What are Silks?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 12 October 2019
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Silks are special fabrics that are used in acrobatic performances. Performances using them might be known as aerial silks, aerial ribbons, aerial tissues, aerial contortion or tissu, depending on regional preference. A performance can be quite a sight with skilled acrobats demonstrating flexibility, athleticism and immense control. It is very easy to rig the material, so this circus art is extremely flexible and mobile, and performers can be seen in an astounding number of places.

Silks Acts

Performers use their silks to suspend themselves as they perform aerial acts, with the material acting both as supports and props. During the performance, acrobats might twirl, contort themselves, swing and perform other tricks, and the overall impression is generally one of flowing, continuous movement. Performers might work alone or with partners, with group acts often featuring daring physical feats.

Silks are among the most dangerous aerial acts because they are often performed without a safety harness. This is because the flow of the material and the act would be disrupted by a safety line, and the safety line could even endanger the performer as he or she went through the routine. As a result, performers need to be extremely well trained, confident and strong. Safety nets or mats might be installed below the performers in case of a fall.


Brightly Colored Fabrics

The fabrics used as silks are incredibly strong but have some some give and elasticity. The width varies, depending on the routine and the acrobat, and the fabric is usually quite long because it is doubled for rigging, giving the acrobat two strips of fabric to work with as he or she performs. Many are brightly colored, with multiple acrobats coordinating their colors for their act. The rigging for a silks performance generally doesn't take long, and material can be hung in a variety of places, from interior beams to specially designed frames to trees, making the performances very versatile.

Many circuses feature a silks performance with one or more acrobats. They might also be performed at corporate events, festivals and other large public gatherings, with the acrobats periodically ascending for their performances. The beauty and grace has captivated many people, leading it to be featured in films and at many events.


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