The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Circus (performing art)

A circus is usually a travelling show that includes acrobats, animal trainers (though this is being phased out with the influence of animal rights groups), clowns and other novelty acts. However, there are circuses today with a permanent venue that do not travel, and some circuses do not have animal acts at all.


History of the circus

The first modern circus was staged by Philip Astley in London on January 9, 1768. The famous circus theme song is actually called "Entrance of the Gladiators," and is also known as "Thunder and Blazes." It was composed in 1904 by Julius Fucik.

List of famous circuses and circus owners

List of famous circus performers

List and brief description of the various circus arts


  • Contortion
  • Hand-to-hand balancing
  • Russian swing
  • Chair
  • Shoot-Thru Ladder
  • Russian Bar
  • Russian Swing
  • Korean Board
  • Teeterboard
  • Trampoline
  • Bicycle
  • Icarian Games
  • Rebound Straps
  • adagio

Aerial acts


Cirque Nouveau

  • Although not exactly a circus art as much as a new form of Circus. Cirque Nouveau combines various traditional circus arts with music and acting to form a new artform altogether.


  • clown skills include, literally, every circus skill, as 'clowns getting into the act' is a very familiar theme in any circus.
  • Producing clown is a craftsman affiliated with the rest of the clown alley whose job it is to invent, repair, replace, or produce clown props, but often includes in smaller circuses, repair of almost any type of equipment, prop, or rigging.


Juggling can refer to dozens of arts in which various objects are tossed, swung, flipped, balanced or manipulated in some other way. Juggling most often refers to the tossing and catching two or more objects into the air, and some object manipulators like card and coin flourishers, prefer terms other than juggling to describe their art.

Juggling typically requires (or creates) good eye-hand coordination, balance, and muscular control. Juggling therapy has been successfully used as a rehabilitative tool in cases of injury, as juggling teaches, and enhances the coordination it requires.

Contact juggling

Most common form of this skill is the manipulation of a single large, fairly heavy ball, often silver or transparent, to disguise the rotation of the ball. The ball is manipulated, as the name implies, in contact with the juggler's body - typically the ball will be swirled between the hands, rolled up and down the arms, across the back, or shoulders, etc., all while remaining in contact with the ball. The ball is rarely tossed or thrown.

Juggling cups

a set of heavy weighted tapered metal cups is manipulated, tossed and caught inside each other or on top of each other. The 'feel' of this is said to be similar to cigar-box manipulation.

A modern form of cup juggling, Cup stacking is used in schools and youth organisation as a fun way to develop speed and coordination. This is more of a sport than a juggling art, and there are rules, timers, coaches, teams etc.

"Chinese yo-yo"/Diabolo

a prop made of two discs connected by an axle is manipulated using a cord connecting two control sticks... the lifting of one stick, and the simultaneous lowering of the other stick creates friction between the cord and axle, causing rotation. Diabolos are often tossed, sometimes quite high into the air, and are then caught on the cord, all the while the spin of the prop is maintained by constant input using the sticks to pull the cord. Diabolos are sometimes juggled, sometimes juggled between two or more partners, using 2, 3, or 4 diabolosand tossing them in patterns quite similar to toss juggling patterns.

Cigar Box

Cigar box manipulation uses, typically, a set of 3 'cigar boxes' or props shaped to resemble such boxes. These are stacked, balanced, tossed, spun, caught atop or in between the other boxes. It is a widely held belief that this originated with W.C. Fields, however it is much more likely that he merely popularized it. Cigar box manipulation probably began in Vaudeville performances, and not in the circus.


any of the juggling arts characterised by balancing or maintaining a moving equilibrium or balance of opposing forces.

a couch or other longish object is first balanced (typically on the performer's feet while lying on his/her back) is first flipped end-for-end, then again and again until a smooth rotation occurs. This skill has to be seen to be believed, and is akin to acrobatics and strongman stunts as much as it is a juggling art.

  • Plate spinning

Plates are spun, balanced at their center atop thin flexible upright poles or wands, more and more plates are added, and the performer must respin plates to keep them moving, while adding more plates to more poles. More rarely, plates are balanced on smaller wands held in the hands or feet or teeth, sometimes spun directly on parts of the performer's body.

  • Hoop Twirling

similar to and overlapping hula-hoop skills, sometimes using smaller rings or juggling rings... numerous hoops are twirled on various parts of the body.

  • Rola bola
  • Rolling globe or Big Ball

Toss juggling

In toss juggling, objects -- such as balls, bean bags, fruit, etc... -- are thrown or tossed into the air and caught. Multiple objects may be thrown in succession, so that at a given point, some are in the air, going up, some are falling back towards the juggler's hands, some are being caught and some are being thrown.

  • Balls
  • Clubs
  • Torches
  • Knives, Machetes, Swords
  • Rings

Side-show Arts

Hat tricks can include juggling with hats, balancing hats, etc., but 'Chapeaugraphy' is more similar to mime or mimicry. Chapeaugraphy uses a circle or donut of felt, sometimes other shapes, which is twisted, turned, flopped or bent, and put on the head to resemble some other type of hat or character.. or animal for that matter. The same felt circle is used to create dozens of different styles, in a Chapeaugraphy performance

fire is placed inside the mouth, on the tongue, or even swallowed similarly to a sword swallower.

fuel is expirated or 'blown' out of the mouth, forcefully, across a flame or ignition source held at arm's-length, causing a cloud of fire - seemingy erupting from the firebreather's throat. Exposure to volatile fuels creates a toxic hazard, as well as the more obvious risk of immolation.

fire, used as a prop, in a performance akin to rhythmic gymnastics and dance. The performer may perform inside a circle of flames, may wave fire wands, torches, batons, twirl, toss, and touch flames on any number of firedancing apparatus.

and other hoop or ring spinning skills can include dance, juggling and other skills as well as the more familiar undulating-hip-type hula, the hoop or hoops may be spun around the neck, arms, legs, hips, chest etc. Can include contortion/gymnastic techniques as well.

  • Animal acts

Animals are often uses as performers in the circus. While the types of animals used varies from year to year, and from show to show, exotic cats, elephants, horses, birds and domestic animals are the most common.

List of other wikis

Circus open book in Spanish.

Juggling wiki

External links

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