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The Cyr Wheel--enabling fluid and acrobatic dance, circus style
The Beauty of the Wheel
It appears to be nothing more than a giant metal hula hoop. What athletes do with this huge metal ring, however, seems to defy gravity.
A Cyr wheel, or roue cyr, is an amazing piece of equipment used in acrobatic dance. Often featured in circus performances, such as in Cirque de Soilel, this wheel has gained popularity since 2003, when Daniel Cyr either created it or brought it back from the grave (there is some debate as to its exact origins).
Cyr wheel dancers are incredibly fit, with amazing arm, leg, and core strength, and they use muscles average people would likely be surprised to discover they have. These dancers also have unbelievable balance and control. Mesmerizing, graceful, and powerful, performances with these wheels are simply stunning.
Cyr Wheel Dance
Cyr wheel dancers spend most of their performance time inside the wheel, manipulating the device's movement through subtle balance changes in their bodies. It's a highly athletic and disciplined venture.
You have to watch for yourself to appreciate the beauty of these amazing performances. Here is a gorgeous example of this art. This is Alexander Lane, who had trained with the Cyr wheel for five years at the time of this video. The routine "Circonvolution improbable" won him a Bronze Pierrot in 2012 at the International Circus Festival of Budapest.
Another Beautiful Example
For such a simple looking piece of equipment, the Cyr wheel is often used in complex and beautiful ways. Although performers spend much of their time manipulating the device from the inside, control of the wheel from the outside is also imperative.
Dance and artistry is about more than gravity defying tricks. Good Cyr wheel performers know this and often tell exquisite tales with the help of their wheels. The artists do not just use their wheels to float and spin across the ground, but sometimes allow the wheels to taking center stage and to dance all on their own.
Watch a tale unfold in this 2011 festival performance by Ethan Law.
Not Just for Men
Although male performers dominant this style, there are female Cyr wheel experts as well. The first female soloist, Valerie Inertie, began performing with the wheel in 2005. Female wheel dancers often add another layer of grace, and sometimes sensuality, to the performance. The extreme athleticism, balance, and gravity defying movement is present just as strongly with good female dancers as with men, however.
Watch Valerie Inertie fly with her Cyr wheel in 2010 at the 35th Festival of Monte Carlo.
It's not as easy as it looks...
Cyr wheels are usually made of a combination of aluminum and steel so they can be both light enough to move fluidly and sturdy enough to take the constant weight of adult bodies. They often consist of several sections that can be fitted together. The professionals make the movement and balance required for the wheel look effortless, but manipulating the Cyr wheel takes a lot of practice. Techniques are difficult, and sometimes dangerous, to master.
Here is an amateur the first day he got his Cyr wheel. You can see him put his wheel together and then attempt to spin.
So are you impressed?
What do you think of the Cyr Wheel?
Want to Try Your Hand at the Wheel?
Cyr wheels are not easy to come by, but they can be purchased by the average person. If you want to buy your own wheel, there are reputable sites that sell them.
Once you have your wheel, you can practice on your own, but be aware, it is a highly athletic activity and can easily cause injury. Circus schools, a few of which offer classes to the public, are often your best bet for learning the Cyr wheel, but you may have to search around a bit to find classes near you. There are also private teachers who offer classes in some areas.
If you are interested in trying it yourself, here are some resources to get you started.
Firetoys sells Cyr wheels and other circus equipment. Be warned, roue cyrs are not cheep and can cost over $500.
- Cyr Wheel Manual
Information on a Cyr Wheel manual, with a link to download.
- Svindelic Cyr Wheel Classes
If you're in NY, check out the Cyr wheel classes the Svindelic Cyr Wheel Troupe has to offer.
- Cirque Du Soliel
Official Cirque Du Soliel website, with information on shows worldwide. Some shows do include the Cyr wheel.
- Cirque de la Symphonie
Cirque de la Symphonie offers the unique experience of seeing a symphony and a cirque show at the same time. These shows do not seem to feature Cyr wheel performances.
Prefer to See it Live?
Performed in "Cirque" shows around the globe, nothing beats seeing this exquisite dancing, and many other amazing performances, live. If you are interested, you should purchase tickets to a nearby Cirque show.
If you want to make sure the show includes the Cyr wheel you can do a little research first, but if you just want to see amazing performances, awesome acrobatic skill, and graceful movement, pick up tickets to any Cirque-type show and prepare to be impressed.