The human body can be incredibly graceful and strong, accomplishing amazing feats when in the hands of an acrobat.
In the world of acrobatics, athletes and artists are one in the same, as they use the human body as their paintbrush, creating beautiful movements that astound everyone who sees them perform.
Acrobatic art covers a big area in sport. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular acrobatic sport in the world today.
One of the first activities that comes to the mind when people think of flexibility, strength, and flips, is of course gymnastics.
Gymnastics is not only a performing art, but it is also a competitive sport, in which athletes are put to the test, using their strength and coordination to complete a large variety of intricate skills that require vast amounts of training and dedication to master.
For example, tumbling, pommel horse, rings, balance beam, and parallel bars, are just a few of the disciplines that individuals learn how to do as a gymnast.
Tumbling, for instance, is when an athlete uses momentum and strength to perform high caliber tricks on a spring floor, like backhandsprings, backflips, and twisting movements in the air.
On the other hand, disciplines like the pommel horse tests an athlete’s ability to control their bodies, spinning around a stationary object.
While gymnastics is a very recognizable form of acrobatics, as it was present in the first Olympic Games of 1896, it is far from the only movement art that people have tried to master.
One of the more visually ‘alien’ acrobatics, contortion is the pinnacle of flexibility.
While all movement arts require some degree of flexibility, contortionists take it to the extreme. The goal for contortionists is to perform and perfect skills related to maximizing their mobility.
For instance, doing the splits, backbends, and front-walkovers are staple movements for contortionists.
They are also adept at handstands and other balancing acts which provide them with greater maneuverability.
When the skills of flexibility and strength are combined in this manner, the result is the creation of beautiful poses and smooth motions, which bend the minds of the viewers as much as the bodies of the preformers.
Part of the allure of contortion is the ease and grace with which the performers can move their bodies.
Unlike other acrobatic arts that utilize momentum and speed in order to perform their stunts, the contortionist moves slowly, only relying on the strength they can generate from within themselves.
The trampoline is a tool used by many types of acrobats as a way of getting more height and a soft landing for when they are learning how to perform flips and twists.
However, much like how contortionists are the masters of flexibility, the trampolinist strives to reach the pinnacle of flipping and twisting.
Garden trampolines are often found in backyards, having been designed as a good place for kids to jump around and play.
The trampolines that performers and athletes will utilize however, are much bouncier and can provide the trampolinists with a much longer time in the air.
After learning how to control their bounce, a trampolinist will develop a sense for the rhythm of their jumps, slowing down the tempo by jumping harder and higher, providing them with more time in the air.
Stabilizing your body while you are being propelled into the air requires a great deal of core strength.
This is amplified when flips and twists are added into the equation. What might be even more important than raw strength however, is air awareness.
With even the basic tricks of trampolining, such as backdrops, log rolls, and flips, you can imagine that it would be quite frightening if you were unaware of where your body was while you were in the air.
In order to perform advanced trampoline tricks, these acrobats need to develop an acute awareness of their surroundings, especially their relation to the bed of the trampoline where they land.
Although relegated to the rectangle of the trampoline, trampolinists perform in a large variety of settings.
This can range from circus preformances, to more professional athletic competitions such as the Olympics, amazing the audience regardless of the venue.
Martial Arts Tricking
This sport is one of the newest of acrobatic arts, in many respects growing in popularity along with social media.
At its roots, tricking finds similarities with sports karate, performing a short routine of vertical twists and kicks.
However, tricking emerged to become a distinct art when it began incorporating elements from a vast array of other disciplines.
From other martial arts such as capoeira and wushu, to gymnastics, contortion, and trampoline, Tricking is unique in its ability to accommodate many styles.
Without any strict rules or a point system, tricking allows its athletes to constantly innovate, striving to make the most intricate combination of flips, kicks, and twists possible.
Tricking takes place entirely on flat ground, such as on a spring floor or commonly, on a patch of grass.
This means that trickers need to utilize kicks and transitional moves, such as the scoot, J- step, cartwheel, and the TDR (the touchdown raiz – sport’s signature move) to try generate enough power for larger tricks.
While the trampolinist relies on the height from the trampoline, and a gymnast’s floor routine uses a “punch” to gain power from the spring floor, trickers tend to gain their momentum differently.
Many tricking moves, such as the gainer, cork, and webster, take off and land one foot at a time. Instead of a “punch”, trickers will swing one leg, while jumping with the other.
This type of swinging motion allows trickers to create long chains of twists and flips, in which one leg acts as a constant pendulum.
Not only is this simply a unique and captivating style, it also allows for trickers to perform on hard surfaces like grass or concrete without taking too much impact.
As the sport of tricking has developed, it has become recognizable in the film industry, and on the circus stage, with professional trickers being skilled stunt workers.
However, the bulk of the tricking community is made up of home grown artists, practicing for the enjoyment of the movement.
Where martial arts tricking is impressive for its reliance only on a flat surface, trapeze is mind numbing because its artists never touch the ground!
Using a system of bars attached to ropes, trapeze artists will swing from an elevated platform, releasing the bar and allowing themselves to fly in the air, performing perfectly timed flips.
A trapeze performance usually consists of multiple artists performing simultaneously.
While one releases the bar to perform a trick, another artist will swoop in to catch them! Not only does the trapezist need to know where they are in the air, but they must be synced up to their team perfectly, otherwise they risk falling from a great height.
The flying trapeze is one of the oldest and most recognizable of the circus arts.
Having been invented in the 1800s, it has been a staple spectacle for acrobatic performances for years.
Despite its long history, this act has not ceased to be innovative, with its athletes still pushing to try ever more challenging routines, such as the double wide trapeze, in which even more athletes are up in the air, requiring even greater coordination.
Other Types of Popular Acrobatics
- Acro Dance
- Aerial Silks
- Aerial Hoop/Lyra
- Bicycle Acrobatics/Artistic Cycling
- Cyr Wheel
- Space Wheel/Wheel of Death
The world of acrobatics is a death-defying community, in which all of its disciplines put the laws of physics to the test, and amaze their audience.
Strength, flexibility, and coordination are learned in all of them, yet when applied in different ways, drastically different, yet equally beautiful movements can be produced!