The aerial hoop is an elegant ring made of steel or aluminum suspended from an overhead point upon which a performer can spin, swing, transition, and pose, demonstrating skills of great flexibility, strength, and grace.
Aerial hoop is a wonderful apparatus for all skill levels of the aerial arts, from the beginner to the seasoned professional. On it, you can work your power moves, perfect your scorpion, or just sit on the bar and pose like a bird. Because the apparatus has the ability to spin, your audience is privileged to a 360-degree view of your performance, a mesmerizing effect. The aerial hoop is also known as the Lyra or cerceaux.
Photo from @jessalynhoffman
Types of Lyras
Aerial hoops come in a variety of sizes and widths which are chosen depending on individual preference. There are single tab hoops, double tab hoops, and tabless hoops, which are described in detail later in this article.
Aerial hoops can be used with one or more performers, but it’s important to make sure your hoop is suitably rated if you plan to invite a friend onto it with you.
The Lyra in History
Many aerial arts historians note that in the late 1800s, metal hoops were used for children’s play. Although the precise origin of the aerial hoop is difficult to verify, many aerial and circus historians agree that the first recorded aerial hoop performance was documented for an advertisement in the New York Clipper, a 19th-century entertainment newspaper. At the time, it was one of the oldest theatrical journals in America. The paper featured vaudeville, burlesque, circus, and more. In 1893, an artist named Caedo was featured in its pages perched on an aerial ring in an early display of the art form, debuting the apparatus in print. Now, Caedo’s performance is forever memorialized as a historical landmark of this now-beloved aerial apparatus.
Aerial hoop experienced a renaissance in the early 2000s with Cirque du Soleil’s wildly successful show Verakai. Inspiring countless artists across the globe, the aerial hoop is now a standard apparatus in aerial studios everywhere.
Photo from @jessalynhoffman
Tricks and Choreography
Aerial hoop is a wonderful creative movement practice whether you aim to get a great full-body workout or to entertain the masses. There is a world of beautiful sequences waiting to be discovered and invented, from simple and breathtaking poses within the hoop to aerial contortion to dynamic flips and dizzying spins. How you find your pathways through the hoop depends on your personal preference.
You can hang from your hoop from just about every extremity of your body, while inventive balances challenge and strengthen your muscles. Even just sitting inside the hoop’s perfectly circular frame makes a beautiful image whether you’re spinning or static.
As a beginner, you will likely begin learning basic hangs from your hands to increase arm and grip strength. You can also hang from your elbows and armpits. Depending on the setup and your apparatus, you can spin, swing, or tip into daring inversions.
Knee hangs are usually taught early on in a Lyra artist’s career and can be executed with one or two knees. The ankle hangs are more advanced moves and demand strong abdominals coupled with high pain tolerance. Don’t let that scare you though; anyone advancing in the aerial arts will be familiar with a little discomfort, and stepping out of that comfort zone is always worth it.
The neck hang is another advanced movement on the hoop that offers a great reward once mastered. Always a crowdpleaser, this move showcases a beautiful shape as the performer dangles from only the muscles in her neck.
Along with hanging moves are elegant balances from your back or front, or side. These can be stand-alone poses or transitions in your routine. In any aerial sequence, think about how movements lend themselves seamlessly to the next. Part of the magic of choreography lies in its transitions.
The Benefits of Owning Your Own Aerial Hoop
There is a tipping point in aerial arts where one decides that it’s time to start collecting her own equipment in order to achieve greater freedom. Purchasing your gear for the first time may be intimidating, but it’s an investment in your career as an aerial artist that will give back for years and years down the line. In this way, owning your own Lyra actually saves you money. After it pays for itself by way of your performance fees, class fees, or money saved at open gyms, it’s clear that having your own gear is incredibly cost-effective.
You’ll control the wear and tear and you can use your hoop when you want. Even if you are just starting out, you can make incredible shapes in the Lyra that are not possible anywhere else.
How to Choose the Perfect Aerial Hoop
Aerial hoop is a well-rounded part of any aerial practice, and it’s a natural progression from pole fitness, aerial yoga, and aerial silks… or the other way around. But however you get into your hoop, it’s important to choose the one that’s just right for you.
Aluminum and steel have disparate static and dynamic load dimensions. A static load is your standing or sitting weight while you’re on the apparatus. When you introduce movement, the static load becomes a dynamic load, exerting greater force onto the Lyra. Your dynamic load can measure up to 5 times your weight. Professional rigging is always critical for safety purposes.
As with any aerial apparatus, keep in mind how and where you’ll be using your hoop. Are you interested in supported inversions or lateral tipping on the hoop? A double tab Lyra may be the one for you. With more static options for movement above the bar, you’ll find greater stability as you move. However, double point hoops will take up more vertical space overhead with rigging.
Do you want to spin with great abandon, creating incredible shapes as you turn? A single tab Lyra is best for this, and these can be rigged in smaller areas. A single point aerial hoop offers the potential for more vocabulary in the air. You can also rig your double tab Lyra to a single point overhead to spin. If you want to rotate around the space in a circle manège style, you’ll need a large footprint on the floor.
Consider whether you’ll want a hollow or a solid bar hoop. Hollow tubes are lighter and tend to spin with ease. A solid bar may be more of a challenge to spin, but its rotation will last longer once it accumulates momentum.
Your hoop size is its external diameter. You can determine which size is best for you by sitting upright in a chair, measuring the length from the base of the chair to the top of your head. Add 2 inches to this measurement, and you’ll know what size you need.
Also, consider your grip size. There is a 9mm difference in thickness between the Sport and Pro hoops. If you are a gymnast or a pole dancer, or if you have larger hands, a wider grip may be preferable to you. The industry standard size is 25mm (the Pro), while at 34mm, the Sport is a little thicker. Those that are new to the work may find the Sport grip easier to handle.
In addition to your aerial hoop, you’ll need some rigging equipment to get started. Many aerialists use round slings to suspend from overhead with carabiners as their point of connection. If you want to spin, you’ll also need a swivel.
Photo from @float.fly.create
Rigging and Safety Education: Understanding the Basics
Safety should be your number one motivation when you will be hanging headfirst towards the floor. Make sure you source your aerial hoop from a reputable company that has weight tested their contraptions.
Consider where you plan to hang your Lyra. The equipment required may vary from space to space. If you have access to or own an aerial rig, the setup could be different than that at a professional or home studio, or a performance venue.
Photo from @boldandgradiant feat. Amber Buchwald
The Best Aerial Hoops for Sale
As the leaders in aerial equipment, Uplift Active offers a range of aerial hoops for sale to suit your fitness and performance needs. Find your perfect Lyra when you order from Uplift Active, and get top quality products along with access to our dedicated and expert support team.
We offer three aerial hoops for sale in our online boutique:
Caring for Your Aerial Hoop
Some artists prefer a blank canvas while others use Mueller tape to wrap the metallic ring for improved grip. Some also like to use a small amount of rosin while working on their hoop while others prefer to rely on their natural grip.
Performing outside in the open air can be a wonderful experience, but make sure not to leave your Lyra outside. Store it in a bag made for aerial hoops when not in use.
If you are an entertainer, be sure to keep all of your aerial equipment -- and yourself -- safe during a performance. At no time should anyone be near you while you’re performing, and while you are not on the equipment, make sure it’s out of the way.
Frequently Asked Questions
Check the interwebs! Aerial studios have proliferated in the last decade.
Here are a few resources to get you started:
Yes, you can. But be sure you have done your research on safety and rigging protocols, use a mat, and never train alone.
Aerial hoop or Lyra offers a rare chance to get and stay fit, challenge your mind, and showcase your loveliness with one of the most beautiful art forms in the world today… all at the same time. As a celebrated practice that’s offered at studios around the globe, you can join a community of artists who truly love their chosen form. Explore the limitless freedom of self-expression in the air!
The best way to measure the hoop diameter you’ll need is to sit upright in a chair and measure from the base of the chair to the top of your head. Add two inches, and this is the diameter best for you.
Yes. Aerial arts are a full-body workout, which challenges strength, endurance, and flexibility. It will also help you face your fears!
All of them! Aerial arts are a wonderful full-body and mind workout, so be sure to warm up accordingly.
Perhaps it can be said that life itself is dangerous. Aerial arts come with a certain degree of risk, but practicing safe rigging, technique, and a high degree of common sense will mitigate those factors. Always work with a qualified instructor and ask questions. Once you have covered all the bases, you have only your mind to conquer.
Aside from being one of the most inspiring performance art forms, the Lyra is also a constellation in the night sky. This configuration of stars in the northern sky represents the ancient stringed lyre instrument. It’s no wonder that aerial hoop is known as the Lyra, as its lyrical dance can move anyone to dream bigger.
If you are inspired to start an aerial hoop practice of your own, expand your studio, or collect your next apparatus, contact Uplift Active with any questions.
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Aerial arts are a relatively new art form, but its skills and knowledge are passed just like all the performing arts: from person to person over time. This blog focuses on what you can expect in the process of finding someone with the right expertise and skill set to help you grow as an aerialist.