10 of the Most Dangerous Circus Acts Performed Today

Aerial Acts
Aerial acts are stunning feats of talent and grace, but sometimes they end in unfortunate accidents. Subhendu Sarkar/LightRocket via Getty Images

Make no bones about it: Aerial acrobatics may be a standard part of any circus, but that in no way means they're safe. The fact that they've been performed for more than a century as part of circus routines has not made them any less prone to accidents. The thing is, there are lots of ways to, let's say, "inadvertently ground" yourself in circus acts. And unfortunately, the point can be illustrated by a depressingly large number of aerial accidents in recent circus history. One specific act is so reliably dangerous that we'll cover it in depth later.

But to prove our point, let's just take a small tour of aerial accidents that have recently happened. In 2007, a trapeze artist in Southern California was killed during a performance when he fell 40 feet (12 meters) without a net to catch him [source: Alfano]. In 2013, a performer in a Moscow circus fell 85 feet (26 meters) through the net, but supposedly was well enough to make it back to work eventually [source: Rivlin-Nadler]. And horrifically, eight hair-hanging aerialists plunged to the ground when a clip snapped in the 2014 circus accident in Providence, Rhode Island. None of the acrobats died, but they all sustained terrible injuries. The lesson? Aerial acts might be wildly popular, but gravity wins.