The Cyr wheel (also known as the roue Cyr, mono wheel, or simple wheel) is an acrobatic apparatus that consists of a single large ring made of aluminum or steel with a diameter approximately 10 to 15 cm (4 to 6 in) taller than the performer. The performer stands inside the Cyr wheel and grasps its rim, causing it to roll and spin gyroscopically while performing acrobatic moves in and around the rotating wheel. The apparatus and its movement vocabulary have some similarities with the German wheel, but whereas the German wheel consists of two large rings linked together by horizontal crossbars and has handles for the performer to hold onto, the modern Cyr wheel consists of a single ring and has no handles. The Cyr wheel takes its name from Daniel Cyr, who reinvented it as a circus apparatus at the end of the 20th century.
There are records of people using a similar apparatus as sports equipment during the mid-20th century in Germany, where it was referred to as the Einreifen or mono wheel, having been developed by Adalbert von Rekowski as a variation on Otto Feick's popular Rhönrad (German wheel).
Around 1996, the wheel was reinvented and developed as a circus apparatus by Daniel Cyr, a graduate of the National Circus School in Montreal and co-founder of the contemporary circus troupe Cirque Éloize. Cyr claims the idea came to him from a large hula hoop and an old circular wrought-iron coat rack. His design for the wheel went through several iterations, evolving from steel to aluminum, adding a PVC coating, and eventually implementing a multi-part design that could be disassembled for easier transportation. Cyr first performed with the apparatus in the Cirque Éloize production of Excentricus, which toured North America, Europe and Asia between 1997 and 2002. He subsequently presented a Cyr wheel circus act at the 2003 Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain in Paris and won the Silver Medal for his performance.
Since its recent popularization as a circus skill, hundreds of circus artists from around the world have performed in the wheel and it is now taught in several major circus schools. The USA Wheel Gymnastics Federation and the International Rhoenradturnen Verband, with significant assistance from coaches and athletes from the École Nationale de Cirque de Montréal, developed rules for Cyr wheel competition. The first such competition was held in Chicago in October 2011 and the first world championships in Cyr wheel competition was held during the 10th World Championships in Wheel Gymnastics, July 7-14, 2013 in Chicago.
Professional circus schools that offer advanced training on the Cyr wheel include: the Ecole Supérieure des Arts du Cirque (ESAC) in Belgium, the National Centre for Circus Arts in the UK, the Centre national des arts du cirque (CNAC) in France, and the École nationale de cirque in Montreal.
Cyr wheels are typically made of stainless steel tubing or aluminum tubing approximately 1.5 inches (38 mm) in diameter. They are often composed of 3 or 5 individual pieces fixed together by steel or aluminum couplings. They may be painted and covered with an anti-slip plastic coating to add friction and protect the metal.
Smaller wheels spin faster, work better for smaller spaces, and make "no hand" tricks easier than larger wheels. Larger wheels are more graceful and there is more room for suspensions.
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