10 Offbeat Circuses


Hair Hanging Circuses

Two hair hanging performers.
Those hair commercials never told you healthy hair could do this! Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

So most of our offbeat circuses are much more modern takes on the old three-ring form. From incorporating strippers to throwing in a bunch of cats, the circus acts were probably not something you could catch on a weekend in, say, Victorian England.

But hair-hanging performances are actually part of a longer tradition of circus acts. Chinese circuses have been performing acts where contortionists or aerialists perform various acrobatics while hanging by their hair for nearly a century [source: Barr]. Hair hanging really came into its own during the 20th century, however, and modern circuses often employ hair hangers as performers [source: Murray]. But don't think you can simply wrap your hair around any darn thing and proceed to do somersaults 35 feet up. The braid, for one, has to be structurally quite durable, and of course the system of pulleys and cables better be highly precise.

Further, hair hanging circuses like the Finnish Capilotractées requires performers who've spent years learning — and becoming a little numb — to the act [source: Winship]. It's not just acrobatics; performers in a hair-hanging circus might juggle, play with fire or even hold other performers while suspended from their hair.