Tissu, Aerial Silks

What do you call that thing? A quick guide to circus equipment

By on January 20, 2015

We teach a lot of different circus skills at The Circus Spot. So many things, and so many names. Luckily we’ve put together this handy guide so you can brush up on all the words…

Static TrapezeSingle Trapeze

Also known as solo trapeze or single trapeze (not to be confused with swinging trapeze) this kind of trapeze doesn’t swing! The trapeze performer demonstrates feats of strength as they ascend the ropes and hang from it’s metal bar – sometimes by their toes!

Tissu (also known as Aerial Silks and occasionally called ‘Chiffon’)Tissu, Aerial Silks

No, we didn’t forget to put a letter ‘e’ on the end. Tissu is actually the French word for fabric due to this apparatus being popularised by mainly French, and French-Canadian circus performers. Although acrobats have climbed ropes and fabrics for years, Tissu as we know is a relatively new act, first popularised in the early 90’s when it appeared in the show ‘Quidam’ by Cirque du Soleil. It was called Aerial Contortion in Silk in their program back in 1996. Although the Tissu may look like your living room curtains, we don’t recommend you practice your tissu tricks on them.

TumblingTumbling, Acrobatics, Gymnastics

Everything from forward rolls to cartwheels, backflips and saults. Tumbling requires the development of explosive muscle strength, body tension and a healthy respect for gravity. As well as in circus, tumbling skills are also incorporated in sports and other art forms such as gymnastics, dance, martial arts, diving and cheerleading. As part of our tumbling training at The Circus Spot, we regularly use a Mini-Trampoline.

Mini-TrampMini-Tramp, Mini-Trampoline, Tumbling, Acrobatics

A small square trampoline, used to give height to jumps and flips.

Aerial HoopAerial Hoop, Lyra

Also known as Lyra – this is a heavy steel hoop that is around 90cm in diameter. Aerial hoop acts are graceful and balletic, and often involve the hoop spinning really fast! You need to be strong and have a good sense of balance.

Acro-balanceAcrobalance Acrobatics

Acro-balance is sometimes called human pyramids or adagio, and is often referred to as acrobatics. Acro-balance is two or more people making many different poses and positions, requiring strength, teamwork, flexibility and trust. The people on the ground are called the ‘Bases’ and the person on the top is called a ‘Flier’. In larger pyramids, the acrobat in the middle is creatively called a ‘Middle’.


You can juggle with almost anything! Balls, clubs, rings. Often at The Circus Spot we teach our students to juggle with scarves. They are nice and light, and float down slowly giving you plenty of time to catch them. Did you know? – Juggling dates back thousands of years. There are Egyptian tombs with juggling hieroglyphics on the walls. The photo below is a depiction of some from the 15th Beni Hassan tomb of an unknown prince, dating from the middle kingdom period of about 1994-1781 B.C

Hula Hoops

Who doesn’t know what a hula hoop is? And who doesn’t love them!?!?! The world record for the most hula hoops spun simultaneously is a whopping 160! But as any hoopist will tell you, it’s not how many hoops you can spin….

Hula Hoop

Walking GlobeWalking Globe

These are a made from polyethylene plastic and are practically unbreakable (and they are really hard, so don’t get caught out trying to jump on it like a pilates ball!). Circus performers have been known to juggle, skip, hula hoop and even unicycle on top of walking globes.

Devil SticksSpin Stix, Devil Sticks, Flower Sticks

Also known as Spin Sticks, Flower Sticks and Gravity Sticks. These are made up of two hand sticks and one spin stick. You use the hand sticks to twirl and flip the centre stick in lots of different ways. Devil Sticks are thought to have originated in China, dating back around 2000 years.

Double Trapeze

Double Trapeze

Usually wider than a Single Trapeze, and with extra ‘pegs’ sticking out the sides. A double trapeze is a duo act where a ‘Flyer’ hangs from the ‘Base’, who in turn hangs from the trapeze! Double trapeze moves can be slow and strength based, or involve dynamic tricks where the base throws and re-catches the flyer.



The Diabolo is a juggling prop consisting of an axle and two cups or discs. This object is spun using a string attached to two hand sticks. Several diabolo’s can be spun on the same string. Traditionally a chinese prop, some mistakenly believe that the term Diabolo came from the italian word for devil, it is actually more likely that the name is derived from the Greek “dia bolo”, roughly meaning “across throw”.

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Daniel is the Chief Executive Clown (i.e. founder and director) of The Circus Spot, with a vision that every child in Australia should be able to show off at least one circus trick! He’s slowly getting there too, having taught over 5,000 kids and adults circus skills over the last 10 years. He is a typical circus geek, always dreaming up new ways to teach a cartwheel, or plotting the next performance for our performing troupes. Prior to starting The Circus Spot, Daniel has worked in and around circus as a performer, teacher and rigger (the guy that hangs all the trapezes). His signature circus trick was balancing on one leg on a slackrope (like a tightrope, but very loose), and then proceeding to use his spare foot to kick cups and cutlery high in the air to land in a bowl balanced on his head! This cool trick may have taken 4 years to perfect, but gave Daniel a chance to perform with a variety of companies such as Circus Quirkus, ThowDown, Circus Oz, the traditional family circus Circus Royale, Dislocate Physical Theatre and even supporting the rock band The Dresden Dolls.