For decades, acrobats and gymnasts have been dazzling and amazing us with circus acts of balance, dance, flexibility, and gravity defying skills.
They’ve trained hard to create these wonderful works of art, but what exactly have they used to help them perfect the skills that make their acts so beautiful and mesmerizing?
There are many different types of acrobatics found in circus acts, and those disciplines require different equipment to help one achieve and perfect their art.
Below are the types of acrobatic art forms we can find in circus acts across the world and the essential items one must have to start, excel, and progress in becoming the greatest acrobat one can be.
Acrobalance – Must Have’s Equipment
One of the most popular forms of acro, like the name suggest, majority of the skill involved is balance. While many like to focus on their hand balance, it’s equally important to focus on leg balance.
This balance board are great to help master your stability on one or two feet. Often times in acrobalance, you have to shift from one foot to the other, or even from your feet to your hands. Other times, you’ll be thrown from one position to another and will have to find your balance quickly if you’re landing on your feet. Balance boards help to find your center of gravity in order to keep your balance.
Whether your standing on one foot, or two, balance boards are a great piece of equipment to help with standing tricks and skills.
For better hand balance, these handstand wood blocks are a great beginning tool. Remember that the higher up you are, the harder it is to find and maintain your balance.
Wood blocks are great if you’re just starting because they’re low to the ground, making it easier to find your center of gravity Wood blocks with an incline are a little better than solid square blocks, because when you’re in hand to hand balance, your partners hands are also at a slight incline.
Wood blocks with an incline can also help reduce pain in your wrists as they require less wrist flexibility. The positive side to using solid would blocks is that they can be used to help improve not only your hand balance, but your foot balance balance. Whichever you choose, both are great to have.
Acro Dance – Must Have’s Equipment
While acro dance is a little less popular than other forms of acro, it is used in a wide variety of styles in circus and gymnastics acts. Acro dance’s primary focus is on different gymnastics tricks and elements that can be used in performance art.
This Incline mat is a great tool to help with a number of skills used in acro dance. Forward Rolls, backward rolls, front handsprings, and back handsprings are all tricks used in acro dance. While the goal is to complete each skill on the floor, it can be very difficult to give yourself enough of a push on a flat surface to complete these skills. Incline mats are great because they help give you a little more momentum to complete the rotation of the skills.
Octagon mats like the one here are also important pieces of equipment to have. They help with front handsprings and back handsprings by taking the weight of your body and help you to shift your weight onto your hands. They’re also great for improving back flexibility as well as correcting form required for these skills.
Another piece equipment that can help with all types of gymnastics skills as well as providing an extra level of safety are panel mats like this one here. These are great because they can provide extra height and be adjusted when practicing different skills like tucks, aerials, and cartwheels. They can also provide leverage to help push off from if you’re performing skills like back walkovers. And when they’re not being used to help perform a skill, they’re perfect for providing an extra layer of padding on the floor for safety.
Aerial Silk – Must Have’s Equipment
This type of performance requires acrobats to perform while hanging from silk fabric. The fabric may be hung as a single piece, two pieces, and can also be folded to make a loop or hammock.
For beginners, it’s important to find fabric the comes down past the ground. This allows you to practice wraps and tricks at a lower level where you can be spotted. Low-stretch silk like this one is great if you haven’t developed proper climbing technique. It helps make climbing the fabric a little easier so it’s perfect to practice on.
If you’re a little more advanced, you’ll want a silk with medium-stretch and will probably want to invest in your own equipment. Purchasing a kit like the one seen here is great because it not only comes with the silk, but will hooks, daisy chains, etc. so you can adjust the silk as needed depending on your comfort.
A yoga sling is a great investment that you can attach your silk to if you want to practice at home. Keep in mind these are relatively low to the ground, so you won’t be able to practice any drops, but they’re perfect for practicing different positions and transitioning skills.
Aerial Hoop – Must Have’s Equipment
In aerial hoop acrobatics, circus artists perform skills of static, spinning, or swinging from a circular steel apparatus.
Double tab hollow hoops like the here are great because you can set them up differently depending on the type of skills you want to perform. If you set up double tap hoops from two points, they swing like a trapeze. If you connect them to a single aerial point, they can spin and swing in many different directions. They also have the ability to hinge from the tab points when the acrobat hangs from the top portion. Given the amount of options and possibilities a double tab hoop provides, in my opinion, it’s the perfect aerial hoop to have.
For a hoop that is designed for more spinning and swinging skills, as single tab solid hoop like this one is the better option for you. Although they may not swing like a trapeze or provide stronger stability for static skills, single tab solid hoops that are hung from a single point can spin and swing in more than one direction. They also have more momentum and can spin for a much longer period of time making this hoop great for performing tricks that require more spinning action.
Contortion – Must Have’s Equipment
Contortionists are acrobats that create performances that showcase their skills of extreme flexibility.
Leg flexibility is a major requirement in order to be a contortionist. Contortionists often perform skills that require splits, but also tricks and skills that require flexibility beyond a split. This door flexibility leg stretcher is a great piece of a equipment because it provides several different types and ways to stretch your legs. Not only will it help open up your hip flexors, but will also stretch your hamstrings, quads, and more.
Back bends, front walk overs, back walk overs, donuts, and hallow back handstands are the primary tricks and skills most contortionists perform. Back flexibility is the number one thing you’ll want to work on. While bridges and seal stretches are a great way to help with back flexibility a yoga stretching strap like this one is great because it helps stretch your back while providing support to ensure safety. This strap is also a great investment because it can also be used to help with leg flexibility making it the perfect two-in-one tool every contortionist should have.
While flexibility is important, performing handstands on canes is the number one thing we see in circus acts from contortionists. So how do you find the right canes to work on? Afterall, canes come in many different types of height. Ones that are lower to the ground are easier to mount, while taller ones are harder to mount, so it really depends on your level. Adjustable canes like these are a must have because you can start with shorter ones then gradually work your way up as you develop your skills. They’re a great investment and they’re definitely ones I refer to contortionists of any level.
Gymnastics and Tumbling – Must Have’s Equipment
Most gymnastics skills we see in circus acts are tumbling tricks and skills of acrobatic gymnastics. Front tucks, back tucks, handsprings, as well as handstand balancing acts are all important things to focus on if this is the type of discipline you’d like to study. Depending on what you want to focus on will determine what type of equipment you’ll want to look into you.
If handstand balancing what you’d like to focus on, you’re going to have to master your handstand. After that, you’re going to need a good set of canes. Fixed balance canes are great, but split base canes like these ones are more realistic, especially if you’re working with a partner. Split base canes require much more balance as they do wiggle just a little bit. They mimic what it would be like doing handstand with a partner, so they’re definitely a must have.
In gymnastics, tumbling is usually done on a spring floor, but that’s not something you can take home to practice on. This air track is a great replacement and is a nice piece of equipment to have because it when it’s not being used, can be easily put away without taking up too much space. They’re also great because you can take them essentially anywhere. Air tracks are perfect when you want to practice your tumbling skills because they provide a nice amount of spring to help give you the height you need to complete whatever tumbling skills you’re working on.
You can also adjust the amount of spring you’d like depending on how much air you put in so it does offer quite a bit of variety.
For tumbling skills that are stationary, a trampoline is the way to go. The two things you’ll want to look for when purchasing a trampoline is the type and the safety it provides. In gymnastics and circus acrobatics, trampolines tend to provide much more spring than basic trampolines, so it’s important to get a trampoline that most resembles that. High performance trampoline’s like the one here is the best one you can get. This one has a 550 lbs weight capacity, has a commercial grade frame which is necessary for competitive jumpers and great for beginners, and net closer to provide safety if you do have a mishap. While it is a bit more on the pricey side, it’s one of the best trampolines you can get on the market making this a must have.