A trapeze is a short horizontal bar hung by ropes or metal straps from a support. It is an aerial apparatus commonly found in circus performances. Trapeze acts may be static, spinning (rigged from a single point), swinging or flying, and may be performed solo, double, triple or as a group act. It is officially the last performance of the circus.
The art of trapeze performance was developed by Jules Léotard, a young French acrobat and aerialist, in Toulouse in the mid-1800s. He invented the flying trapeze, practising over his father's swimming pool.
Types of trapeze
- Static trapeze refers to a trapeze act in which the performer moves around the bar and ropes, performing a wide range of movements including balances, drops, hangs while the bar itself stays generally static. The difficulty on a static trapeze is making every move look effortless. It is like dance, in that most people of a reasonable level of strength can get onto the trapeze bar for the first time and some basic tricks, but an experienced artist will do them with much more grace and style.
- Swinging trapeze (or swinging single trapeze) refers to an act performed on a trapeze swinging in a forward - backward motion. The performer builds up swing from a still position, and uses the momentum of the swing to execute the tricks. Usually tricks on a swinging trapeze are thrown on the peaks of the swing and involve dynamic movements that require precise timing. Most of the tricks begin with the performer sitting or standing on the bar and end with the performer catching the bar in his/her hands or in an ankle hang (hanging by the ankles by bracing them between the rope and the bar). This act requires a great deal of strength, grace, and flexibility. The trapeze bar is weighted and often has cable inside the supporting ropes for extra strength to withstand the dynamic forces of the swing.
- Flying trapeze refers to a trapeze act where a performer, or "flyer," grabs the trapeze bar and jumps off a high platform, or pedestal board, so that gravity creates the swing. The swing's parts are the "force out" (sometimes called the "cast out") at the far end of the first swing, the beat back and the rise (also known as "seven") as the performer swings back above the pedestal board, and then the trick is thrown at the far end of the second swing. The performer often releases the bar and is caught by another performer, the "catcher," who hangs by his or her knees on another trapeze, or sometimes on a cradle, which can be either stationary or also swinging. People of any size are able to execute basic trapeze maneuvers. Flying trapeze is generally done over a net, or occasionally over water.
- Washington trapeze (also known as head trapeze or heavy trapeze) refers to a variation on static and swinging trapeze where the aerialist performs various headstand skills on the bar, which is typically much heavier than a normal trapeze bar and has a small (about 4-inch round) headstand platform on it. The trapeze is supported by wire cables rather than ropes, and the apparatus will often be lifted and lowered during the act.
- Dance trapeze (also known as single-point trapeze) refers to a trapeze used by many modern dance companies in aerial dance. The ropes of the trapeze are often both attached to a single swivel, allowing the trapeze to spin in either small or large circles.
- Double trapeze (also known as the French trapeze) is a variation on the static trapeze, and features two performers working together on the same trapeze to perform figures and bear each other's weight. It can also be performed swinging, in which case the act is called "swinging double trapeze."
- Multiple trapeze triple trapeze and larger multiples designed for use by multiple simultaneous flyers. Shaped trapezes are apparatuses that can take virtually any shape imaginable.
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- Elena Zanzu, M.A. Il Trapezio Oscillante: Storie di Circo nell'Aria. (The Swinging Trapeze: Histories of the Circus in the Air.) Bologna University, Italy, 2004-2005. Language: Italian.
- "Circus Dictionary". National Institute of Circus Arts. Retrieved October 1, 2009.
- V&A biography notes
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- European Federation of Professional Circus Schools (FEDEC)
- Desiree Belmarez. "Trapeze Tests Grace and Style." Denver Post. August 24, 2007.
- The physics of the flying trapeze