If you’ve ever been to a circus, you’ve probably seen a Cyr Wheel performer. The Cyr Wheel is an acrobatic apparatus consisting of a large ring made of aluminum or steel. The wheel is about 10-15 cm taller than the performer. It first appeared in performances at the end of the 20th century but wasn’t officially named until 1998.
The Cyr Wheel, or roue Cyr in French, takes the name from its founder, Daniel Cyr. The Canadian circus performer first unveiled his invention in 2003 at the Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain (“Circus of Tomorrow World Festival”) in Paris. Cyr ended up winning a silver medal for his dazzling routine using the homemade Cyr Wheel.
Cyr created his first wheel from a rough piece of steel. Later on, he began using aluminum to make the wheel lighter, adding PVC coating for smoothness. Finally, he created a more portable five-piece design that one could disassemble and put back together using screws.
Today, thousands of acrobats and circus performers use the wheel for their routines. From the giant stages of Las Vegas to the streets of London, spectators can’t get enough of the Cyr Wheel performances. They make it look easy, but it takes great skill and precision to master this sport.
While the idea of the Cyr wheel didn’t take off until recently. However, it’s been around nearly a century. Historians believe that American dancer Doris Humphrey was the first modern performer to incorporate a monowheel into her act. Photographs taken at one of her shows in 1923 capture her performing with an apparatus very similar to the Cyr wheel.
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German manufactured mass-produced the closest forerunner of the Cyr Wheel, the Einreifen, in the early 1950s. Cyr first experimented with wheel designs in the 1990s. He claimed he inspiration from a large hula-hoop and a round wrought-iron coat rack.
How does the Cyr Wheel work?
If you’ve never seen a Cyr Wheel performance, it usually begins with the performer rolling the heavy wheel on its edge. Once the wheel starts to wobble, the acrobat steps in and out of it in a well-timed, mesmerizing dance. Then, the performer steps onto the wheel, gripping it with both feet and hands.
As the wheel continues to gain momentum, the user performs spins, inversions, somersaults, and pirouettes while keeping the wheel and himself in perfect balance. Of course, it takes hundreds or thousands of hours of practice to gain control of the wheel and feel comfortable with complex moves. However, if you’d like to give the Cyr Wheel a try, you can start with these basic movements:
Keep one foot on the wheel. Then use the other foot to push off like you’re on a skateboard. Then, put your “pushing foot” back on the wheel and keep spinning.
Use your arms to start spinning the wheel Then step onto it once it starts to rotate.
With your arms in the 9 and 12 o’clock positions, start spinning the wheel. Next, twist your torso to keep the wheel at your side, then spin it in front of you, stepping onto the wheel in one graceful movement.
You can also find many free sources such as YouTube channels for tutorials and tips.
Meet the Queen of the Cyr Wheel
One woman had humble beginnings with the Cyr Wheel and now performs all over the world. Meet Tosca, the undeniable queen of the Cyr Wheel.
“When I started out, Cyr Wheel was just something I practiced on my own in the gym at night, and I never really thought it would bring about so much change in my life,” Tosca said. “I travel a lot, I get to work with my friends, I never expected that coming out of merely what I thought was a sport and a way to stay fit at the beginning.”
She grew up playing soccer and doing gymnastics, which has given her a solid foundation for the Cyr Wheel. Since performing with the apparatus requires both grace and stamina, her background gives her an advantage. While it’s physically demanding, it’s also an art form that allows performers to showcase their creative side.