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(1) A form of gymnastic physical exercise.

(2) A form of sport including several kinds of physical exercise: tumbling, exercises by a mixed pair (a man and a woman), exercises by a pair of men, exercises by three or four men, and leaps on a tightrope (both men and women). Each of the five forms of acrobatics is performed in competition, and athletic ranks are awarded according to a single all-Union athletic classification.

Acrobatic exercises develop the sense of balance, precision of movement, spatial orientation in any position, and physical strength. In addition, they are widely accepted as a special auxiliary aid in many other sports—such as athletic gymnastics, diving, soccer, volleyball, and basketball. As of Jan. 1, 1967, 334,000 people studied acrobatics in the USSR, and among them were 1,452 masters of the sport. Contests for the world championship have been held every year since 1964; the USSR, however, does not participate. D. Wills of the USA has won the women’s world championship four times, and W. Muller (USA, 1964–66) and D. Jacobs (USA, 1967) have been the men’s male champions.


(3) A type of circus artistry. In ancient times acrobatic art was known in Egypt, Greece, Rome, Byzantium, China, and Japan. During the Middle Ages, elements of acrobatics were found in the performances of rope dancers, buffoons (in Russia), mimes (in Italy), and jugglers (in France). Since the end of the 18th century, circus acts have involved acrobatics, which can be categorized according to feats of strength, tumbling, balancing, tossing, and acrobatics on horseback. Acrobatics of strength include handstands, weight balancing, and balancing on the head. Tumbling is performed by partners working on the floor and by leaping acrobats. The most common stunts are handsprings, somersaults, and cartwheels. Shoulder acrobatics require the presence of at least three acrobats, one of whom performs a somersault from the shoulders of one partner onto the shoulders of the other; this may involve the use of trampolines. In tossing performances, acrobats (the “uppers”) use the legs of their partners (the “lowers”), who are lying on special props, as trampolines to fly from one lower to the other, performing various stunts during their flight. Acrobatic exercises are also performed on horses moving at various gaits.

Today acrobatic elements are found in almost every circus act. Elements of acrobatics are also used in choreography and in the theater.


Akrobatika. Edited by E. G. Sokolov. Moscow, 1965.
Averkovich, N. V., and M. I. Tseitin. Akrobatika. Moscow, 1967.
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