Lyra artists can rig their apparatus to spin or to remain static.
The advantage of the spinning option is that it offers the audience a 360-degree view of the forms, which are often visually stunning.
What is a Lyra
The Lyra is a versatile aerial apparatus made of steel or aluminum, distinguished by its circular form.
It offers the aerial performer an opportunity to make amazing and beautiful shapes within it. Acts can include sequences that are above, below, or to the sides of the apparatus.
Even a very simple position, held for a few moments during a well-executed spin, can wow a crowd just by the sheer nature and spectacle of the Lyra as an apparatus.
This contrasts with other non-spinning acts that rely on the athleticism, strength, and stamina of the performer.
However, this is not to say that the Lyra is easy or that it doesn’t require the dedicated practice of acrobatic skill.
Lyra artists sometimes double as contortionists and the two disciplines are frequently combined. There are also many artists working with acrobatic moves on the hoop.
Lyra Tricks and Moves
- Straddle back hang
This is a classic aerial pose that can be translated from other apparatuses or learned on the Lyra. Here, the artist lies inverted with the hoop supporting her low back. The legs are extended in a wide straddle position.
- Front balance
A front balance can be performed on many apparatuses. Here, the aerialist makes a beautiful upward-facing swan position with the bar balancing on her hip. The move requires balance and good muscle control.
- Double Ankle hang
This is an advanced move where the aerialist hangs upside down, suspended only by her ankles and feet. The double ankle hang can be tricky to learn as it’s painful on the feet and very risky. Despite these factors, the move is a true crowd-pleaser.
Famous Lyra Artists
- The first known aerial hoop artist went by the name of Caedo, who presented an innovative act on the Lyra for an advertisement in 1893. This act was one of the first of its kind and was created for an entertainment newspaper of the day.
- Combining world-class vocal talent with aerial arts, singer Pink brings to the stage a theatrical spin on the aerial hoop. Working with the choreographer to the stars, Dreya Weber, the artist is fluent in many aerial apparatuses.
- The global circus company known as Cirque du Soleil made the aerial ring even more famous in many of their shows, including Quidam and Verekai.
Choosing a Lyra
Lyras generally come in three main styles:
Double Point: There are two “tabs” on the double point Lyra that attach to your carabiner and your span set or sling. The ropes can be rigged separately, allowing the hoop to hang static with no spin. Alternatively, they can be rigged from the same point on a swivel, creating the option to spin.
Single Point: On a single point Lyra, there’s a tab at the top of the hoop that attaches to the hardware and line. These are used for spinning in all directions.
Tabless: The tabless Lyra has no attachment points. Instead, the line is choked around the hoop to create the rigging set up.
A handloop can also be attached to the top of the hoop to allow for spins, poses, and single-arm hangs.
Which to choose?
The type of Lyra you choose should depend largely on whether you want to spin or make use of other shapes. There is a choice in finish of steel or powder-coated aluminum. Steel models are heavy and spin slow, while the lighter aluminum variety is light and fast.
The size of the Lyra should fit the body according to height, with enough room to sit comfortably inside the apparatus without the head touching the underside of the top bar.
Manufacturers are usually very helpful with sizing for their particular options in equipment. Pricing can range widely but expect to pay at least a few hundred dollars US for a quality and reliable product.
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Aerial arts have proliferated in the last ten to twenty years. You can find a good circus training school in virtually any city in the United States, as well as around the world.
Look up your training center and do a little advance research online. Reviews are a helpful tool.
You can opt for group classes or private lessons. Check instructor availability in your area. In a beginning level class, you are likely to learn how to warm up on the floor and on the equipment, and then perform basic moves like a double and single knee hang, and how to spin.
Costuming for Lyra
Costumes vary wildly on the cerceau, from tight-fitting, full-body catsuits to bikini style looks. It’s important to keep the costumes tight-fitting, yet comfortable, without any loose fabrics or too many gemstones to get in the way of the movement.
It’s always crucial to rehearse in your costume at least a couple of times to avoid any costume malfunctions. Some looks might work for one act but not for another, depending on the choreography.
Some beginners might opt for a simple leotard and tights, to showcase more of the performance and less of a character.
Lyra is so fun that it may be tempting to forget that it can also be very dangerous. Beginners soon discover that while enchanting and exciting, learning the Lyra can be uncomfortable, if not painful.
It will take time for the body to assimilate to the hoop’s rigid metal shape and develop tolerance to the unfamiliar sensations of concentrating all one’s body weight on an unyielding and very small surface.
Rigging should also be checked thoroughly before each training session, with the apparatus being stored properly. Padded circular bags are available to protect the Lyra from damage in between uses or while traveling.
When starting out on the Lyra, always work with a qualified instructor who can spot tricks and falls. This is critical to avoid injury. Aerial arts are fun and beautiful, but it’s important to be aware of the risks and dangers and take the necessary steps to prevent them.