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Tightrope Walking

Tightrope walking is a physical activity that involves balancing on and walking across a tensioned wire suspended above the ground. It is often performed as part of circus or other public stunt performances. For many performers who specialize in “highwire,” the primary goal is to successfully walk on this tightrope from one end to another while standing 6m or higher above the ground. Some highwire acts are known as “skywalks” because the participant walks a considerable distance while dozens of metres above the ground. Circus groups that train tightrope walkers usually introduce participants to balance poles, which are weighted at the ends to provide a lower centre of gravity for easier balance. Professional circus troupes often combine tightrope walking with dance or object manipulation tricks. These participants perform tricks using props such as bicycles or chairs to create a human pyramid above the tightrope.

Is this activity known by any other names?


What are the origins of the activity abroad and in Canada?

The origins of rope-walking dates back thousands of years to the Ancient Greece civilization. Tightrope walking was brought over to Canada by Europeans in the 19th century who wanted to cross the Niagara Falls using this method.

Who takes part?

Males and females of diverse ages and ethnocultural backgrounds. Mos tightrope walkers perform as part of a circus troupe, and have many years of experience with the activity.

When does it occur / How often do you take part?

Tightrope walking performances occur at major festivals, during touring circus acts (e.g. Cirque du Soleil), and in special classes at circus schools.

Are there any organized clubs, groups, organizations or leagues?

Big Top School of Circus Arts; Wonderful World of Circus

Cultural Significance


Is there anything else we should know?



  • Wonderful World of Circus
    2600 John Street
    Unit 116
    Markham, ON, ON L3R 3W3
  • Big Top School of Circus Arts
    1150 Kerrisdale Blvd
    Unit 5-6,
    Newmarket,, ON L3Y 8Z9
  • Canadian National Exhibition
    210 Princes' Blvd.
    Toronto, ON M6K 3C3

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