What is Hand to Hand?
Hand to Hand is the terminology used in circus for partner or group acrobatics. In the acro hobbyist scene, many call ‘hand to hand’ the specific move where the flyer performs a handstand on the base’s hands. However, in most circus schools and companies around the world, duo or group acro is named ‘hand to hand’ as a discipline. Acrobatic gymnastics is closely related to this discipline, there is much crossover but with some small differences. Many coaches who teach this discipline in circus schools come from a sports acro background.
Many of the tricks and skills in hand to hand and acro gymnastics are very similar. However, in circus performers and artists don’t have the same restrictions regarding age, body type and weight. In performance of these skills at a high level, it is ideal to have an optimal weight difference and skill set between flyers and bases but as the circus industry is more artistic and less competitive, there is more freedom.
In partner or group acro in gymnastics, the gymnasts are often training for competition, therefore the flyers tend to be younger and smaller, peaking in their level of ability at competition time. This helps explain why competitive sports acro is performed at an extremely high level of technical skill and ability.
There are some very high-level acrobats in the circus world and some circus competitions. However, circus acrobatics tends to focus on the artistic rather than the technical. Circus artists who study and train professionally are encouraged to be highly skilled in their discipline but also creative, the goal being to integrate theatre, dance and movement into their act and practice. The end goal is often to perform to an audience in a more theatrical setting than a gymnastics competition.