What Are Aerialists?

Aerialists are acrobatic performers specializing in the sub-categories of acrobatics performed in the air. They include trapeze artists, tightrope-walkers, high wire acts, and performances on silks, hoops, rings, or other suspended devices.

The History of Aerialism

Much of the history of these acts is a bit murky, with “founders” of the specific arts being credited mostly with bringing popularity to things hinted at in records well before their lifetimes.


The trapeze rocketed to fame thanks to French performer Jules Leotard, who is credited with the invention of the trapeze…though records show the word in use before he was born. At any rate, he brought new life and popularity to trapeze performances in the mid 1800s.

Types of trapezes include:

Sstatic trapeze–ropes and bars and rings that don’t move, around which the performer swings. These sports are still popular in gymnastics and even featured in the Olympic games.

Swinging trapeze–a bar suspended from ropes that allow the performers to swing out in an arc like a pendulum. Swinging Trapeze begins from a still position, and the performer works up his or her own momentum, much like one would do on a playground swing.

Flying trapeze–similar in form to a swinging trapeze, the flying trapeze differs in approach, with the aerialist leaping onto the bar from a great height and using gravity to provide the momentum.

Trapeze acts can be performed solo, in two, or even with more performers working together.

Silks and Ropes

The practice of using fabric or ropes to drop, climb, and twirl. Cirque du Soleil is in large part responsible for catapulting these skills to the fore, but it’s uncertain whether their history dates back further. For the purposes of the Imposters, I assumed that aerialists had been doing these tricks far longer than from the 1990s.


Aerial Hoops

An aerial hoop is a variation of a static trapeze that uses a large ring instead of a bar. Performers flips, twingle, hand, spin, and climb on and through the hoop for their act. The first recorded use of the aerial hoop was in an 1893 circus in New York, by a performer called “Caedo.”


W R I T E   T O   F R A N C O

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