Handstand acrobatics is a type of skill that is performed in gymnastics, circus acts, and yoga in which two people (a top and a base) perform skills of strength, balance, and flexibility while keeping contact with their hands at all time. 

The History

Circus Acrobatics

Handstand acrobatics performed in the circus can be traced back to the early 1900’s. Standard handstands, one arm handstands, and finger handstands were performed as acts of feats that were originally thought to be impossible. Early circus acts didn’t incorporate two person acts of handstands like the ones see in the circus today. Hand to hand circus acts began to appear and popularize in the 1970’s when circus’ began to make changes to their original structure, making it more appealing to the modern day audience—what we now know as Contemporary Circus. In circus acts today, hand to hand acrobatics skills are often incorporated in duo and group acts performed by aerialists, trapeze flyers, and contortionists. 

Acrobatic Gymnastics

Hand to hand acrobatics in gymnastics can be traced back to the 1930’s and first appeared in the Soviet Union. Back then, groups of four boys would perform one balancing skill which incorporated hand to hand acrobatics. Acrobatic gymnastics became more popular in the 1970’s. The first world championships were held in 1974, and in 1975, the US created the first national sports acrobatics organization known as the United Stats Sports Acrobatics Federation. In the 1990’s the name was changed to the United States Sports Acrobatics. With the growing popularity in produced within the sport throughout the world it, marched with the USA Gymnastics Organization in the early 2000’s and has been a competitive sport ever since. 

Handstand Acrobatics VS Acroyoga

Doing a handstand acro trick with partner.

 While some skills between handstand acrobatics and acroyoga are the same, there are many skills that are different as well. The level of difficulty in skill can be seen as one major difference between the two. Easier poses and skills are typically considered that of acroyoga. They are much less intense and are more therapeutic through slow moving motions. Tricks and skills that require more difficulty are often labeled as acrobatics. Handstand acrobatics involves a lot more advanced skills such as twists, flips, and stunt type tricks. Another difference between handstand acrobatics and acroyoga is mindset. In handstand acrobatics, performance goals is often a high priority. Hand to hand training for a performance or competition whether it be for gymnastics, circus acts, etc. is more often associated as acrobatics. Acroyoga on the other hand focuses on one’s personal growth, mindset, and connection with their partner. It takes yoga principles, such as breathing, balance, and working together as one to perform hand to hand skills.  

The Popular Stunts

Beginners

Whether you’re planning to be a top or a base in hand to hand acrobatics, it’s best to make sure you’ve mastered your handstand to the best of your abilities. When you’re ready to work with a partner, make sure you’re working with someone you trust and always make sure to openly communicate with each other. Before attempting standing hand to hand skills, practice hand to hand skills with your base laying on the floor. When locking your hands together, hands should be opposite of each other – this will help release pressure from your wrists and will also help you find and maintain your balance. Elbows should be locked.

You can practice the simple handstand, lock the elbows, find the balance and get comfortable with it.
  1. Handstand – This is the most basic skill. Straight legs, straight arms, just as if you were doing a handstand on the floor.
  2. Straddle/Split Handstand – Once you’ve mastered your hand to hand handstand, you can start playing with different leg position. After hitting your handstand, slowly separate your legs to the side into a straddle position and try to hold and maintain this position. For the split handstand, take one leg forward and the opposite leg backward into a handstand split.
  3. Staggered Handstand – This skill requires a little more balance. Before attempting a staggered handstand position, make sure to master a split handstand. From your split handstand, slowly and carefully bend your knees into an N-like position. One foot should be pointed down to your head while your other foot is pointed up away from your body.

Advanced

Once you and your partner have mastered hand to hand skills in a laying position, you can start working on standing hand to hand skills. Standing hand to hand acrobatics is more advanced as it requires more precision, balance, and focus. To start, the top should stand behind the base. The base should then drop into a squat position allowing the top to step onto the base’s legs/quads – this is where you’ll make hand to hand contact. When the top is ready, they should carefully step onto the bases shoulder’s, the base should then rise from their squat position and place their legs in a comfortable position. When the top is ready, he/she can push or press into their handstand while the base supports them. 

  1. Pike Handstand – From a handstand position, slowly your feet toward your torso while keeping your legs completely straight until your feet are right in front of your hips. Your body should be in that of a 90-degree angle. 
  2. Hollow Back Handstand – From a handstand position, carefully lower your heels to the floor creating a deep arch in your back. As you lower your legs, make sure to open your shoulders and press your chest forward to counterbalance the weight of your legs.
  3. One arm straddle handstand – From a straddle handstand position, transition your weight from both shoulders to one. As you transition your weight, slowly and carefully release your hand from your partner and allow yourself to find and maintain your position on your supporting hand. 

Popular Hand-to-hand Acrobatic Circus Shows and Artists

Cirque Du Soleil

One of the most popular acrobatic circus acts, Cirque Du Soleil originated in Montreal, 1984 and became the largest contemporary circus in the world. With over 1,300 artists from more than 50 difference countries, Cirque Du Soleil has had over 50 different shows and has performed in more than 400 cities around the world. 

Duo Vladimir

Originally from Ukraine, the duo male hand to hand acrobats gained international attention for their act on America’s Got Talent Season 10. Having trained as acrobats as kids, the two competed in the World’s Got Talent special held in China in 2019

Russian Acrobatic Gymnastics Team

Within the competitive world of Acrobatic Gymnastics, the Russian Federation holds the most Championship wins. With 59 Gold Medals, 30 Silver Medals, and 12 Bronze Medals the Russian team has a total of 101 medals, more than any other nation only to be followed by the Soviet Union who currently holds a total of 65 medals. 

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