10 most terrifying Cirque Du Soleil acts

This Saturday marks the first big weekend of Circus Juventas' summer performance, Sawdust. Anyone who's been to a performance at the St. Paul children's circus knows that there're some pretty heart-stopping acts on the roster -- and the excitement is further heightened by the risk that you might take your own terrifying tumble. To celebrate the new show, we've compiled a list of the 10 most terrifying acts by Circus Juventas' inspiration, Cirque Du Soleil.

High Bar

Recipe for white-knuckle suspense: take one rectangle of bars, suspend a swinging trapeze through the middle of it, and then elevate that mother several neck-breaking stories above the floor. Oh, and then stick six acrobats all on it at once, spinning in a complex and fast-moving series of flips and spins from the trapeze to the bars, through the air and back to the trapeze. We can only imagine how glad the performers are to return to solid ground.


This act doesn't involve the same kinds of enormous heights that most terrifying Cirque shows feature prominently, but for many of us, doing flippy acrobatics six feet up an unstable ladder holds its own special terror. To make things worse for the stepnophobic, they break out an even taller ladder later in the performance, and the acrobat climbs the thing without any support whatsoever. It's a little heart attack every time the legs of the ladder wobble - and it's definitely not the way we'd choose to change a light bulb.

Hand Straps

The hand straps don't just require a massive amount of upper-body strength (trivia fact: most straps performers can snap a school bus in half with their bare hands). It also requires massive cajones (or lady-cajones), to hold onto two thin, flimsy-looking pieces of cloth while being whirled through the air high in the air. And then there's the fact that half the time you're not even holding on to the straps - you're holding on to the sweaty, slipper ankles and wrists of your performance partner. Talk about trust issues!

Two people on two trapezes

While watching this video, please note the lack of safety harnesses. Then, note the height at which the trapezes are suspended. Finally, note that at certain times in the performance, they turn loose of the friggin' things completely. If that weren't enough, the two tumblers are doing all of this in perfect unison. Every time they flip through the ropes, fall through the air, and catch themselves with one hand, the part of us that refuses to ever even consider bungee jumping dies of shame.

Two people on one trapeze

If there's one thing Cirque doesn't do in its performances, it's make things easy for their performers. This is what we imagine their thought process to be: "It's definitely not enough to have one trapeze, and one performer, doing flippy crap 50 feet in the air. Let's stick another person up there and really complicate the hell out of things. Because as it stands we're definitely not paying enough in insurance premiums."

  Spanish Web

Spanish web doesn't seem at first blush like a super-terrifying act. After all, it's just rope-climbing with a little acrobatics thrown in, right? But then the performers wrap themselves up in that rope and hurl themselves at the floor, finally stopping themselves from an unhappy face/concrete collaboration with the hook of one knee. Then there's the part where they hook their ankle in a loop and spin at breakneck speeds with nothing but the competence of their riggers to keep them from flying off into the audience like a WWF wrestler on meth.

Flying Trapeze

Few circus acts whip the crap out of your adrenal glands quite as much as the flying trapeze. The highest-flying of the aerial acts, flying trap also involves a terrifying amount of coordination between swinging, flipping performers, as the flyer lets go of his trap, does a few flips, and then meets up with his catcher at precisely the right time to grasp frantically for his wrists. Don't let the safety net fool you -- one missed throw and the performers face the potential for devastating injury, and not just to their pride.

High Wire

Circus performers were definitely the kids in high school who aced all the tests and still begged the teacher for extra credit assignments. You can tell, because they're not content to just walk across a half-inch wire fifty billion feet above the hard hard ground. They need to walk across that wire while someone balances upside down on one hand on top of their head. If we had that kind of athletic ability, we'd probably be swinging from skyscrapers in New York City, fighting crime.


Silks are another one of those acts that doesn't look all that challenging at first. All you're doing is climbing up two thick pieces of cloth, and doing some twirly moves at the top, right? Well, no. For one thing, those long strips of silk are elastic, making them damned difficult to climb and work with. Second, in true Cirque style, it's not enough to do pretty things very high up in the air. They've also gotta engage in long plummeting moves that leave their noses inches away from a splattery end.

Wheel of Death

When it's called the Wheel of Death, you know it's gonna be good. It's also one of the more elaborate Cirque contraptions - two rotating hamster wheels suspended on either side of a long bar. Performers run along the inside while the bar rotates -- no biggie, right? And then (Whaaaaat?!) one of the tumblers gets on the outside of their wheel, and jumps rope. It's like the most elaborate suicide pact ever. It doesn't help that during this video the performers visibly screw up on a couple of occasions -- graphic reminder that everyone involved is still human, and terrifyingly mortal.

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