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Chinese acrobat in midair after being propelled off a teeterboard, China, 1987 Chinese acrobat in midair being watched by other acrobats.jpg
Chinese acrobat in midair after being propelled off a teeterboard, China, 1987

Acrobatics (from Ancient Greek ἀκροβατέω, akrobateo, "walk on tiptoe, strut" [1] ) is the performance of extraordinary human feats of balance, agility, and motor coordination. It can be found in many of the performing arts, sporting events, and martial arts. Acrobatics is most often associated with activities that make extensive use of gymnastic elements, such as acro dance, circus, and gymnastics, but many other athletic activities—such as ballet, slacklining and diving—may also employ acrobatics. Although acrobatics is most commonly associated with human body performance, it may also apply to other types of performance, such as aerobatics.



A female acrobat depicted on an Ancient Greek hydria, c. 340-330 BC. Hydria acrobat BM VaseF232.jpg
A female acrobat depicted on an Ancient Greek hydria, c. 340–330 BC.
Female acrobat shooting an arrow with a bow in her feet; Gnathia style pelikai pottery; 4th century BC Antikensammlung Berlin 525.JPG
Female acrobat shooting an arrow with a bow in her feet; Gnathia style pelikai pottery; 4th century BC

Acrobatic traditions are found in many cultures, and there is evidence that the earliest such traditions occurred thousands of years ago. For example, Minoan art from c. 2000 BC contains depictions of acrobatic feats on the backs of bulls. Ancient Greeks practiced acrobatics, [2] and the noble court displays of the European Middle Ages would often include acrobatic performances that included juggling [ citation needed ].

In China, acrobatics have been a part of the culture since the Tang Dynasty (203 BC). Acrobatics were part of village harvest festivals. [3] During the Tang Dynasty, acrobatics saw much the same sort of development as European acrobatics saw during the Middle Ages, with court displays during the 7th through 10th century dominating the practice. [4] Acrobatics continues to be an important part of modern Chinese variety art.

Though the term initially applied to tightrope walking,[ citation needed ] in the 19th century, a form of performance art including circus acts began to use the term as well. In the late 19th century, tumbling and other acrobatic and gymnastic activities became competitive sport in Europe.

Acrobatics has often served as a subject for fine art. Examples of this are paintings such as Acrobats at the Cirque Fernando (Francisca and Angelina Wartenberg) by Impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir, which depicts two German acrobatic sisters, Pablo Picasso's 1905 Acrobat and Young Harlequin , and Acrobats in a Paris suburb by Viktor Vasnetsov.



An aerialist is an acrobat who performs in the air, on a suspended apparatus such as a trapeze, rope, cloud swing, aerial cradle, aerial pole, aerial silk, or aerial hoop. [5]


See also

Related Research Articles

Aerial may refer to:

Chinese variety art

Chinese variety art refers to a wide range of acrobatic acts, balancing acts and other demonstrations of physical skill traditionally performed by a troupe in China. Many of these acts have a long history in China and are still performed today.

<i>Quidam</i> ninth stage show produced by Cirque du Soleil, which premiered in 1996

Quidam was the ninth stage show produced by Cirque du Soleil. It premiered in April 1996 and has been watched by millions of spectators around the world. Quidam originated as a big-top show in Montreal and was converted into an arena format beginning with its 2010 tour in North America. It then changed back to the Big Top for a 3-month run in Seoul, South Korea before returning to an arena show for its tour to Oceania. The show performed for the final time in Christchurch, New Zealand on February 26, 2016.

<i>La Nouba</i> Cirque du Soleil show

La Nouba was a Cirque du Soleil show that ran for 19 years in a custom-built, freestanding theater at Disney Springs' West Side at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. It was a contemporary circus performance featuring acrobats, gymnasts, and other skilled performers. The show's creation was directed by Franco Dragone, who also directed many of Cirque du Soleil's earlier shows. Its title derives from the French phrase faire la nouba, meaning "to party" or "to live it up".

Human pyramid

A human pyramid is an acrobatic formation of three or more people in which two or more people support a tier of higher people, who in turn may support other, higher tiers of people. People above the bottom tier may kneel or stand on the shoulders, backs or thighs of the people below them. Typically, the number of people in each tier is one greater than the tier immediately above it, resulting in a triangular structure reminiscent of the formation's namesake.


Acrobalance is an acrobatic art that combines elements of adagio and hand balancing.

Chinese State Circus

The Chinese State Circus is a touring circus that aims to present Chinese circus arts to European audiences. The show is based on Chinese acrobatic acts. All the performers come from China and are trained in the Chinese tradition of Ma Xi, or hippodrama. But no live animals are used in the Chinese State Circus shows.

Varekai was a Cirque du Soleil touring production that premiered in Montréal in April 2002. Its title means "wherever" in the Romani language, and the show is an "acrobatic tribute to the nomadic soul".

Aerial silk type of performance in which one or more artists perform aerial acrobatics while hanging from a special fabric

Aerial silks is a type of performance in which one or more artists perform aerial acrobatics while hanging from a fabric. The fabric may be hung as two pieces, or a single piece, folded to make a loop, classified as hammock silks. Performers climb the suspended fabric without the use of safety lines and rely only on their training and skill to ensure safety. They use the fabric to wrap, suspend, drop, swing, and spiral their bodies into and out of various positions. Aerial silks may be used to fly through the air, striking poses and figures while flying. Some performers use dried or spray rosin on their hands and feet to increase the friction and grip on the fabric.

New York Circus Arts Academy Private circus school in New York, NY

The New York Circus Arts Academy was the educational division of New York Circus Arts. The school taught aerial acrobatic tricks and the flying trapeze, as well as juggling, stiltwalking and unicycling.

Christine (Christina) Van Loo is an American aerialist and acrobat, and former champion acrobatic gymnast. She is a 7-time National Champion, She was named the 1988 Olympic Female Athlete of the Year for Sports Acrobatics and named the Athlete of the Decade for the 1980s by the U.S. Sports Acrobatics Federation. She was inducted into the USSA (acro-gymnastics) Hall of Fame and the World Acrobatics Society Gallery of Honor.

Acro dance A style of dance that combines classical dance technique with precision acrobatic elements

Acro dance is a style of dance that combines classical dance technique with precision acrobatic elements. It is defined by its athletic character, its unique choreography, which seamlessly blends dance and acrobatics, and its use of acrobatics in a dance context. It is a popular dance style in amateur competitive dance as well as in professional dance theater and in contemporary circus productions such as those by Cirque du Soleil. This is in contrast to acrobatic, artistic and rhythmic gymnastics, which are sports that employ dance elements in a gymnastics context under the auspices of a governing gymnastics organization and subject to a Code of Points. Acro dance is known by various other names including acrobatic dance and gymnastic dance, though it is most commonly referred to simply as acro by dancers and dance professionals.

Pauliina Räsänen Finnish actress

Tuuli Pauliina Räsänen is a circus performer and actress from Finland. Her career jump-started when she was invited to perform as the first Fennoscandian soloist with Cirque du Soleil. She was awarded a five-year grant from Finland's Central Commission of Arts to pursuit artistic work. She has succeeded in establishing her career in the international market and at the moment performs with Komische Oper Berlin.

<i>Zaia</i> Cirque du Soleil show

Zaia was a Cirque du Soleil stage production based at The Venetian Macao on the Cotai Strip in Macau. The 90-minute show opened in August 2008, bringing together 75 high-calibre artists from around the world. Zaia was Cirque du Soleil's first resident show in Asia and was directed by Neilson Vignola and Gilles Maheu. The custom-built theater housing the performance was capable of seating 1,800 spectators at a time.

<i>Ovo</i> (Cirque du Soleil)

Ovo is a touring circus production by Cirque du Soleil that premiered in Montréal, Canada, in 2009. Ovo's creator and director, Deborah Colker, took inspiration from the world of insects. The idea for Ovo was not to be about the acts, nor dancing, nor insects, but about movement. The movement of life permeates the entire show with creatures flying, leaping, bounding, and crawling. Composer Berna Ceppas brought additional life to Ovo with a score inspired by the music of Brazil. Ovo means "egg" in Portuguese and represents the underlying thread through the show. Graphically, inside the logo of Ovo, is an insect. The two O's represent the eyes and the V forms the nose and antennas.

Mathieu Laplante is a producer, director, choreographer, and former circus performer. He was a world-renowned gymnast from the age of 8 through 15 before joining Cirque du Soleil. He has worked on stage with artists such as Michael Jackson, Peter Gabriel, and Janet Jackson. He is best known for his work with Cirque-style shows. He began performing with Cirque du Soleil at the age of 16 and directed his first Cirque-style show at the age of 26.

Hand to hand acrobatics is a type of performance in which an acrobatic base and flyer balance on top of each other in either a gymnastic or acrobatic medium. It combines strength, agility, flexibility, and balance. For it to be considered hand to hand acrobatics, the top performer must be making physical contact only with the base’s hands, with her own hands keeping her balanced. Positions the top can perform in this style of acrobatics are straddles, handstands, pikes, press to handstand, one arm handstands, planches, flags, and many others. Hand to hand acrobatics can also include dynamic catches and throws that either begin with a throw from a hand to hand position or end in a catch in the hand to hand position.

Cirque de la Symphonie

Cirque de la Symphonie is a touring circus troupe based in Athens, Georgia, first incorporated in 2005 by William H. Allen and Alexander Streltsov. Its performances involve a variety of minimalist contemporary circus acts synchronized to the music of a live symphony orchestra. Reception to the Cirque has been positive both commercially and critically, with shows typically selling out and being positively reviewed by critics.


  1. ἀκροβατέω, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek–English Lexicon, on Perseus
  2. Iversen, Rune (June 2014). "Bronze Age acrobats: Denmark, Egypt, Crete". World Archaeology. 46 (2): 242–255. doi:10.1080/00438243.2014.886526.
  3. redpanda2000
  5. "Circus Dictionary". National Institute of Circus Arts. Archived from the original on 2011-07-19. Retrieved 2009-10-01.