A History Of Circus Skills

Print page

Cartoon Clown With Spotty Trousers and Pink HairThe first circus founded in britain was in the 15th century, consisting of circus skills and animals mainly horses. The modern circus held on January 9th 1768 by Philip Astley, later adding to his act tumblers, tightrope walkers, jugglers, performing dogs and clowns.

Over the years more acts have been added and more circus skills have been demonstrated. Acts including plate spinning, uni cycling, devil sticks, diablo’s and poi. Circus skills have become a very popular activity for all ages both in the home, work or social environment.

We offer a wide range of help to learn these new skills, which are both enjoyable and athletic.


juggling balls being juggled from the perspective of the juggler

The art of juggling is the oldest of the disciplines of circus. It’s origin goes back to times older than many others, thus of the frescos of old Egypt sometimes represent juggler women such as for example at the time of religious ceremonies dedicated to the Pharaons. The Aztec have made sculptures representing of people juggling with the hands but also with the feet (antipodists). In the East, the chamanes and the priests used juggling to predict the future, to explore the unknown and to draw aside the danger. In occident, the jugglers were used to animate the festivities, it was comparable to the troubadours and to the buffoons. As former French “jogler” wants to tell to have fun (of Latin “joculari”, to joke, to jest). Still today, the primitive cultures of all the continents perpetuate this habit.

In the Seventies, to the United States juggling began in the street, this same phenomenon occurred in Europe a few years later; currently it became a true art of living while following the movement “new age”. Many demonstrations in particular the circus spectacles or the theatres of street propose shows of juggling

Uni Cycling

man in shorts riding on a unicycle

A uni cycle stems from the popular penny farthing. During the late 19th century uni cycles have been seen with a large wheel taken from a penny farthing, later after practice and adjustments consisting of a smaller wheel. During the 1980’s extreme sportsmen took an interest in uni cycling and started off road cycling. Over the years, more uni cycling techniques have been tested including freestyle uni cycling, trials uni cycling and long distance. There are even games and activities you can use your uni cycle for including basket ball, hockey and hand ball. All sources of great exercise and extreme fun.

Plate spinning

11 Circus Performers in bright costumes each spinning 4 plates in each hand.

Plate Spinning is a circus manipulation art where a person spins plates, bowls and other flat objects on poles, without them falling off. Plate spinning relies on the gyroscopic effect, in the same way a top stays upright while spinning. Spinning plates are sometimes gimmicked, to help keep the plates on the poles.

Western plate spinning performers usually present comedy acts and typically feature one performer with an assistant, spinning multiple plates on sticks held vertically in stands.

Other forms of plate manipulation include plate waltzing, where plates are spun on their edges on a table top, and plate juggling, where plates are manipulated and thrown by the performers. Some performers have combined several of these elements into restaurant or kitchen-themed acts.


Night shot of a man using a Diabalo

The Diablo is a juggling prop consisting of a spool, which is whirled and tossed on a string tied to two hand sticks held one in each hand. Diablo’s evolved from the Chinese yo-yo, which was originally standardized in the 12th century.


Two people using fire poi at night with the flames wrapping their bodies

Poi originates from the indigenous Māori people of New Zealand, the word ‘Poi’ simply means ball. For over a thousand years Māori women have danced the Māori Poi, a dance with balls attached to strings, swung rhythmically to keep there hands flexible for weaving.

Poi is a form of juggling, or object manipulation with balls on ropes, held in the hands and swung in various circular patterns. It originated with the Māori people in New Zealand (the word poi means “ball” in Māori. Men and women used them to increase flexibility, strength and coördination. It developed into a traditional performance art. This art includes story telling and singing, choreographed to poi routines.

Devil stick


The manipulation of devil sticks (also devil-sticks, devilsticks, flower sticks, gravity sticks, or juggling sticks) is a form of gyroscopic juggling or equilibristics, consisting of manipulating one stick (“baton”) between two other sticks held one in each hand. The baton is lifted, struck, or stroked alternately by the two control sticks (‘handsticks’ or ‘sidesticks’), stabilising the baton through gyroscopic motion.

%d bloggers like this: