Magazine article History Today

'That Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze ...': November 12th, 1859

Magazine article History Today

'That Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze ...': November 12th, 1859

Article excerpt

Jules Leotard, the French acrobat who performed the first flying trapeze act on record at the Cirque Napoleon in Paris in 1859, was the daring young man who 'flies through the air with the greatest of ease' in the music hall song. He also left his name to the leotard, the tight, sleeveless garment which he wore and which showed his muscular frame to advantage.

Leotard and the great French tightrope walker Blondin led the way in the development of breathtaking performances on the trapeze and the high wire in 19th-century circuses. Leotard developed his act in his teens at his father's house in Toulouse, which had a swimming pool. He fixed up a trapeze above the pool, which functioned as his safety net, and practised various tricks. In the basic act the acrobat takes off from a high board, holding the 'fly bar' of the trapeze, and lands in the hands of a catcher, who is dangling from another swinging trapeze. Both of them continue swinging until the catcher throws the acrobat back to the fly bar in the 'return'. …

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