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A human pyramid is a gymnastic formation in which two or more people kneel or stand together in a row or other formation so as to form a supporting base for another tier of people, who in turn kneel or stand on the shoulders, backs or thighs of the people below them. The formation is called a human tower if the participants stand up. Successively smaller tiers of people may be added, typically with lighter people at the top of the formation and stronger ones at the base. Human pyramids are performed in various activities, including cheerleading and in circus acrobatics.
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 until the eighteenth century 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 called Forze d'Ercole. At the top there was a child, usually called the Cimiereto.
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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