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Defying Gravity with Grace: A Guide to Aerial Silks Performance

Aerial Silks: Defying Gravity with Grace and StrengthAerial silks, also known as silk sheets, are a type of performance art that has taken the world by storm. This form of acrobatics involves a performer climbing, twisting, spinning, and tying themselves onto long vertical sheets of fabric.

It’s a captivating sight to see as performers gracefully dance in the air, defying gravity. Today, aerial silks are a staple in circus performances, but their origins trace back hundreds of years.

Definition and History of Aerial Silks

Aerial silks, also known as aerial tissue, evolved from a circus performance known as “tissu” or “corde lisse,” which involves acrobats performing aerial acrobatics by harnessing a rope. It wasn’t until the mid-1800s when a Frenchman named Andre Simard introduced the use of silks into circus performances.

He became a pioneer in the art form by introducing a new type of performance that involved aerial acrobatics on silks. The use of aerial silks in circus performances quickly gained popularity and became a staple in many circuses, including Cirque du Soleil.

It served as a form of physical theater that allowed performers to showcase their strength, flexibility, and grace as they performed a series of acrobatic moves while suspended in the air.

The Stage

An aerial silks performance requires a contained area with a wooden floor and fixed mount for the rigging. The stage should also have a safety cushion as a precaution in case the performer falls.

Below are some safety measures that are put in place during aerial silk performances.

Performance Area

The performance area should be free from any obstacles that can hinder the performer’s movements. It should have a wooden floor to reduce the risk of slipping.

The stage should also be large enough to accommodate the performer’s movements.


Safety is a priority in aerial silk performances.

Performers should ensure that their equipment is in good condition and sturdy before use.

They should also double-check their knots before suspending themselves from the silks. In addition, performers should wear appropriate clothing that provides a good grip on the silks to reduce the risk of slipping.

It’s common for performers to use rosin, a resin-like substance applied to hands and feet, to improve their grip on the silks.

Contained Area

During an aerial silks performance, the stage should be enclosed by a curtain. This is to create a contained area that protects the performer from people walking across the stage or distractions from the audience.


Aerial silks performances are a captivating form of entertainment that showcases strength, flexibility, and grace. While it’s a beautiful sight to behold, there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes to ensure the safety of the performer.

With the right equipment and safety measures in place, aerial silk performances can be a breathtaking display of human artistry and athleticism.

3) Aerial Silks Equipment

Choosing the right aerial fabric is crucial when it comes to ensuring a safe and enjoyable aerial silks experience. There are several factors to consider when selecting aerial silks equipment, including weight ratings, fabric material, stretch, size, and the type of fabric.

Below, we’ll discuss each of these factors in more detail.

Weight Ratings

Aerial silks come with weight ratings that indicate the maximum amount of weight they can support. Choosing a silk that can support your weight plus any additional equipment is important for safety reasons.

When in doubt, select a fabric with a higher weight rating than necessary to account for any unforeseen circumstances.

Fabric Material

Aerial silks can be made from various materials, including nylon tricot, polyester, and silk. Nylon tricot is a popular material choice due to its durability, stretch, and affordability.

Polyester is also a durable option, but it’s less stretchy than nylon tricot. Silk is a luxurious option that provides a high-end look and feel but is also more expensive and delicate than nylon tricot or polyester.


Stretch is another important factor when choosing aerial silks equipment. If the fabric is too stretchy, it can be difficult to control and may result in a loss of stability.

On the other hand, if the fabric isn’t stretchy enough, it can be challenging to achieve certain movements. Nylon tricot is a popular material choice because it provides a good balance of stretch and control.


The size of the aerial silks can also impact the performance quality. Ideally, the silks should be long enough to provide ample space for the performer to create various wraps and poses while still allowing for some movement.

The standard aerial silks length is between 12-15 feet, but it’s possible to find silks that range from 9-30 feet long.

Type of Fabric

There are different types of aerial fabrics, including single-point hammock, which is made from one piece of fabric, and the double-point hammock, which is made of two separate pieces of fabric. The single-point hammock provides more versatility, allowing for more movement and flexibility in the performance.

The double-point hammock provides more stability and support, which is ideal for beginners or when staying in one place.

4) Objectives

Aerial silks performances are a combination of various techniques and skills used in modern dance, acrobatics, and gymnastics. The goal of a performance stretches beyond just executing tricks and poses, but to achieve a synergy between technique, grace, and artistry.

Below are some of the techniques and skills used in aerial silks performances.


Wraps are the foundation of aerial silks performances. They are used to create a base for the performer to suspend themselves and support their weight.

Wraps can be done in various directions, including vertical and horizontal. It’s essential to master these wraps, as they are the starting points for more challenging poses and movements.


Poses in aerial silks performances range from simple, elegant positions to complex acrobatic feats.

Performers use these poses as a way to showcase their strength and flexibility, often holding them for an extended period.

The key to mastering these poses is body control and the ability to use the fabric to create shapes and lines that complement the performer’s form.


Movements in aerial silks performances include spins, drops, twists, and turns. These movements require a combination of strength and grace to achieve.

The spins can be done in various directions, with the performer using their legs and arms to create momentum. Drops require courage and trust in the silk, as performers need to let themselves fall and trust that the fabric will catch them.

Hanging Equipment

Hanging equipment such as aerial hoops and trapezes are often used in aerial silks performances. These props provide additional support and can be used to create a dynamic and visually stunning performance.

Modern Dance

Modern dance is often incorporated into aerial silks performances, providing performers with a unique blend of movement and artistry. Modern dance movements include fluidity, expression, and emotion, which can enhance the overall performance.

In conclusion, aerial silks performances require a combination of technical skills, acrobatic feats, and artistry. Mastering the foundational wraps and poses, along with the execution of dynamic movements, is essential to creating a breath-taking performance.

Incorporating hanging equipment and modern dance can elevate the performance, leading to a more visually stunning and show-stopping display.

5) Tips

Aerial silks performances require performers to have a combination of strength, flexibility, and grace.

Safety is also a priority in aerial silks performances.

Below are some tips for improving performance and safety in aerial silks:

Warm-Up and


Adequate warm-up and stretching are essential for any aerial silks performance. They allow the body to prepare for the physical demands of the performance and reduce the risk of injury.

Warm-up exercises can be done to improve circulation and loosen muscles.

Stretching is also important to increase flexibility and prevent muscle strains.


A healthy diet is crucial for optimal performance in aerial silks.

Performers should consume a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and complex carbohydrates.

Adequate hydration is also essential for preventing muscle cramps and dehydration.


Rest is an essential aspect of recovery and allows the body to heal and recuperate. Aerial silk performers should aim for a minimum of eight hours of sleep to ensure that they are well-rested and ready for their next performance.


Wearing appropriate clothing is critical for safety and comfort during aerial silks performances.

Clothing should fit snugly and be made of stretchy material to allow for flexibility.

Loose clothing can get caught in the silks, leading to serious injuries.

Performers should also ensure that they wear clothing that covers any skin that may come into contact with the silks to prevent burns and bruises.


Mastering the proper technique is essential for performing aerial silks safely and effectively. It’s essential to start with the basics and gradually progress to more advanced techniques to build strength and avoid injury.

6) Lingo

Aerial silks performances come with their unique terminology that performers use to discuss tricks and poses. Below are some commonly used lingo in aerial silks:

Acrobalance: A technique used to create a balance between two performers where one performer acts as the base, and the other performs acrobatic feats on top of them.

Aerial hoop: Also known as lyra, it is a circular hoop that is suspended in the air and used for acrobatic performances. Back balance: A pose where the performer is lying upside down on the silks, with their back pressed against the fabric.

Climb: A technique used to ascend the silks through wrapping the fabric around the body and pulling oneself upward. Contortion: The ability to bend and twist the body into unusual positions, often used in aerial silks performances to create unique and visually stunning shapes.

Hip lock: A technique used to hold the silks using one’s hips, allowing for various poses and tricks to be performed. Lyra: A circular metal hoop that is used in aerial performances, also called aerial hoop.

Silks: The long vertical sheets of fabric used in aerial silks performances. In conclusion, incorporating the above tips for performance and safety can lead to a successful and enjoyable aerial silks experience.

Understanding the lingo used in aerial silks performances can also enhance communication and improve technique. With consistent practice and dedication, performers can master this form of acrobatics and create stunning performances that showcase strength, flexibility, and grace.

7) Competitions

As aerial silks have grown in popularity, so too have competitions centered around this dynamic form of aerial performance. Aerial silk competitions attract performers and choreographers from all over the world, looking to showcase their skills and creativity in front of judges.

Here are some popular aerial silks competitions and categories.

World Dance Movement

World Dance Movement (WDM) is an international dance festival that has been hosting aerial silks competitions since 2013. Aerial silks performers can participate in solo, duo, or group categories, with age groups ranging from under 10 to over 30.

The competition emphasizes creativity and technique, with performers showcasing their unique style and artistry.


Aerialympics is a competitive festival of aerial arts and gymnastics held in Indianapolis, Indiana. Aerial silks performers can showcase their skills in the aerial silks category, with participants divided into age groups and skill levels.

The competition judges performers based on execution, difficulty, choreography, and overall performance.

Age Groups

Aerial silks competitions often divide participants into age groups, with categories ranging from youth to adult. This allows performers to compete against those in their age range and skill level.

Competitions aimed at younger performers offer a fantastic platform for young aspiring aerial artists to showcase their skills and talent, creating an opportunity for them to gain recognition and further their career in aerial silks.


Categories at aerial silks competitions vary from event to event but can include solo, duo, or group performances, as well as other categories such as most creative, best costume, or crowd favorite. Competitions aim to provide a platform for performers to demonstrate their abilities in various categories and styles, with judges evaluating the performers based on how well they execute their movements, how they incorporate music into their performance, and the overall aesthetic appeal.


Aerial silks competitions typically involve a panel of judges who have experience as performers or professionals in the aerial arts industry. They evaluate performances based on elements such as execution, difficulty, creativity, technique, and artistry, with scores for each category contributing to an overall score.

Judges also provide feedback to performers, offering critiques and suggestions for improvement.


Aerial silk performers participating in competitions come from diverse backgrounds and experience levels, including professional aerial artists and beginners. Aerial silks competitions are a great opportunity for emerging performers to gain experience and recognition in the field, hoping to attract the attention of judges, contractors, and other industry professionals.


Choreographers play a crucial role in aerial silks performances, creating routines and developing concepts that showcase performers’ unique abilities, skill, and style. At competitions, judges also assess the overall choreography of each performance, emphasizing the creativity and originality of the movements.

In conclusion, aerial silk competitions are an exciting way for performers to showcase their skills and express themselves artistically, with both traditional and unconventional categories catering to a diverse range of performers. With exceptional performers, creative choreographers, and experienced judges, aerial silks competitions offer a unique opportunity for the aerial arts industry to grow and flourish.

In conclusion, aerial silks are an impressive and engaging form of performance art that has gained popularity over the years. To ensure safety and optimal performance, performers should consider important factors such as warm-up, proper equipment, technique, and adequate rest and nutrition.

Furthermore, the aerial silks industry continues to grow, with various competitions and categories available to provide opportunities for performers and choreographers to showcase their skills and creativity. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced performer, aerial silks is a captivating form of art that anyone can enjoy with dedication and practice.


Q: What is aerial silks? A: Aerial silks, also known as silk sheets, is a performance art involving a performer climbing, twisting, spinning, and tying themselves onto long vertical sheets of fabric.

Q: What are some tips for improving performance and safety in aerial silks? A: Tips include warm-up and stretching, proper equipment, technique, adequate rest and nutrition, and appropriate clothing.

Q: What are some common lingo in aerial silks? A: Lingo used in aerial silks performances includes acrobalance, aerial hoop, back balance, climb, contortion, hip lock, Lyra, and silks.

Q: What are some popular aerial silks competitions and categories? A: Some popular competitions include

World Dance Movement and

Aerialympics, with categories ranging from solo, duo, and group performances, as well as age groups and skill levels.

Q: Who can participate in aerial silks performances? A: Anyone can participate in aerial silks performances, from beginners to professional performers, with various competitions catering to different skill levels and age groups.

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