to music to wow audiences around the world.
  • Trampoline: A trampoline is used for one thing: jumping. Whether as a  free-standing apparatus or positioned next to a tramp wall, trampoline artistry can be a truly striking spectacle, usually with multiple players.

Competitive Acrobatics

Perhaps the best known competitive acrobatics can be viewed at the Olympic Games. The world watches these installments of Winter and Summer events every two years.

Acrobatic sports like ice skating, freestyle skiing, and gymnastics are just a few of its offerings.

In the commercial arena, the TV show America’s Got Talent aired in June 2006, presenting many different acts and evolving to showcase the wonders of acrobatics and aerial arts.

The show’s competitors are judged by a panel of celebrities in front of a live studio audience, and the show has local versions around the world.

Gymnastics are a highly competitive sport from the local to the international level. Many young children set their sights on Olympic Gold in childhood. This requires exceptional dedication and long hours of training, and great lengths must be taken to avoid injury.

Dance can be practiced as a recreational activity, a performance goal, or a dancer can choose to compete in dance competitions. These can showcase soloists or group dance numbers, with dancers of all ages represented in various competitive scenes. 

Lyrical, ballroom, and hip hop dance are all very popular competitive dances.

The Acrobat’s Edge

In a world that’s full of amusements designed to entice and excite, acrobatics stands alone as the most magical offshoot of the performative arts. Making use of the human body to create fantastic forms and spectacles, acrobatics is set apart from other disciplines by trick and tradition.

Above all, acrobats aim to push the limits of the human body and entertain their crowd while doing it. While the masters make it look easy, a true expert devotes years of training to their craft. These athletes often risk everything for their art, giving it all to the stage. 

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