What is Equilibristics?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

"Equilibristics" is a blanket term that is used to describe a variety of circus arts that involve balancing or maintaining equilibrium. Training in these arts can get quite extensive, because they include wide-ranging skills such as juggling and holding people up in the air with the feet while lying in a prone position. Many circuses feature demonstrations of equilibristics, both inside the main performance area and outside, where is serves as a promotional tool. Examples of arts in this discipline can be seen in a variety of other settings as well, such as nightclubs and parades.

Practice is the key to equilibristics, such as balancing on a unicycle.
Practice is the key to equilibristics, such as balancing on a unicycle.

Types of Acts

Some well-known examples of equilibristics include juggling, unicycle riding, stilt walking, tightrope walking and some acrobatics. This discipline covers a range of techniques, both with and without props, and performances can involve solo artists or teams of trained performers. Many feats of equilibristics are widely considered amazing to watch; for example, some people are able to manipulate very large items with their raised feet and legs from a supine position, performing tricks such as spinning canoes during the performance.

Tightrope walking is an example of equilibristics.
Tightrope walking is an example of equilibristics.


Depending on the type of equilibristics someone wants to learn, there are many ways to receive training in this discipline. Some people go to circus school, learning about a variety of circus techniques in addition to these types of skills. Circus schools typically place an emphasis on cooperation between members, with people learning the finer points of the industry while they engage in physical training that can sometimes be quite grueling.

Practice is Vital

People who want to learn things such as simple juggling and unicycle riding can often take weekend workshops in which they learn the basics, and some people also teach themselves from books and instructional videos. The important thing in equilibristics training is practice. Talented people must practice almost every day to keep themselves limber and to refine their sense of balance. Some people find that it helps to practice with an instructor or someone who is skilled in order to pick up pointers and develop useful skills.

Visual Appeal

Equilibristics involves retaining balance in challenging situations, so it often looks quite stunning to observers. Many circuses use equilibristics performances in promotional parades and outside their facilities to draw people in, because the appearance of many of these acts is appealing and catches the eye of many people. Such performers are also sometimes involved in promotions for night clubs and various events, keeping guests entertained and interested during the events.

Juggling is a type of equilibristics, as it involves balance.
Juggling is a type of equilibristics, as it involves balance.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@ElbowTickle - There are still circuses across the world, but the biggest one is in Canada -- the Cirque du Soleil. It has some pretty awesome shows.

I'm just glad to see that the modern circuses aren't using animals as much if at all. The horrible things that were going on behind stage were just awful. It's hard to believe that people can be so cruel just in the pursuit of art. There are kids watching that show.

It's nice that the new shows are focusing more on equilibristics than anything else. Acrobats were my favorite part of the show when I was little -- it was amazing to see Cirque du Soleil's equilibristic performances.


It's really surprising that there's still so much support for equilibristics out there on the web. I've found dozens of good websites that teach equilibristic techniques and have all kinds of tutorials. There are video tutorials and handbooks available too!

Considering the sudden drop in popularity, circuses seem to still be around. There's a permanent one over here in the North West US, but I really have any other circuses. I know that they are in a lot of British TV shows and movies, but I don't know if they are still around there. Are they still really popular in Britain?

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