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CIRCUS GLOSSARY

The World of Circus from A up to Z.

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Acrobat: a performer who is represented in a quite number of circus genres. Most often an acrobat's scope of works includes such various works such as jumps, balancing, and other kinds of works involving strength and adroitness on the very circus ring surface where only a minimum number of apparatuses are present. The most typical examples are: "acrobatic column", where acrobats jump by pushing off their partners' shoulders, standing one-atop-one, and weight-lifting pairs, where an acrobat serves as gymnastic apparatus to his partner, and vice versa.

Advise: Official schedule, which is displayed behind the vorgang so that performers and other circus staff be advised about the time and sequence of the acts in circus ring, during either the performance or rehearsal time.

Aerial flight: A circus act performed at a height under the circus cupola. It is performed above safety net and consists of numerous flights of gymnast from one trapeze to another or to the hands of catcher who is in frame or loping, i.e. from one moving support to another; as a rule, the performers complete these flights with jumps into safety net.

Animal training: Animal training for the purpose to provide animal performance before the audience. Although more than 120 years have passed since Wilhelm Hagenbeck created the animal training system, named "soft" or "pain-free" one, this system's name is still more popular than its meaning.

Antipode or antipodist: it means circus acrobats who do acrobatic feats when lying on a special bed, trink. Antipode's job is often a job of juggler or reverse equilibrist, where legs, that are stronger than arms, show the same dexterity in feats specific to arms. Most often a ball as well as small cask and rug are used in such acts. And these things are used by the performer to juggle with them at various rates and in different sequence. Icarian Games are an isolated kind of this genre.

Apachi: this means false clap the clowns pass to one another.

Apfel: this is a synonym of "schtrabat". In the essence, this is a showy finale of some aerial acrobatic acts, an acrobatic feat. This is the fall of one of gymnasts, where he is falling down rapidly removing his support or flying from his partner's hands, and becomes suspended on the safety rod at the last moment.

Attraction: initially named a circus act having striking effect on the audience thanks to mechanisms. (For example, cyclist running over high walls of a large "basket" without a bottom; a great number of automotive shows, etc). Nowadays this is a long separate act, which can consist of minor acts of various genres with the same theme and principal performer; they are often a whole part of the programme (usually the second one).

Auguste: in the essence this term was used to name a special line of clown who showed himself as a foolish and languid circus hand or equerry, and who filled the interval between the acts of the programme; most often he behaved as a boastful and foolish fellow who does everything at the wrong moment but considers that the other people's success is attained thanks to him.
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Barrier: low fence running along the circus ring perimeter, with two draw entrances one opposite to the other and opposite to vorgang. The height of barrier was fixed so that a four-year horse of medium height could move freely with its hind hooves on the circus ring when standing on the barrier with its forehooves; and the width of barrier must be sufficient for a horse to run on it at gentle trot. (This is usually half a metre in height and third in width.) Sitting on the barrier back to the circus ring is considered as the deadly sin to any performer.

Blange or "back-sag somersault" as it is named too, one of acrobatic feats used in aerial acts. In a number of aerial acts (trapeze, straps, etc.) blange means an element involving strength, in which an aerial gymnast, while suspending on his hands, keeps his body horizontally, forwards or backwards to his head. The term "forward/backward blange" corresponds to the said two cases.

Bridge: Apart from the meaning of gymnastic stand - sagging back supporting on feet and hands, there is a concept of starting-bridge, a small platform used in some acts, mainly aerial acts, by performers to displace and prepare themselves for aerial tricks.
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Carpet clown: A line of clown, of whom prototype was the line of auguste. This name is connected with specific performance of these acts: they took place in breaks between the acts while the ring cover was being laid or replaced.

Catcher: A gymnast performing in an aerial act (mainly in flight act) who, having arranged himself on apparatus (eg. trapeze), grasps it with his legs (by its side ropes) or hangs on elbow support (in loping or frame) head down and, being in such position, catches and tosses the partners who are performing flights from the catcher's hands onto trapezes and flying back.

Chambarrier: A ring whip for horses. Its pole is up to 5.5 m in length.

Chapiteau: A collapsible mobile circus; in the simplest case it is a fire-proof rubber-impregnated tarpaulin tent. It is stretched on two ship-like masts to form a marquee inside which ring-shaped rows for spectators and ring are arranged.

Charee-varie: literally "various jokes", an act, which usually took place at the beginning of the performance. It was a fancy-dress cavalcade of performers headed by clowns, and they performed various jumps on road and trampoline.

Circus act: A set of similar tricks that are carried out by one performer or a group of human or animal performers in certain sequence within a given period; the said tricks are designed to implement any idea, feeling and situation into a circus image having specific effect.

Circus Ring - "Manege": A round area inside a circus where circus acts are displayed. Diameter of ring is the same in all countries, it is around 13 m. Ring is always fenced; its ground and cover were originally fit to horse acts only. Modern permanent ring is a sophisticated edifice allowing to change from ice acts to water plays or horse shows within several minutes.

Circus trick: A separate completed part of any circus act, which has independent meaning. It has effect on the audiences with such actually fulfilled solution that is beyond the scope of common notion and seems to be unsolved or impracticable to them.

Climbing bar: Those who have ever seen a horizontal bar can imagine easily what it is. Climbing bars are two side vertical supports of the horizontal bar.

Clown: A circus actor, a performer of comic tricks (acts). There are a great number of various clown lines: carpet clown, buff-clown, auguste, eccentric clown, music clown, etc.

Compliment: Static solemn posing after completion of a trick, a series of trick, entire act or in the going out for applause.

Contortion: A circus genre in which a performer displays how his (her) muscle are flexible and joints mobile. One of old poster name of this genre is "The Snake Woman". As these acts are performed by women in most cases and feature specific movements they are very popular among male audiences in circuses.

Corde pareille: A magnificent cord (as translated from French). An aerial act performed on rope fastened one end to the circus cupola, and the other end of it is hung unfastened. In other word, this is a vertically hinging rope known to most people from physical training at school.

Corde volante: it means a cord fastened without stretching or a flying cord (as translated from French). An aerial act on rope fastened on two ends stretch-free 'to the circus cupola' to form a freely hung arc.

Craft-acrobat: strength-applying acrobat performing a variety of stand tricks involving strength; these tricks are performed both solo and jointly with partners almost without acrobatic dynamics, i.e. without jumps.

Craft-juggler: Strength-applying juggler, the same as "grenade thrower".
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Da-capo: Reprises performed by trained animals, usually horses, in the finale of act, when an animal trainer returns with applause.

"Dead ring": This term was used on circus posters in former times to designate the performance of cyclists or motor-cyclists who drove on inner side of a high bottom-less grid basket with almost vertical walls. The performers maintained the balance thanks to centrifugal force only.

Drei-Man-Hoch: The simplest form of the acrobats-in-column genre; broken German wording to designate three acrobats standing on each other's shoulders.

Dwarfs (midgets): they are common to circuses in the world. These 'little people' are represented in all the genres of circus art; they often perform in separated circus programs.

Dzigits (Horse riding): modern circus riding genre of which prototype is horse-voltiging; as a rule this genre is filled with national features originated from Caucasian and Cossack horsemanship, as far as topic and heroic style of this genre are concerned.
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Eccentriks(clowning): a performing manner, a style, which is intrinsic to any circus genre, exaggerated parody.

Entree: a sole and independent entrance of clown characters; it often includes a short scene or pantomime. In the early time of modern circus entree was important for clown genres to be as independent and autonomous as other, serious ones, are.

Equilibre: A balancing act, widely abundant circus genre, it is included in all the branches of acrobatics; balanced stand on hands or feet on still or moving support is the simplest form of it.
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Floor genres: Genres performed directly on the ring floor or on some auxiliary apparatuses installed on the ring at the height not more than 4-5 m above the floor.

Frame: A circus apparatus with limited functions; it is used in aerial acts, mainly in air flight. It is a metal rectangle, half a metre in length and quarter a metre in width, fastened horizontally in the air; one of gymnasts (a catcher) is suspended on it by elbow supports, and the other one (voltiger) hangs in his hands while performing various tricks.
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Gauze: It is a word rarely used by today's performers; it means outdoor performing, performing in the garden, in the park, etc.

Girth: A special saddle-girth (belly-band) wrapped round the horse body between the withers and elbow, with two fixed handrails for the performer to hold during voltiging. This fixture is used for trick riding.

Grenade thrower (hurler): This term was used in olden times of Russia to name a craft-juggler or strength-applying juggler in today's terms. The name of this genre comes from anchors, cannons, shots that were used by performers who caught these heavy articles on their chest, back or back of the head.
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Hemisphere: One of names of air space under the circus cupola; a space in which aerial acts are performed.

Hoola Hoops: The name of circus props and relevant genre. Common hoola hoops are the same sports hoops that are sold in sports shop.

Horizontal bar: This circus apparatus came to circus from sports gymnastics. To improve it, since time an ordinary horizontal bar was transforming into a system of horizontal bars, that are double, triple, etc., with various positions to each other on the ring, and as a result a circus parallel horizontal bar emerged.
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Icarian Games: One of varieties of antipode genre. In this instance a performer's partner plays as antipodist's props used for tossing and juggling.

Illusionist: A conjurer working with sophisticated apparatuses together with a team of assistants.

Indian clubs: These are the most widely used articles of juggling props in addition to balls and rings. It is considered bad style for even medium-skilled juggler to pick up an Indian club from the floor by hands; instead, it must be first thrown up by foot and caught by hand then.
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Jockey: Originally a circus rider dressed in jockey's costume; his performed initially a certain number of tricks and their sequence was fixed too.

Juggler: A circus actor (performer); in the simplest case of juggling, he (she) uses different ways to throw and catch the same or different articles.

Jury-arena: A ring to be built on a stage.
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Kopfstehen: An acrobatic stand where a performer keeps his body vertically on head. (In 1996, this stand was performed by an acrobat swinging on free-rope at the World Circus Festival in Moscow.)
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Ladder: An apparatus widely used in circus. It may be used in various acts; for example, in antipodists' work where a performer, while lying on trink, is balancing a ladder standing on his feet, and at the same time an upper one is working on it. Freely standing ladder is the same ladder as above said one, but in this case its legs are slightly loaded to make it more steady, and several acrobats, a juggler and other circus people can work on it.

Longe: A circus safety belt, a special belt worn by a performer during acts and rehearsals; one or two safety ropes are fastened to this belt by means of special lock.

Loping(Cradle): A circus apparatus used in aerial acts; it looks like children's teeter without seat.
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Melange-act: It is an act not belonging to any genre concept as it consists of a variety of elements of various genres, and hence it is an isolated genre.

Motto (clown's): An exclamation belonging to, and used by, one clown, often without literal meaning, and specific to him only, said to the audience with different intonations depending on the occasion; it is a visiting-card of performer. This trick (action) is especially specific to augustes.
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Odd-Joint: A circus genre where a performer displays odd dislocations of joints and unusual position of his (her) arms and legs.
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Pantomime: A circus specific genre; it is used in various circuses in different times; there were a great number of pantomime ranging from heroic-battle ones and performances involving huge stage set to animal plays and short miniatures performed by mime clowns.

Parade: This term came from street shows. In addition to artistic entrance of all the program participants (circus name 'parade-allez'), the word 'parade' designated a comic dialogue, in which humorous content was often based on deafness and impercipience of the interlocutor. It was played by performers at the entrance for the purpose to attract people.

Parallel horizontal bar: Two, three and more horizontal bars fastened to each other with parallel cross-beams.

Passing: Controlling the horse's run, aid for riders, control over various obstacles and barriers; all these things are passing skills.

Persch: A persch from 3 to 5.5 m in length; it is held by the lower one on his forehead, shoulders or in special socket of waist-belt, while balancing and holding the upper one who is, in his turn, performing various gymnastic feats on the persch.

Piste: Ground or material of ring adjacent to the barrier and bent in the form of saucer. Uniformists loosen pista with rake and scatter sawdust to the barrier walls before riding acts. Otherwise no horse may be allowed to the ring.
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Raus: formerly named parades in street shows.

Reprise: A clown's short interlude played during breaks between acts.

Ring: One of the simplest apparatuses widely used in circuses in aerial and floor acts.

Rope: In the first instance, an aerial genre where tricks are performed on rope fastened on the top of hanging down freely. In the second instance, a rope is stretched horizontally, parallel to the ring (it is sometimes inclined to it), running at the height of 2 to 12 m above the arena floor. It is for rope walkers' work.

Rope walker: In former times high-rope walkers performed on city squares and streets; the rope stretched between houses, river banks or watch-towers. The last bright example of such performance was a famous walking done by Emil Grawale (Blonden in posters) in summer 1859 across the Niagara waterfall. There are two main kinds of rope-walking in today's circus coming from squares and street performances to the circus art: these are high-rope walkers and free-rope performers.

Russian Bar: A circus genre and specific apparatus, usually made of fastened poles arranged to each other for high jumps or tricks; it is held by the lower ones in hands or on shoulders while the upper one is performing his (her) tricks, mainly an intricate set of jumps.
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Safety net: A rope net stretched over the ring to provide safety to those who performs aerial acts.

Salon acts: This term has arisen in times of maiden varieties and chantes. In the essence, these are circus acts which were tailored-made by the performers to meet the conditions of small stages of popular entertaining houses, as far as their technical means, topics and styles are concerned.

Schluoss: A term commonly used in clown acts; it is a final, striking point, bright finale.

Screw: Back-sag somersault with a 360-degree turn. There are double, triple somersaults, etc.

Somersault: One of the most frequent tricks in circus acrobatics. It is an aerial jump with turn over without support. There are backward, forward, sideways (Arabian) somersaults depending on which direction of somersault is required, and also single, double, triple, etc ones.

Spools: Circus props, hollow metal cylinders used in various circus acts; they are installed one-over-one in several stages to complicate the tricks as balancing is to be maintained constantly in this case.

Sprechstallmeister: A stallmeister who talked to the clown.

Stain-trapeze: basically the name of a genre, rather than an apparatus, performed on a mobile trapeze. The performer's repertoire consists of various swings and pirouettes.

Strabat: in professional language, coming from German word "Abfall", i.e. slip-off; it is quite striking finale of a number of aerial acts. It is a slip-off trick. One of gymnasts (although this trick may be performed as solo) swings his partner by hands being connected with him with a short tangled cord, which may be loosened. Then he opens his hands and the partner, flies down head first as if he slipped accidentally. At the same time the cord, secured on the hands of the lower one with its one end and on the feet of the upper one with its other end, is loosening quickly (the cord is woven with rings, which have weak links to each other, and there is a small cracker in each ring); as it takes place fire-crackers pops and colour confetti are scattered.

Straps: A circus apparatus and name of circus genre. Aerial strength-involving genre in which an apparatus consists in two narrow bands made of close-woven material (at present, they are mainly parachute straps) fastened under the circus cupola. By wrapping the strap ends around hands a performer does various feats and stands that are looked like sportsmen's exercises on sports rings.

Strength-applying acrobat: An acrobat of whom repertoire of acts consists of strength and acrobatic exercises involving live weight, i.e. a partner's body.

Swing: Circus article used under the circus cupola now, but it is still as important as it was before. Compared with common swing in recreation parks, it only lacks a restrictive bar (so it is possible to perform a 360 revolution trick on a circus swing), it meets the ring sizes and requirements of performers themselves.
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Teeterboard: A board, usually about two metres long, centrally fastened on low-iron trestle and used as a jumping board in high jumping. The performer stands on the lowered end of the board and his partners jump onto the upper end, so the push power increased.

Tooth fixture: In the first instance, it is an iron hook connected with a thick leather pad tightly clawed by performer's teeth. The hook, in its turn, is fastened to the apparatus, a partner's belt, etc. the most frequent trick in this case is fast revolution of a performer holding the tooth fixture in his mouth. In the second instance, instead of hook a thin plate is located on the end of teeth fixture. In the latter case a performer is balancing various articles (usually knives, glasses) placed on the very edge of the tooth fixture.

Touching: Controlling the horse's run in riding acts by means of touching the animal body with chambarier.

Trampoline: So-called "big trampoline" or "American trampoline" is not practically used in today's circuses. It was a plank slope, lowering from the height of several metres down to the nearly circus ring, and then raising up at an angle of 45. Modern trampoline is a dense net stretched elastically on a frame of any form; it is frequently draped behind various circuit properties. Such strength material as tarpaulin may be used sometimes instead of the net.

Trapeze: A circus apparatus, which is used frequently in aerial acts; the name of relevant circus genre. Immobile trapeze is a small round cross-beam with iron rods secured in its both sides and suspended motionless under the circus cupola, whereas common mobile trapeze is secured with ropes or metal straps, not rods, to provide free swinging. For the purpose to improve this genre performers works on double or triple trapeze allowing several performers to work at the same time.

Trengel: (broken German word 'Trinkgeld' meaning 'fees'). This is a professional term of street performers to designate the collecting of money by performers with a plate or hat in their hands from spectators just before the performance.

Trinka: A short bed, steeply ascending up in its one side and placed onto the ring surface with its other side. An antipodist, lying there on his back and shoulders and leaning against its lifted side with waist and buttocks, gets a good support for legs that are kept stretched up during the act.
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Uberman: the same as "the upper one".

Unicycle: A circus apparatus, a one-wheel bicycle with a small seat or without seat.

Uniformists: Ring workers who install and replace the circus props, prepare circus apparatuses and ring for circus acts. Uniformists are usually in two rows along the sides of vorgang during the performance. Uniformists are directed by stallmeister. In former times, all circus performers were obliged to work as uniformists, and this condition was made a legal provision in contracts of employment. The term 'uniformist' comes from uniform (livery suit) worn by all such workers.

Unterman: the same as "the lower one".
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Voltige: Originally performed by beginners to open the circus show. It was an act where riders, standing on the backs of horses, struck various poses, jumped from horses and across barriers. Nowadays the term 'voltige' us used to name an act in which the lower performers, while joining their hands into so-called 'grid', a special support (known to all as 'chair' since childhood), throw the upper one (usually a girl) up or pass to each other; and the upper one does various jumping feats or freezes in still poses having found balance instantaneously.

Vorgang: Curtain isolating the ring from internal engineering premises of the circus.
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Wire: A circus apparatus and name of relevant circus genre. The following two types of wire are used in wire-walker's acts: tightly stretched wire and free fastened wire (in the last case the wire tension is weak and it sags under the weight of performer).

Wrestling: French wrestling competitions enriched the performances in all the largest circuses of Europe. French wrestling was first allowed in St.-Petersburg in 1894, in the first permanent circus of Russia.
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