Hair Hanging – Can Anyone Do It?
Hair hanging is an incredibly spectacular and daring circus art that involves artists being lifted into the air using a special secret hair tie, enabling specially designed rigging. Discover the history of hair hanging and learn how hair can bear the weight of the entire body during various spins and aerial acrobatics! How to prepare for hair hanging? We will address these questions in this post.
History of Hair Hanging
The earliest mentions of hair hanging date back to ancient times, when artists showcased their skills at royal courts and various ceremonies. Many believe that this art form originated in South America. Others argue that it came from China, where more than two thousand years ago, mainly men performed these acrobatics, passing down the tradition through generations. This might hold some truth, given China's rich history in acrobatics and various forms of gymnastics. Well-preserved Chinese art and craftsmanship portray flexible acrobats executing breathtaking tricks while spinning in the air. During the Qin and Han dynasties, around 200 BCE to 200 CE, impressive shows were prepared to entertain the Chinese imperial court. Chinese artists performing hair hanging in Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1916 were likely among the first to showcase their skin-stretching performance to the world.
Fundamental elements of hair hanging have remained relatively unchanged over centuries, except that most modern performers of this art are women (though not exclusively). Modern hair hanging evolved with the development of circus arts in the 19th and 20th centuries. Today, it is one of many remarkable and surprising forms of acrobatics seen in the circus arena.
Hair Hanging – Can Anyone Do It?
In the age of Instagram and other social media, it may seem like anyone can try new aerial tricks that look amazing in short videos shared online. However, caution and common sense are crucial. When it comes to learning hair hanging, it is not something you can master from the internet. The technique is complex and skipping even one step can be unpleasant and dangerous.
Hair hanging puts a significant strain on the neck, spine, and upper body. Therefore, it should be attempted by individuals with experience in circus arts and years of training. If the body's condition and mental state are not adequately prepared for hair hanging, it can pose a risk to health and life. Even in the past, circus schools rarely taught hair hanging. Simply Circus in Massachusetts was one of the few schools that did, where students spent just 10 minutes in the air after five years of training!
It's essential to be aware that hair hanging is a demanding form of circus acrobatics. Initially, it can be painful and uncomfortable. Incredible body control is also required. While hanging by the hair, the artist's entire body is essentially free. There's no support from props with hands or feet. Every slight waver or loss of stability is visible in the air. While this can be frustrating and challenging, it highlights the difficulty of the art. Hair hanging performers exhibit immense strength, impeccable technique, along with grace and lightness, captivating the audience with their aerial show. As a result, the best hair hanging performances appear "effortless" and weightless.
Hair Hanging – How to Prepare?
As mentioned earlier, preparation for hair hanging often takes a long time and requires physical, mental, and technical readiness. Individuals with experience in circus arts and under the guidance of professional trainers should engage in it.
Hair Length and Condition
In theory, people with various hair conditions can attempt hair hanging. However, if hair strands are in poor condition, it becomes risky and such individuals won't be able to do it for long. Lightened and damaged hair makes hair hanging more challenging and painful, although not impossible.
Hair length should allow for tying strands (ideally reaching at least to the shoulders). Hair hanging should not be attempted with dyed hair or when one has a bang cut. This presents a considerable difficulty as arranging the hairstyle becomes tricky, but with effort, it can be managed.
Joanna Sawicka (known as Anastasia IV), a Polish artist from Szczecin performing in The Circus of Horrors, broke the Guinness record as the woman who lifted the heaviest weight by her hair. Once in London, she towed a bus attached to her hair. In her performances, she is often suspended upside down on a cable, supporting another artist with her hair. Her trapeze show with acrobats hanging from her hair is also a Guinness World Record achievement.
Many underestimate the strength of human hair. One single strand can potentially hold up to 100 grams of weight. Theoretically, with proper technique, human hair could withstand loads ranging from 5,600 kg to 8,400 kg without individual strands breaking or hair follicles falling out. Nevertheless, this art remains painful, particularly for new performers.
Acts involving hair hanging are popular in Cirque du Soleil productions such as Volta and Bazzar. In 2020, American violinist Lindsey Stirling hung by her hair while playing the distinctive piece "Crystalize" as part of her virtual concert "Home for the Holidays."
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