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Figure of adagio acrobatics, acrobatics meeting Darmstadt

Under acrobatics (via French acrobat , of Greek ακροβατώ , tiptoe ', from άκρος , high' and βαίνειν , 'go) means general physical movements that have high coordinative and conditional demands on the practitioner. These include, for example, flips, somersaults , complicated jumps and static figures such as human pyramids. Almost any performance or sport that involves the entire body - especially short, highly controlled movements - can be considered acrobatics. An acrobat is an artist who performs gymnastics elements and spectacular tricks.

Development of acrobatics

European history

Acrobatic traditions have left their mark all over the world. In Europe one finds in the Minoan culture around 2,000 BC. First possible descriptions of acrobatic feats: In illustrations of the bull jump, young people overcame the animal with acrobatic jumps.

In the historiography of the European Middle Ages (between 500 and 1500 AD) acrobatic performances were often combined with song performances, juggling and other activities. On many console figures and capitals of Romanesque churches there are depictions of acrobats, whereby the acrobatic-sporting performances themselves are less in the foreground, but rather the seemingly strange movements and contortions. From this time an author is known who published a book on acrobatics: Archange Tuccarro (in France, as royal court jumper, at the court of Charles IX ) with his Trois dialogues de l'exercise de sauter et voltiger en l'air (Paris 1599) .

Although the term was initially only used for high-wire acrobatics , it began to be expanded to include forms of the performing arts, including gymnastics and circus arts, from the 20th century . At this time clubs and associations were formed in which artistic strength sports were practiced. The disciplines of ground floor, balance, aerial and jump acrobatics have already been distinguished in artistic strength sports. From 1971 to 1975 the German Sports Acrobatics Association was formed from this association, including floor gymnastics. At the end of the 20th century tumbling and rhythmic gymnastics became competitive sports in Europe.

In Germany and Holland many acrobatics groups were founded around 1990 - either within university sports or as circus clubs . Perhaps a connection can be found here with the renaissance of the circus under the influences of the Nouveau Cirque , such as Roncalli or Cirque du Soleil . The motivation of these groups can certainly be seen in the direction of recreational sports , but the quality of the sport performed is often very professional. The organization of supraregional meetings rich in workshops on individual techniques created a uniform basis in Germany for the exchange of skills. By following the Dutch preparatory work, z. For example, the Como level and the teaching activities of the Osmani’s and the Como Brothers (Rijk Hoedt and Cor van Velthoven), strong performance improvements were possible. The focus on "variety numbers" presented to each other at the meetings and the age at which university sports started triggered the development of a style that works without competitions, but with a strong focus on show.

At the same time and relatively independently, acrobatics developed into an international competitive sport. Interestingly, despite the same exercise elements, both sports show an almost complete lack of overlap between the athletes involved. The sport acrobatics was developed in its current way sport-scientifically in the former Soviet Union. The form of the training structure introduced there, starting at a very young age also in special sports schools, enables absolute top performance in acrobatics. Earlier top achievements like the Yang Brothers or the Kremo family were developed in the same way. This basic training of the children in the artist families was empirical value and a role model for the development of today's artistic gymnastics and sport acrobatics.

Moroccan acrobats with typical pyramids

African history

The founder of a brotherhood named after himself lived in Morocco from 1460 to 1563: The Sons of Sidi Ahmed ou Moussa. Under the conditions of constant wandering in groups and the renunciation of begging, the brotherhood developed their special way of conveying a blessing in exchange for food or donations with the help of dance, song and acrobatics. Professional circus acrobats with engagements in Europe ( Circus Renz 1852, Circus Busch 1902) and overseas developed from this tradition in the 19th century . Around 1920 there were 25 Moroccan artist troops, all Berbers from the Tazerwalt region , employed in Germany. These groups left Germany during the racial cleansing mania of the National Socialists. In the meantime these artists are back on the road in Europe and the USA. They had an impact on the world of acrobats to the extent that some of their exercises (somersaults and flips) are still known under the term "Arabs". (.. Va in Moroccan cities Marrakech ) can today - mostly of simple musical instruments like T'bol , krakebs and Gimbri accompanied - acrobatic performances in public places to be visited.

Asian history

Dancer / acrobat at Parasumaresvara Temple in Bhubaneswar , India (7th century)

In China, acrobatics (as part of the "Hundred Games") has been a part of the culture of village harvest festivals since the Han Dynasty (206 BC to 220 AD). During the Tang Dynasty (618 to 907 AD) it experienced largely the same development as acrobatics in the European Middle Ages and is still part of various local operas, particularly the Peking Opera , today .


The medieval culture of India probably also included dance performances that bordered on acrobatic or contortionist exercises. Such things are as good as not passed down in contemporary texts or other representations, so that one can only speculate about their significance in a religious or courtly environment.

Acrobatic forms

Tightrope walker in Cologne

The performance of acrobatics as a separate art form fans out into a large number of specialist areas. However, many artists use several of these categories for their depictions.

Aerial acrobatics

Cloth acrobat on the AIDAsol

Aerial acrobatic performances use various props on which figures and flights are shown.

  • In tightrope walking , mostly individuals or groups of people overcome the tightly stretched rope, if necessary with the help of aids such as a balance bar or fans.
  • On the slack rope you can often see dynamic performances by individuals who, in contrast to tight rope dancing , have their own requirements. The artist only creates the tension of the rope with his own weight. In contrast to the tight high rope, the slack rope can also be used as a swing for jumps.
  • A large number of difficult slopes are usually shown with the hanging or static trapezoid as well as on the vertical rope . At the same time, the (air) ring, the vertical cloth, the cloth loop (the U-cloth) and the straps , which offer similar acrobatic possibilities. Trapeze, straps, shawls and vertical ropes are also suitable for dynamic tricks, in which the prop does not remain static, but vibrates. In addition to the performances of individuals (solos), these devices are also suitable for duos (couples) and sometimes also for groups. Current innovations are, for example, the vertical network and the cloud swing.
  • The flying trapeze is presented by a group of artists. Usually two trapezoids are combined. Usually there is a narrow platform at one end on which the planes begin their mission. These "fly" on the trapeze in the direction of the catcher, whose trapeze (the "catch chair") is attached to the other end of the construction and also swings. At the highest point of the flight, the flier uses a trick to switch to the catcher, who has to grab the flier's arms or legs. Many figures are possible for this, somersaults , twists or combinations as well as other figures can be used. The plane then switches back to its empty trapeze. As an extension to the traditional flying trapeze, variants have been developed in which additional catchers are used, for example located above the swinging catching chair or on the attachment of the flying trapeze, thus enabling additional variations.
    Vertical dance aerial acrobatics as a Christmas show
  • Climbing vertical posts, various slopes on them and jumps to switch from post to post are all known as the Chinese mast . There are common exercises and positions with the sport of pole dance .
  • Using the Russian swing or the sling board , artists are thrown into the air and can thus perform very challenging somersaults, twists and combined maneuvers.
  • While the diver's somersaults and twists also require a high level of acrobatic skill, at least he is in the air during the entire exercise. The same applies to trampoline gymnastics .
  • Vertical dance , a modern type of dance and acrobatic movement that takes place in the vertical and mostly uses house walls or other structures as an imprint element.

Transitional forms between aerial and ground acrobatics

The show "Russian Bar" by Valentin Gneushev

If the main focus of the performance is free in the air, artistic elements, but some of the members of the group are still on the ground, then by definition we should already speak of floor acrobatics. The term equilibrism or balance acrobatics can sometimes be used here.

  • The devices sling board and Russian parallel bars are used as aids to throw yourself or other people into the air. Somersaults are also often performed here.
  • Icarian games achieve comparable effects, but here the fliers are catapulted directly into the air by subordinates without aids. The subordinate lies with his back on a frame and carries the plane with his feet or throws it into the air.
  • Antipodal games largely correspond to the Ikarian games, but the lower person does not throw a plane through the air with his feet, but objects.
  • No technical aids are used when throwing knots or mats. The name is derived from the grip of the two subordinates who use their hands to form a standing surface for the aviator. Each sub-person grips their own left wrist with their right hand, then both grasp the other's right wrist with their left hand and thus form the standing knot . The upper person is thrown into the air and can show the typical figures mentioned above. At the end of each figure, the aviator is usually caught by one or both subordinates, different positions are possible: upright, lying horizontally, or in a handstand.
  • In ladder acrobatics, various tricks from simple balance to juggling are shown on a ladder (or similar objects) balanced freely in the room. The ladder acrobatics is a transition form to aerial acrobatics, since the artist no longer touches the floor during the performance, unlike the prop.
  • The same reasoning applies to walking on stilts , because a movable ladder or pole cannot be used as a platform. Walking on stilts is used in various ways, as a children's game, in the past also as an aid to guarding cattle, or as an acrobatic element during parades and performances by jugglers. Street theater in particular uses stilts as acrobatic props. In addition to the classic wooden stilts, aluminum stilts as well as fiberglass and pneumatic sprung stilts have developed.

Floor acrobatics

4-person pyramid in camp 380 (Egypt, 1944–1948)
Castell in the formation 3de8 Tres de Vuit of the Colla Vella dels Xiquets de Valls on October 13, 2007 in front of the Messeturm in Frankfurt

Despite the term floor acrobatics, throws and drop exercises are also possible here.

  • Floor or parterre acrobatics describes exercises with one or more partners (partner, duo and group acrobatics) and includes the areas of variety, compensation and competitive sports, including sports acrobatics. This is a form of balance with several people, with at least one person remaining in contact with the floor (also stage or podium). Acroyoga was created in 2004 in the USA from the combination of yoga , acrobatics and Thai massage .
  • Adagio is the name for a sub-category of (floor) partner acrobatics or for acrobatic exercises. Adagio acrobatics (Italian): slowly, calmly and quickly worked parterrearobatics, originated in Eastern Europe and was generally taught by circus acrobats. Transitions between different stationary balances are included here. The exercises do not necessarily have to be performed slowly, as the name suggests. The people involved are referred to as fliers (flyers, upper person) and base (base, lower person). In group acrobatics, in addition to several lower and upper persons, middle persons also appear. The figures used in adagio acrobatics can be categorized by first describing the position of the subordinate (lying, squatting, standing, kneeling, or handstand). In the second step, it is determined which parts of the lower person's body the upper person is on (feet, hands, shoulders, knees, thighs, back or a combination). The orientation of the upper person (horizontal, vertical or upside down) is the last definition for duo figures. Exercises with more than two people can be described as a combination of the duo figures already presented. Exact representations of these figures and the possible transitions between them are described in the book Het grote duo acrobatiek trukenboek (K. Kloosterboer). Adagio acrobatics is often performed professionally as a circus or variety show that attracts the public. In many circus and university groups, a large number of amateurs, some of which are of professional quality, are organized.
  • Acrobatics uses a comprehensive list of characters and their levels of difficulty.

Many exercises are easier to perform once the fliers are lighter and the subordinates are heavier and stronger. However, this is not necessary, the same weights or even the inverse of this principle are often used for special show effects. Acrobatics can be found in many regional traditions. Often jumps and various dynamic proofs of skill are demonstrated at folk festivals and customs (example: Düsseldorfer Radschläger ). In Spain a form of floor acrobatics is being developed to perfection. The human pyramids, called castells and muixeranga , shown in the province of Catalonia , include not only the sporting component but also religious and political backgrounds. In Asia, a similar tradition is associated with the Hindu holiday Janmashtami .

In the area of ​​floor acrobatics, other forms of exercise are known:

  • Handstand artists mostly use a pedestal or handstand stand to showcase their handstand variations.
  • Strength acrobats perform strength and balance acts , which can also be seen in strongman competitions or as elements in sports acrobatics.
  • Although tumbling involves doing quick sequences of somersaults and other flips, it falls into this area.
  • Contortionists (" contortionists ") are often presented here.
  • Even if the traceurs perform spectacular jumps in parkour , overcoming the obstacles can be considered ground-based.

Acrobatic manipulation of objects

The acrobatic handling of various objects, which is shown by jugglers , is to be seen as a separate area. Antipodists can also fully fall under the term juggler if, instead of people, only objects, such as barrels or carpets, are used for the balancing.

Acrobatic elements

Here individual exercise elements of a sport are summarized under the term acrobatics. These elements are used almost identically in the various sports and combined with the respective basic exercises. An exercise that is often used in this way is the swallow , also known as a fish, flier or lying on your stomach on your hands. Here the standing lower person carries the upper person above their head with their hands on their hips. Seen from the side, the result is a picture similar to the letter "T". This figure can be used in figure skating , roller sports , as a pose in dance such as. B. Rock 'n' Roll or used in vaulting . The dynamic elements (in sport acrobatics all elements with a flight phase, including somersaults in all variations) are e.g. B. the "stunts" in cheerleading are partly identical to the "beginners" in rock 'n' roll.

These elements are also used in the extended area of ​​the entertainment industry. Acrobatic stunts are an important part of many spectacular film scenes . In addition to the frequent "accident scenes", acrobatic elements are regularly used , especially in martial arts films .

Health aspects of acrobatics

This section relates to adagio acrobatics; the statements may need to be adapted for other forms of acrobatics.

Although many acrobatics figures seem very spectacular, the sport itself is not particularly dangerous or inevitably associated with long-term health risks. Professional acrobats who were active well into old age, such as the 2 Londos (eccentricity with a sling board), Heinz Jürgen Weidner (Niewars high rope, etc.), the Como Brothers , the Osmani’s and Konrad Thurano , clearly show this.

Avoidance of acute damage

Breakdance demonstration by Hungarian acrobats on Stephansplatz in Vienna

The risk of injury from possible falls from the high and therefore difficult figures must of course be taken into account. Responsible training and appropriate preparation reduce these dangers.

In order to later perform complex acrobatic figures without getting injured, the necessary physical skills must be built up by slowly increasing the demands. This structure is achieved by selecting the figures according to the appropriate level of difficulty. For this purpose, stable figures with many support points between the partners and at a low height are first practiced.

For each acrobatic figure , several options for assistance by additional people ( security ) are clearly defined and must be taught together with the respective figure. The person who works as an assistant is responsible for the safe return of the superior to the ground. The correctly executed assistance works so well that the upper and lower person almost always locks without injuries, even if the figure is broken off. At higher figures, a low spring mat or a waist belt with two retaining parts (lunge) is often the roping used for protection.

Furthermore, the practice of difficult movement sections of a sequence of figures is often carried out in a more stable or safe position. The "high handstand" is one of those complex and riskier duo figures, in which the upper person does a handstand on the hands of the standing lower person. This figure can be trained very well with the handstand on the hands of the person lying down (see illustration). Here the risk is reduced to the point that it only corresponds to the handstand of an individual on the floor. The technology of this hand-in-hand stand even requires a technically better execution in the low position than in the upright position. If the duo now changes from lying to standing, the potential height of fall increases, but the risk hardly increases because the lower person can now compensate much better by also changing your position.

Hand-in-handstand exercise figure

Avoidance of long-term damage

Carrying other people or holding your own weight on your hands are demanding loads for the body. Acrobatics beginners must slowly build up the core muscles ( back and abdominal muscles ) through the stabilizing exercise components. In the case of figures on the shoulders or arms of the standing lower person, it must be started with little time stress. Combinations of beginners with experienced partners are preferable, as the unstable phases usually do not build up. Only when no problems can be identified over several training units can more complex figures be continued. Correct posture enables the body to distribute the load efficiently. With good, muscular protection of the spine, high loads are possible without damage.

For acrobatics it is necessary to be able to use the radius of motion of many joints to their full extent as possible. Stretches achieve good, but reasonable mobility and minimize the risk of strains. It is controversial whether stretching exercises after training ( cool down ) make it possible to effectively relax the stressed muscles. The wrists in particular, with their complex structure , are prone to overload. To avoid overloading, the joints are often loosened between the exercise sections, and at the end of the exercise unit the surrounding muscles of the stressed joints are relaxed by stretching.

See also


  • Bennie Huisman, Gerard Huisman: Acrobatics. From beginner to expert . Rowohlt TB-V., Rnb., 1988, ISBN 3-499-18628-4
  • Michael Blume: acrobatics with children and young people, in schools and clubs . Meyer & Meyer Sport, 2005, 7th edition, ISBN 3-89899-033-8
  • Michael Blume: acrobatics. Training - technology - staging . Meyer & Meyer Sport, 2006, 4th edition, ISBN 3-89899-205-5
  • Ernst J. Kiphard: The acrobatics and their training . Ruhrländische Verlagsgesellschaft, antiquarian, 1961
  • Kees Kloosterboer: Het grote duo acrobatiek trukenboek out of print, self-published 1996
  • Ralf List: The big book of duo acrobatic tricks . Translation from Dutch, PDF file, 1996

Web links

Wiktionary: Acrobatics  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: circus acrobat  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Acrobatics  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Encyclopedia entry on art power sports
  2. documenta artistica ( Memento from July 2, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) Sports acrobatics in the Stadtmuseum Berlin
  3. Article (PDF; 1.3 MB) on circus acrobats from Morocco
  4. Acroyoga
  5. Ernst J. Kiphard: The acrobatics and their training . Ed .: Earl Diem. tape 6 . Ruhrländische Verlagsgesellschaft mb H., Essen 1961, p. 129 .
  6. Deutscher Sportakrobatikbund acrobatics gymnastics Tables of Difficulty of the FIG , 30 thousand figure variations