Slackwire

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Con Colleano on a slack-wire, circa 1920

Slackwire (Slack wire) is an acrobatic circus act, that involves the balancing skills of moving along a flexible/slack thin wire suspended in the air, connected to two anchor points. Not to be confused with slacklining.

Description and setup[edit]

Usually "slack wire" utilizes a steel wire 4–8 mm (316516 in) in diameter fixed between two anchor points. It can have two single stands with two extending wire pieces each to install the apparatus in an arena, or two "A" frames stands with one extending wire piece for each. It can also be mounted between two trees at an appropriate distance apart or fixed to a ceiling or any points which are strong enough to hold a performer's weight.

Wire walking artists usually use soft shoes made of leather.

Slack Rope (Slackrope)[edit]

A slack rope is very similar to a slack wire. The difference between a slack rope and a slackwire is in the characteristics of rope and wire. A slack rope usually utilizes a rope 10–20 mm (381316 in) in diameter. For both slack wire and slack rope, there are pluses and minuses to do stunts. For example, it is easier and more comfortable to do "sliding" tricks on a wire than on a rope. On a Slack rope a performer can walk without shoes, but that is painful on a Slackwire. In addition, a Slack rope is very similar to a Cloud Swing.

Technique of Balance and Angle of Slackwire[edit]

The technique of balance – a performer balances or moves on the wire while needing to control the wire beneath him from moving abruptly side to side, making continual adjustments. This skill is similar to balancing a stick on one’s head or on a finger. Each Slackwire performer usually uses his/her own preferred angle of slack and length of the wire.

The slack angle is the V-shaped angle created when a performer stands in the middle of the walking part of the wire. The angle depends on how long or short the wire is relative to the distance between two anchor points. This also affects the swing amplitude of the wire side to side. Some slackwire artists change the angle of the wire during their act. See video in which a Chinese artist performs on the Slackwire, changing the angles of the wire with the help of a winch several times during the performance. Video

The degree of ease or difficulty for a performer to move the wire is dependent upon how thick the wire or rope is. The heavier the wire or rope, the more inertia is required to move it laterally, but also requires more force to contro; to movement or bring to bring it back to a place of rest.

Skills[edit]

The skills and stunts commonly performed on a slack Wire and slackrope include:

Beyond standing and walking artists can also do turns, lying down, knee stands, sliding, forward and backward rolls, splits, hand stands, including cartwheels, head stands. Props such as a ladder, chair, unicycle, bicycle, and even a rola-bola are incorporated into some acts.

Some more advanced Slackwire stunts are done while the wire is swinging, including standing, handstands, and walking. Slackwire balancing skills also can be combined with tricks as various kinds of juggling, balancing a stick on the performer’s head, playing a musical instrument, etc. Some of the same skills can be seen in Cloud Swing or Trapeze acts as well.

Jumping Rope on a Slack Wire[edit]

Jumping Rope is popular in many circus acts. The skill has been performed on the ground in many variations, and on a Tightrope, on a slackline, but difficult on a slackwire because the wire moves when the performer jumps up and there is no way to control the swing and position of the wire when landing. This makes such stunts as somersaults and acrobatic tumbling virtually impossible.

Jumping rope on a slackwire was first accomplished in 1985. The only person to do the stunt is Sergey Pavlov (the clown LALALA) Sergey has even been able to complete up to 7 consecutive jumps.

Similarities and Differences[edit]

Slackwire and Tightrope[edit]

Slackwire and tightrope appear to be very similar skills to walking and balancing on a thin wire/rope. But actually the technique of balance is very different between them.

Tightrope performance (Korea)

The citation from Tightrope walking: "Slackwire and tight wire/tightrope require different balancing techniques: tightrope performers keep their balance by shifting their weight over the rigid tight wire, while slackwire performers use a precise swinging motion to move the relaxed slackwire under their center of mass." Because of this, an artist who works on a tightrope cannot easily make a transition to the Slackwire. He/she needs to spend time to train himself/herself to balance in this different manner and vice versa for artists working first on a slackwire.


Some tight-wire artists demonstrate a stunt called “the swings”. An artist takes the position on the wire, then his assistant reduces the tightness/tension of the wire and the artist demonstrates “swings.” The tight wire is adjusted to a slightly less tight condition. This stunt involves multiple skills to maintain balance. After the demonstration the assistant adjusts the wire back to its original tightness/tension.

video - Volzhansky family "Prometheus"/"Прометей", 1977" (timer: 4:55)

The same stunt can also be demonstrated on a slackline.

Slack Wire and Slackline[edit]

Slacklining in a park

There is confusion that Slackline means the same as Slackwire. They are not the same. They are different kinds of apparatuses that require different techniques of balancing.

The differences between Slackwire and Slackline:

  • Slackwire utilizes a steel wire 4–8 mm (316516 in) in diameter, while Slackline utilizes a nylon webbing/strap approximately 50 mm (2 inches) in width.
  • Different Techniques of balancing:

A slackwire has a loop and can be used like a swing, but a slackline has no loop. The line is stretched tight between two anchor points like a tightrope and can only swing within a very small amplitude.

  • A slackline can be used like a trampoline, allowing for an easy landing on the line after a jump. In contrast, a Slackwire cannot be used like a trampoline, because when a performer jumps up from the loop of wire it will swing away with no way to anticipate its location upon landing.

Video -(slacklining) She Walks the Line: Braving a Thin Rope Between Mountains

(see also about the differences tightrope walking)

The World Records[edit]

  • Sergey Pavlov – Jumping Rope on a Slackwire – 3, 4, 5, 7 consecutively skips (1985–2017)

External links[edit]

References[edit]