A human pyramid is a type of gymnastic formation in which the participants kneel together in a row or other formation, forming a base for another tier of participants who kneel or stand on their shoulders, backs or thighs. A human pyramid is very difficult to make. In case that the participants stand up, it is called human tower. Successively smaller tiers of participants may be added, each tier supported by the one below it. Lighter participants are placed at the top of the formation, while the strongest participants form the base of the pyramid.
Human pyramids may be performed by cheerleaders, by circus acrobats—who may perform additional tricks simultaneously, such as juggling or making the pyramid travel—or less perfectly by amateurs (often for the fun of failing and falling).
Traditions involving human pyramids
- Human pyramids are often formed to reach for the bun during the Chinese Bun Festival.
- Sokol is a youth sport movement and gymnastics organization founded in Czech region of Austria-Hungary, Prague, in 1862. It was primarily a fitness training center for the nation. The movement also spread across other Slavic regions. Some of the Sokol exercises included human pyramids.
- During the Hindu festival Krishna Janmashtami in Maharashtra, young men form human pyramids to reach pots filled with curd and butter and suspended high above the ground as part of the Dahi Handi ritual.
- Algemesí holds a Human Pyramid Festival annually on September 8 as a component of the Fiesta de La Virgen de la Salud (Virgin of Good Health). The muixeranga, or acrobats, form the human towers.
- The "castellers" of Catalonia form human pyramids, named castells ("castles"), up to ten men high. In Catalonia, severals statues commemorate this old tradition. In Tarragona the castellers form human towers during the Santa Tecla Festival in September and during the Sant Magi festival, held annually in mid-August.
- The Falcons are traditional teams in Catalonia who build human pyramids and towers. They follow different rules from the ones of the castells.
- It is used in bonding, e.g. as part of a North American college fraternity hazing ritual, or in a variation called a spanking pyramid, suitable as a collective punishment, in which the pledges, often divested, are paddled on the conveniently protruded posterior.
- Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts may hold competitions where the patrol that builds a human pyramid using all the scouts in their patrol the fastest, wins.
- University performance groups use human pyramids as large-scale acrobalance. The University of Maryland Gymkana Troupe keeps a tradition alive by building a series of pyramids during every one of their large shows. The Washington Adventist University Acro-Airs create 3-person high pyramids while combining cheer-based skills and tumbling passes.
- In Venice there were human towers formed by Castellani and Nicolotti, habitants of different parts of Venice. Their human towers, maximum of 8 levels of men, were about 11 meters high. At the top there was a child, usually called the Cimiereto.[when?]
Cheerleaders may perform human pyramids with more difficult stunt sequences and gymnastics incorporated into routines. In cheerleading, pyramids are multiple groups of stunts connected aerially by the flyers. This connection may be made by simple linking of hands or having a multi-level pyramid. The flyers already in the air act as primary bases for another flyer or flyers on top of them.
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