Circus History with Phineas

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Q: Where did the flying trapeze originate?

A: Jules Léotard was born in the mid 1800’s in Toulouse, France. Son of a gymnastics teacher, for years he wanted to be a lawyer, and showed great potential. However, Jules made a discovery while relaxing next to his father’s indoor pool that would bring him down a different path…

Several ropes hung down from the ceiling above the pool, and Jules proceeded to hang bars and rings from these ropes. He would swing on the bars and perform tumbling tricks in the air from bar to bar above the water. The flying trapeze was born.

The flying trapeze made its world premiere on November 12, 1859 as part of Cirque Napoléon in Paris, France, performed by none other than Jules Léotard.

Fun Fact: The 2012-2013 season of the Big Apple Circus, titled “Legendarium,” paid homage to the history of the flying trapeze. Ringmaster John Kennedy Kane spoke briefly about Jules Léotard, the leotard, and the flying trapeze, and then acrobat Andrey Mantchev performed a trapeze act while wearing a leotard!

Have a question you want answered or a topic you want discussed? Email matthew [at] americanyouthcircus.org and your topic or question may be featured here! (To see informational sources used in this article, check out our Further Reading page.)

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