Aerial silk (also known as aerial contortion, aerial ribbons, aerial silks, aerial tissues, fabric, ribbon, or tissu, depending on regional preference) is a type of performance in which one or more artists perform aerial acrobatics while hanging from a special fabric.
Performers climbs the suspended fabric without the use of safety lines, and rely only on their training and skill to ensure safety. They use the fabric to wrap, suspend, fall, swing, and spiral their bodies into and out of various positions. Aerial silks may be used to fly through the air, striking poses and figures while flying. Some performers use dried or spray rosin on their hands and feet to increase the friction and grip on the fabric.
The three main categories of tricks are climbs, wraps and drops. Climbs employed by aerialists range from purely practical and efficient, such as the French climb, to athletic and elegant tricks of their own, such as the straddle climb. Wraps are static poses where aerialists wrap the silks around one or more parts of their body. In general, the more complicated the wrap, the stronger the force of friction and the less effort required to hold oneself up. Some wraps, such as the straddle-back-balance, actually allow performers to completely release their hands. Foot locks are a sub-category of wraps where the silks are wrapped around one or both feet. In a drop, performers wrap themselves up high on the silks before falling to a lower position. Drops can combine aspects of free fall, rolling or otherwise rotating oneself before landing in a new pose. Preparation for a drop can make for a pretty wrap, but the ultimate goal is the fall rather than the pose. Of the three trick types, drops require the most strength, and are also the most potentially dangerous. Rosin (dry or mixed with rubbing alcohol) is employed to help performers maintain their grip.
The fabrics used as silks are very strong with some give and flexibility. The fabric is 2-way stretch polyester lycra. The width varies depending on the routine and the acrobat. The fabric is usually quite long, as it is doubled for rigging, giving the acrobat two strips of fabric to work with as he or she performs
Aerial rigging applies to the hanging of aerial silks and hammocks. Aerial silk rigging equipment commonly includes:
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