Articles

The Aquatic Circus: From High Dives to Human Bubbles

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A forty foot high dive into a kiddie pool filled with 1 foot of water sounds like a suicide attempt to most people. But that’s just one of the many tricks performed at a water circus. From Barnum & Bailey’s 1895 “Grand Water Circus,” to the over the top Cirque du Soleil spectacular “O,” the aquatic circus has been around since the start. And with the advent of new technology, circus productions are now able to create more visually stunning water performances than ever before.

Just like the regular circus, the water circus started out with many of the same players: acrobats, stuntmen, gymnasts, and clowns. The only twist was, all acts were performed either above, upon, or below the water’s surface. A high-wire balancing act could be performed above the pool, while synchronized swimmers displayed an elegant water ballet below in the water. Divers were also a very common occurrence, forming a myriad of somersaults, twists, and other tricks before entering the pool. The culmination of any water circus was always the dramatic high dive into shallow water, in which divers would perform jumps from extreme heights into mere foots of water, spreading their limbs and bodies upon impact for a rapid halt in speed. The stunt usually possessed added difficulty by making the diving pool rather small in diameter, forcing the diver to aim the jump as perfect as possible for fear of missing the water.

Roy Fransen, famous British shallow high diver, set a record dive of 110 feet into an 8 foot pool in 1948, a record that stood for 49 years. The record was finally broken by American Darren Taylor, aka “Professor Splash,” who holds the current Guinness World Record for highest into shallow dive, successfully completing a 36 foot high jump into 12 inches of water in March of this year. Splash performed the jump in Norway for water close to freezing point, thereby making it dense enough to slow his descent speed more quickly.

In 1998 Cirque du Soleil unveiled a new type of water circus production at the Bellagio resort in Las Vegas. “O,” named for the pronunciation of the French word for water “eau,” features a specially designed 1.5 million gallon temperature controlled pool of water, including an underwater communication system, regulators for underwater breathing, and an underwater stage that is able to rise up and below the water’s surface without producing a wake, thanks to specially designed holes drilled through the stage itself. The show combines state of the art lighting, music, and costuming with aerial acrobatics like aerial hoops and  trapeze, synchronized swimming, and of course high dives. Since its opening, “O” has grossed over a billion dollars and remains as one of the most critically-acclaimed Cirque du Soleil productions, as well as the most sought after Las Vegas show ticket. Due to the success of “O,” other newer Cirque productions have incorporated water elements as well. For example, in “Zumanity” at the New York New York hotel in Las Vegas, a particular segment of the show features two women swimming seductively in a giant water bowl, resembling the interaction of two goldfish.

Like the Marines of the circus world, the Zen Arts crew are ready to go, either in the air, on land, or even in water. Our contortionists and acrobats are trained for all types of arenas, including the liquid stage. With the advent of the human sphere, our bubbled contortionists add ripples of sensuality and seduction to even the stillest waters. Whether it’s a backyard pool or a large lake, we can tailor an aquatic performance sure to submerse your guests into a different world. Call 855-ZEN-ARTS or email to book your next aquatic event today!