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Aerial Dance Style Glossary

Before you buy any silks, fabric, or equipment, or sign up for classes, you need to know the options available:

Aerial Tissu (aka Aerial Silk, Aerial Tissue, Flying Silks, or Aerial Fabric)

Aerial Tissu is the art of suspended dance. It is grace and beauty incarnate. At times static, at times dynamic, and at all times mesmerizing, this acrobatic performance art captivates its audiences. Known by many names, it is sometimes called Flying Silks, Aerial Tissue, Aerial Silk, Aerial Chiffon, Aerial Fabric, Aerial Curtain, and Aerial Dance, among others. "Tissu" means "fabric" in French, and is a fitting description for this cirque-inspired dance form because the performers dance on long fabric silks.

One can have many different backgrounds to learn Aerial Tissu. Dancers, contortionists, gymnasts, acrobats, and even yoga enthusiasts can pick up this skill fairly easily. It requires both grace and strength.

Aerial tissu artists captivate audiences with their daring drops, powerful climbs, and elegant poses while suspended on dual silks. Aerial tissu acts are often paired with aerial lyra / hoop, aerial straps, aerial hammock, aerial bungee, and circus-style contortion / balancing acts.

Tissu, also known as aerial silk, tissue, fabric, or curtain, is a long fabric apparatus suspended from the ceiling or rigging on which the aerialist performs poses, climbs, drops, contortions and dance on two pieces of hanging fabric, suspended in the air. The dancer can hang two or three stories in the air!

Aerial Hoop (aka Lyra, Circeau, Cerceau, or Ring)

Hoop is similar to tissu, and many dancers are adept at both. Poses, spins and drops are performed on a hanging metal hoop or ring suspended in the air. The spins add drama and excitement to hoop routines. Because the hoop does not need to hang from tall ceilings, sometimes this is performed close to the ground.

Static Trapeze (aka Single-Point Trapeze)

In some ways, static trapeze is similar to hoop, in that it can be hung close to the ground while still offering drama and a great focal point for a routine. This consists of a metal bar hanging from dual ropes. The dancer can hang from the bar, but the ropes also provide the opportunity for moves from a dancer's aerial tissu repertoire.

Spanish Web (aka Rope)

This consists of a rope wrapped in a cotton fabric covering. It can be used like fabric for many moves, but where fabric is hung in two pieces, there is only one rope. That, any moves on tissu which require holding the fabric in two separate hands does not translate well to spanish web. The artist can attach a hand-loop towards the top of the apparatus via which a performer can slip an ankle or wrist. Sometimes one dancer will stand below, spinning the rope in large circles around the aerial performer's body, spinning the aerialist into death-defying motion.

Aerial Hammock (aka Aerial Sling)

A hammock is one fabric piece that is hung so that it loops back up to the ceiling. The performer generally envelops him or herself in the fabric sling, making amazing shapes and movement within the fabric. The drama and beauty created by the every movements captivates audiences.

Aerial Chains (aka Aerial Metal)

The chains are hung in two from the ceiling, similar to aerial tissu but using only the metal chains as the climbing apparatus. The artist can attach hand or foot loops, or can climb using only hands and feet. The chains give this dance form an edgy, dangerous feel. This style is paired well with any of the fire elements described below.


Stilt walkers have been around since the early days of the circus. This is a staple at parades, performances, and celebrations. The performer wears tall stilts and eccentric costumes to create excitement and drama. Especially popular with children, stilt walkers are always a hit at any venue.

Hand Balancing (aka Body Balancing)

Acrobatic dancers balance on the ground and on each other to pose in seemingly impossible balancing acts which fascinate audiences. This skill requires a lot of practice and trust between performers to get this to look effortless.


Contortion is one element common to most of the skills listed above. A dancer will bend into poses which show off flexibility and grace. A background in dance or yoga is recommended before someone studies this difficult form.

Fire Dancing

Almost any element can be used with fire to create drama in darker performance areas. Because of the risks, fire elements should not be introduced near fabric or other flammable apparatus. However, aerial chains or other metal-based apparatus can more safely be incorporated into the same routine as a fire element.



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