Art of jumping, tumbling, and balancing. The art is of ancient origin; acrobats performed leaps, somersaults, and vaults at Egyptian and Greek events. Acrobatic feats were featured in the commedia dell'arte theatre in Europe and in jingxi (“Peking opera”) in China. The later use of apparatuses such as poles, tightropes, and flying trapezes made acrobatics a major attraction in circus performances. Its popularity increased in the 20th century with such performers as the Flying Wallendas (see Karl Wallenda).
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Acrobatics (from Greek Akros, high and bat, walking) is one of the performing arts, and is also practiced as a sport. Acrobatics involves difficult feats of balance, agility and motor coordination. Nearly any performance or sport which involves full-body activity-- especially in short, highly controlled bursts of activity-- can be considered acrobatics. Typical examples are, first and foremost, all the subdivisions of gymnastics and trapeze work, but specialized activities like ballet and diving could also be included. In a narrow sense, the term "acrobatics" refers to "acrobatic gymnastics," a specialized subdivision of gymnastics.
Though initially the term applied to tightrope walking, in the 19th century, a form of performance art, including circus acts began to use the term as well. In the late 19th century, tumbling and other acrobatic/gymnastic activities became a competitive sport in Europe.
Acrobatics in Western history have become a key subject for fine art. An excellent example is Acrobats at the Cirque Fernando (Francisca and Angelina Wartenberg) by Impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir which depicts two German acrobatic sisters. The painting resides at the Art Institute of Chicago.
During the Tang Dynasty, acrobatics saw much the same sort of development as European acrobatics saw during the Middle Ages with court displays during the 7th through 10th century dominating the practice. Today the performance art remains to be one of the most important performances offered within Chinese variety art, mostly referred to in the west as "Chinese Circus".