Circus Skills - Ground Based

Beginners' ground-based circus skills include:

Plate spinning: (a plastic/wooden stick and plastic/aluminium plate) When starting, the first step is to get the plate spinning on the pointy end of the stick. Once you have mastered the basic spinning you can begin to explore more complex tricks, using the plate and your body, multiple plates for simultaneous tricks, or, when you master the skill you can begin to use aluminium or even china plates! For obvious reasons it is always best to start with the plastic ones!

Ribbons: (long strips of material on sticks), can be used to create a variety of patterns and circles in the air and around the body.

Cigar boxes: are hollow bright rectangular boxes that can be used for juggling and also for balancing tricks.

All these are basic skills that would be good to try before attempting the larger props.


To be successful

Advice or tips to help you


Plate spinning

Getting the plate spinning

Use the correct hand position

- Wrap your hand around the bottom of the stick, hold the stick upright.

Spin the plate

- Balance the plate sideways on the pointy bit of the stick, so that it is rests on the top on the stick. The stick should hold the plate up in position in the groove on the underside of the plate.

- You now need to start making small circles with the top of the stick. Start slowly and as the plate begins to flatten out, begin to speed up until the plate is staying almost flat.

- Now you need to stop the stick turning and make it stay completely still. That stopping motion will make the centre of the plate spin on the top of the stick. If it doesn't work, repeat the process from the start.


Jumping the plate

Use a trick technique

- Once you have mastered spinning the plate, you can begin with this trick. Simply push the plate up into the air by pushing the stick upwards and then pulling it sharply back down.

- Now you must try to catch the plate again by getting the centre of the plate to land on the top of the stick again. With practice you will be able to do this with the plate still spinning.

Vary your techniques - 180 stick spin catch

- Using the same technique as above, but this time, before you throw the plate, turn your hand so it is upside down (thumb pointing downwards).

- As you throw the plate into the air, spin your hand and the stick 180 degrees and catch the plate on the other end of the stick!

- Then repeat and spin your hand back the other way.

Catch using two sticks

- Use the same technique as above, but this time you will have another stick in the other hand. Simply catch the plate on the other stick.

- You can add variations to this by throwing and catching in different places around your body!


Using your body

Pass the plate under your leg

- Simply lift your leg, pass the stick with the spinning plate on it from one hand to the other underneath your leg. Keep the plate well clear of your leg to avoid knocking it off the stick.

Pass the plate around your back

- Again pass the plate from one hand to another but around the back. Keep the plate far away from your body to avoid knocking the plate off.


- You can learn to balance the end of the stick on various parts of your body whilst the plate is spinning on it. Start with your palm, then you can try other areas including your foot, elbow or even your forehead!


More than one

Spin two plates

- It is possible to begin spinning more than one plate at a time. Learn to spin a plate with the weaker hand.

- When you have mastered this, have a stick and plate in each hand ready to spin.

- Start your weaker hand spinning first and then your strong hand.

- Now you have two plates that are spinning. Now see if you can get them both to start spinning at the same time!

Spin more plates

- You can now try spinning lots of plates at once. Start with two as above and then try and put two into one hand and then start a third.

- You can either put the third plate into the other hand also or find somewhere else on your body to balance or place it.

- With much practice, it is possible to get many plates spinning at once!

Use variations

- Now you can try making your own tricks and combinations. Tricks like making two plates jump at the same time or balancing more than one on different parts of the body at once can be challenging.



Basic patterns

Create circles

- Very simply draw a circle with the handle and the ribbon will follow. You can vary the speed by how fast you move the handle.

Make a snake pattern

- This pattern is made by continuously moving the handle from left to right.

- Walking backwards also helps.

- The ribbon should make a pattern that looks similar to a snake moving.

Draw a small figure of eight

- Draw a figure of eight pattern with the handle and the ribbon will follow.


Bigger patterns

Draw a figure of eight around the body

- This pattern is similar to the small figure of eight but all the way around the body.

- This is achieved by drawing large circles on either side of the body continuously.

Move the ribbons around the body

- You can create complete circles around yourself by standing upright and drawing large circles above your head.

- Keep the handles moving quite fast, otherwise the ribbon will tend to get tangled around your body.

Use body movement

- It dramatically improves the look of ribbon twirling if you move your body whilst doing it.

- This can be done simply by walking around, jumping or spinning.


Other variations

Pass the stick from hand to hand

- Whilst twirling the ribbon, you can pass the handle from one hand to another simply by passing it across.

- With practice, this can be done smoothly so it doesn't interrupt the flow of the ribbon twirling.

Use hand-to-hand variations

- Using the same technique as above, the ribbon can also be passed around the back or through the legs whilst twirling.

- Experiment to see what different hand changes you can think of.

Use ribbons in gymnastics

- Ribbon is often used at the same time as performing gymnastics. Before attempting anything like this, it is important to be properly trained in gymnastic movements. Ask your teacher if they can help or offer advice on where to learn these skills.


Cigar boxes

Body position

Check height of hands

- Have your elbows slightly bent have your hands just below your chest.

Place your hands on the cigar boxes

- Your hands should be placed on top of the cigar boxes in the middle.

Position your feet and back correctly

- Have your back straight, have your feet shoulder-width apart.


Getting started

Place the boxes

- Place 3 cigar boxes in a line on their side.

Hold the cigar boxes on the floor

- Place your hands on top of the two outside cigar boxes.

Hold the three cigar boxes in the air

- Push the two outside cigar boxes together so that the middle box does not drop.


Some tricks

Make a quarter turn

- Raise the cigar boxes up, then quickly bring one of the outside boxes away from the centre of your body and turn it a quarter turn, then pin back to the middle cigar box.

Make a half turn

- Perform the same technique as the quarter turn, but with a half turn.

Try a middle spin

- Use the outside boxes to spin the middle box.

- Throw the middle box up, and, pushing with one hand more than the other, allow the middle box to rotate 180 degrees.

- Pin the middle cigar boxes in between the two outside cigar boxes.