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10 Circus Acts That Have Withstood the Test of Time


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Rope Walking
Tightrope walking requires great agility and balance. Mark Gail/The Washington Post via Getty Images
Tightrope walking requires great agility and balance. Mark Gail/The Washington Post via Getty Images

First lesson of the tightrope: Back in the day, it was referred to as "rope dancing" not "rope walking." While that might seem like nothing more than a semantic difference, rest assured there's a reason folks wanted to portray the act as a more sensual experience. Turns out that ladies walking on ropes could be a tad titillating to early audiences. Some of the rope walkers of the 17th and 18th centuries made a show of removing petticoats for performances [source: Speaight]. Oh my!

Rope acts started much earlier than the circus but quickly became a prominent part of the show. While we typically think of rope acts as the high wire, where performers balance on a taut wire high above the ground, there were actually two other kinds. In the slack rope act, comedians perform on a loose rope strung between two poles. The slope wire, another rope act, curved from a pole to the floor, adding an incline for even more derring-do.

Speaking of daring, how about working with wild cats?