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A cartwheel is a sideways rotary movement of the body. It is performed by bringing the hands to the floor one at a time while the body inverts. The legs travel over the body trunk while one or both hands are on the floor, and then the feet return to the floor one at a time, ending with the performer standing upright. It is performed in a variety of athletic activities, including acro dance and some types of Indian dance, in gymnastics, and in the martial art of capoeira. It is named cartwheel because the performer's arms and legs move in a fashion similar to the spokes of a turning wheel. In classical Indian Karana dance dance it is called talavilasitam, and in capoeira is called aú.
A cartwheel is carried out when one moves sideways in a straight line keeping the back straight placing the hand of the same side on the ground followed by the other hand as the legs are passed over the body and then come down as the hands and body come up to standing.
A classic cartwheel performed with proper gymnastics form always starts with a lunge, lead leg (stronger leg) in the front of the lunge and the weaker leg in the back. During the lunge the gymnast will have their arms high in the air and straight, and hips are square facing the forward direction. The gymnast will then push off of their front leg of the lunge, followed by placing their hands side by side on the ground in front of them. As they do this they will begin to kick their legs up and over their torso and head as the body becomes inverted. During the rotation the legs stay apart in a large, wide straddle(as far apart as the gymnast can get them), legs are straight, and toes and feet always stay pointed. During the rotation legs must reach at least 90 degrees of motion in a competition in order to get points (USA). Finally the gymnast will set their first foot on the ground, followed by the second foot, landing in a lunge with the weaker leg in the front of the lunge and the lead leg will be in back. The gymnast will land facing the opposite direction than they started in. Their hands and arms will be perfectly straight, pointed high in the sky.
Cartwheels are commonly performed in artistic gymnastics in floor exercises and on the balance beam apparatus. On the floor, a gymnast may precede a cartwheel with other movements, as in a chasse cartwheel, in which side step "gallops" immediately precede a cartwheel. It is a required skill in the USAG Level 4 Compulsory beam routine.
- Aerial cartwheel, a hands-free cartwheel