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Circus Arts 101

Posted by Jordan Snider on Dec 2, 2019 5:00:53 AM

Circus Arts are of quite an interest to people of all age groups.  The Smithsonian hosted a Folklife Festival in 2017 that provided opportunities for experiential exploration of the life and work of circus people all around the world.  Here is what they considered some of the main disciplines of Circus Arts:

Acrobatics - The term acrobatics describes a combination of physical performance arts that involve strength, agility, coordination, and balance.

  • these skills date to ancient times in many cultures around the world and  have been recorded in ancient Greek and Roman culture, and Chinese have practiced acrobatics for more than 2,000 years.
  • acrobatics were part of medieval village and court festivals and events and evolved into circuses starting in the nineteenth century
  • now acrobatics are part of the Olympic Games and other international competitions

Aerials arts are comprised of  a variety of airborne acts using specially rigged equipment, such as silks, straps, lyra, hammocks, and webs.

  • another popular form is the trapeze and can be either static or flying
  • acts may be performed solo, double, triple, or as a combined group, depending on rigging design
  • the flying trapeze was invented in France in the mid-1850s by Jules Léotard, a young gymnast from Toulouse

Clowning is a circus discipline that evokes many reactions, associations, stereotypes, and clichés.

  • they include encounters with clever and insightful individuals, who through physical comedy shed new perspectives on aspects of life both everyday and universal.
  • or there are associations with colorful and eccentric costumes, exaggerated makeup, peculiar antics, and other behavior that may be comic or (for some) even scary.
  • physical comedy and accompanied by laughter has deep and expressions of physical comedy appear in cultures and societies globally, suggesting that the craft is a shared part of human experience whether or not associated with circus.

Equilibristics is the mastery of balance and one of the most respected circus arts of all time.

  • includes those who skillfully walk or prance on globes, ropes, and wires or cables
  • there are images of ancient Greeks and Romans balancing on ropes, as well as rope-walkers in medieval Europe
  • equilibristics has adapted and changed over the years incorporated changing technologies

Object Manipulation or juggling is one of the most recognizable groups of circus arts known as object manipulation.

  • object manipulation includes hooping, plate-spinning, fire staff, and diabolo
  • all involve combined skills of tossing, twirling, and physical dexterity
  • juggling has ancient roots and images of jugglers appear on the interior walls of an Egyptian tomb that dates back approximately 4,000 years



For more information about the variety of Circus Arts programs at Purchase, or to enroll, visit our Circus Arts Camp page,  today.  

Image Credit:  Future Stars Camps

Topics: Views, Circus Arts


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