Bibliography: Dicionário Caldas Aulete da Língua Portuguesa (2007), Dicionário Sesc – A Linguagem da Cultura, Dicionário do Teatro Brasileiro – Temas, Formas e Conceitos - J. Guinsburg, João Roberto Faria and Mariângela Alves de Lima (2006), Circodata – Dicionário do Circo Brasileiro and Nica Circus Dictionary (National Institute of Circus Arts Australia).


Acrobat Artist or professional in acrobatics, usually linked to the circus. The term, of Greek origin, literally means, “he who goes on tip toes”.Var. acrobat.

Acrobatic “dandi”

A table on which two artists perform acrobatic stunts in opposite directions. These may be jumps, handstands, somersaults, human seesaws and others.

Acrobatic dance

A combination of dance techniques and acrobatic elements. It became popular in the vaudeville circuit in the early 20th century in the United States and Canada and is now part of the repertoire of several contemporary circus companies.

Acrobatic pyramid

An acrobatic formation of three or more people. The artists on the base use their bodies to support those at a higher tier, who may be standing on their shoulders or kneeling.

Ad lib

Exclamations, expressions, phrases or short lines that do not appear in the original text and are sometimes improvised by the actorson stage to remedy any lapses of memory, orto highlight a comic or dramatic effect. Ad libssometimes have such an extraordinary effect onthe performance that they become part of theshow, and are incorporated into the script. Artistsin situation comedies use this consciously toupdate them, especially when they run for a longtime in theaters.

Aerial Silk

A circus aerial art form performed with two long pieces of fabric attached to thetop of the theater. It is believed that it is an extension of working with the rope. It requires flexibility, agility, muscle strength and lightnessin the artist’s presentation in order to create movements and reach different heights with the fabric.


1. Body and exercise techniqueinvolving balance, jumping, and developmentwith ropes. 2. Balancing act or tightrope walkingon in tightrope. 3. Set of movements or gesturesthat demonstrate dexterity and agility which arebeyond ordinary habits and models. 4. By extension,a gymnastic exercise of superior ability.


Rhetorical figure of thought in whichan idea is expressed only by means of suggestedimages, and which therefore require decodingsince a distance is maintained between thewords used and their effective meaning.


From the French verb aller (to go). Used in imperative: allez! In the circus it is a kind of signal, an order of command among artists. Widely used at the moment of jumping by trapeze artists.


Any circus equipment that serves toassist the movements and development of artists.E.g. hoops, trapeze, silks, rope, Chinese mast etc.

Artistic language

Theater, dance, music, film, literature, photography, painting, drawing, sculpture, circus and other arts. The language is the set of signs and form the artist chooses to express their story, culture, emotions and aesthetic values.


See tightrope walker.


A plant of the grass family with hollow stems, used as an acrobatic tool for its lightness, flexibility and shape, which makes it easy to grip. Several circus acts can be performed with one or several bamboo rods, including climbing, spinning and being suspended in the air.


A human platform composed by at least three people. Two of them form the foundation and use their arms and legs to catapult the third person, who then performs acrobatic leaps and flips.


Pear-shaped elongated pieces withgrips that serve as support. Jugglers often throwthem up high without dropping, three, four, ormore at once.


According to the Houaiss dictionary, boundary (fronteira in Portuguese) is the “outline of a country which separates it from other countries.” In artistic production, boundary acquires a symbolic meaning: it is what separates distinct languages and aesthetics. The world today is marked by the redefinition or even blurring of geographic and symbolic boundaries, as new communication technologies allow for increasingly intense exchanges.

Brass brand

Musical band formed by windinstruments; out of tune and/or noisy orchestra;old car; any thing or object; gadget, junk. Fromthe Spanish charanga (brass band).

Bread and circus

Bread and circus shows.Words of Juvenal (Decimus Junius Juvenal,Roman poet and rhetorician, author of “Satires”)referring to the shortsighted preferences andignorance of the masses.


From the French cabaret was alsocalled cafe-concert. In its beginnings it did notdistinguish between social classes: workers andaristocrats attended presentations of circus,dance, theater and music, in addition to eatingand drinking. The most famous in France were LeChat Noir and the Folies Bergere.


Thick fabric used on circus tents, also known as big tops. In Portuguese the word “lona” has the symbolic meaning of “home” for the artists when the circus becomes itinerant. Originally performed for noble families in their homes, arenas and auditoriums, the circus became a popular art form after the fall of the empires. In 1769, British showman Philip Astley created a canvas tent that could be set up in different locations for the circus performances.


French term that means uproar,confusion, tumultuous expression and even agroup of musical sounds devoid of harmony. Inthe circus it was adopted as an expression tosymbolize the final moment of a show when theartists return to the ring for a joint celebration,doing acrobatics, juggling and ask the public toaccompany their final foray by applauding.

Chinese mast

Aerial acrobatics performed on avertical steel mast stuck in the ground and linedwith non-slip material usually 5-10 meters high. Itrequires flexibility and strength from the artists.


This is when the artist, usually the clown,simulates a fall and causes the audience tolaugh.

Circus act

Sequence of gestures and/or stunts performed by the artist, with or without circus equipment. A circus act can be performed solo or by a group. Even the shortest acts have a beginning, a middle and an end.

Circus ring

The central area of a circus, reserved for the display of attractions; arena.


A genre that originated in the end of the nineteenth century and was extremely successful in Brazil in the following century. It characterized the shows of family troupes that traveled around the country performing comedies and dramas along with acrobatic, juggling and clowning acts. Among the artists that were active in circus-theater are Procópio Ferreira, Benjamin de Oliveira and Vic Militello.


People hired by businessmen or by theperformers themselves to applaud enthusiasticallywhen major actors come on stage or during scenesof the performance in order to influence the judgmentof the audience. Its origin goes back to 5thcentury Greece, and to the exhibitions of Nero inImperial Rome. Its function only began to acquireprofessional status in France at the beginning ofthe 19th century when its members received a sumof money or free tickets. Widely used in operaticenvironments, which continues to this day, especiallyin small urban centers; its use varying fromcountry to country. In Brazil it existed until the firsthalf of the 20th century and was received at thetime with hostility by the paying audience. Theirintervention at the entrances of the stars of thecompany, during scenes of bravery (at the end oflong monologues, elation and anger scenes, arias,in the specific case of the lyrical genre), was a constantpresence in theatrical revue. It has completelydisappeared from national theaters, perhapsexisting in provincial locations.


A term that dates back to the 16th century.It derives from Cloyne, cloine, clowne, andits etymological analysis also throws up colonusand clod, whose approximate meaning would berustic man from the country. Clod, or clown, alsoindicated a lout, tactless man, rude and boorish,a peasant, and rustic. In English pantomime, theclown was the main comic and played the roleof a servant. In the world of the circus he is thecomic artist who participates in the entrancesand reprises, exploring the misfit and the follyof their actions. He can also be called eccentricand Tony de Soiree.


Something that includes or belongs to many individuals. The word is often used to designate a group of people who come together to produce art or performances. This concept is in the core of circus work, which is based on collective creation, frequently family-based, by artists who transcend individual expression in order to produce a large-scale spectacle.


A discipline that requires theartist (contortionist) to have extreme flexibilityin order to twist the body, sometimes using anapparatus.


Derived from the Greek kritike, which means “to discern”, “to sort”, “to judge”, it is the ability to evaluate art pieces taking into consideration cultural references. Beyond subjective assessments, it is based on theoretical, aesthetic and historical knowledge to contextualize and assign value and quality to artistic production.


In the context of the performing arts it signifies techniques used to display a narrative on stage (or screen). It may be developed specifically for television, theater or the circus. Circus dramaturgy involves combining scenic elements, such as music, lighting, scrip and assorted skills, with a risk factor and affective memory.


An event that brings together cultural productions based on a theme or curatorial approach. It may vary in frequency and have competitive or non competitive character, but it always seeks to showcase a broad and diverse overview of the artistic context or the theme in question.

Film noir

A thriller subgenre, influenced by the cinematic aesthetics of German expressionism in the Nazi era, characterized by high contrast between light and shadow. With urban settings, criminal themes and anti-heroes, it reached its peak in the United States in the 1940s and 50s. Orson Welles, Otto Preminger and Samuel Fuller are examples of film noir directors.

Fixed Bar

Gymnastic apparatus that consistsof a thick horizontal bar fixed onto two verticalrestraints with which acrobats perform sequencesof turns and jumps.


Consists of a jump with acrobatics fromone trapeze to another. It is considered one ofthe most difficult maneuvers to perform on theequipment.


An acrobat who is driven, balanced orsupported by another stronger one (the porteur).He is always up high in solo numbers. In aerialacts like the trapeze, he carries out the flight.

Fourth wall

Imaginary wall located in front ofthe theater stage through which the audiencepassively watches the action of the staged worldas artists do not exchange glances with viewers.


In theater or cinema, the comic effectobtained by surprise and improvisation, be it verbalor visual. Brazilian actor slang; the same asan ad lib.

German wheel

Equipment originally usedfor gymnastic exercises in Germany; the wheel,which is made of steel, requires concentrationand balance from the acrobats who use it. Inside,it is possible to spin and rotate, varying the intensityand thus the degree of difficulty.

Hand to hand

Acrobatics usually performedin pairs and which depends on the contact, balanceand strength in their hands.

High wire

Taut steel cable, on top of which theartists perform balancing acts.


1. Art and practice of creatingsomething illusory through tricks. 2. Technique of creating dramatic effects by thespeed of gestures and hands; sleight of hand.


1. That which is said or done withoutpreparation; improvisation; 2. Unexpected.

Indian Rope

A swinging rope which hangsfrom the top of the canvas on which the artistexecutes movements requiring flexibility andstrength, in partnership with the porteur.


Being constantly in motion in different territories while engaged in specific activities. In its roots, the circus is a naturally itinerant art form, created to navigate different audiences and realities, extracting inspiration and creative materials from this experience.

Jester, Buffoon

Farcical actor or character, i.e.those whose representation tends toward comicexaggeration, including frank, licentious and popularlanguage such as that of mimics, and funnyfaces (grimaces). His socially inferior or marginalfigure gives him the possibility to comment and gounpunished, and even rudely, on the actions andintentions of serious drama figures, revealing injest, the irrational aspects contained therein. In away, the jester, or buffoon, or the clown, by closelymonitoring the “masters” and powerful ones,brings to the surface in speech and body, theunderlying insanity of their dramatic relationships


Circus artist who displays great skillthrowing and catching objects thrown into theair, manipulating them and balancing them atthe same time; tightrope walker; 2. Fig. Personwho demonstrates ability to overcome difficult oradverse circumstances. Juggling.


Suspended iron hoop used for aerial acrobatics both inside and out.

Magie nouvelle

The “new magic” emerges in France in the 2000s and proposes a renewal of the genre, combining traditional magic techniques and other art forms, such as dance, music and visual arts. In addition to the visual appeal, the idea is to sharpen the audience’s other senses, such as smell and touch.


Art where bodily skills with the use of objects are displayed, causing magical effects.


Aesthetics characterized by the minimal use of resources and elements in artistic creations, favoring simplicity and elementary forms. In the visual arts, the movement began in the United States, in the late 1950s. It later spread to other countries and other artistic languages.


Estética caracterizada pelo emprego mínimo de recursos e elementos na criação artística, privilegiando a simplicidade e formas elementares. Nas artes visuais, o movimento teve início no fim dos anos 1950 nos Estados Unidos. Depois se espalhou por outros países e outras linguagens artísticas.


The representation of emotions, acts and various human situations only by means of body movements, gestures and steps. It is found in many cultures such as war dances of sacrificial rites, and the imitation of animals. Among the ancient Egyptians and Indians it appeared with artistic contours.

Sometimes the Greeks employed choirs to accompany their pantomimes and the Romans were great cultivators of this genre; during the Republic they even had a special school for its development. A single actor, the pantomimus, used to represent without a word all persons or things in a certain story. The actors distinguished, through masks, the different types of pantomime characters. The same term for the actor in this kind of show and the show itself is employed. Religious mysteries of the Middle Ages show traces of the old pantomime. Mime.


From the term paraode, of Greek origin, formed by the union of ode (singing, song) and para (that which develops over the course of, beside). Later, counterpoint or an incorporated song. This is the usually comical recreation or burlesque imitation of a work, genre, style or literary stereotype, either in a critically implied or explicit sense. It is the transposing of a text taken as a model, already written and known, manipulated and subjected to a critical format.


Derived from the words pertĭca, in Latin, and perche, in French, the perch, or “long rod” is the apparatus and the name of a circus skill in which one acrobat (also known as the base) supports a pole meters from the ground while another one (called the flyer) climbs to the top to perform his act. The technique is seldom practice today due to its high level of difficulty.

Physical theater

Construction of forms understood by the collective imagination without words. Through gestures and other non verbal skills, artists should be able to interpret a wide range of roles and emotions, and improvise with the public.


From the French porteur; this is the person who is on the ground holding the apparatus and the performance of another artist or has the same function in aerial numbers.


1. Bow, greeting, reverence (usually distinct and important people); courtesy; 2.Delegation, entourage accompanying one or more important people; 3. Group of people in procession.

Quick change

Term meaning a “quick change of clothes”; feature in which the artist changes clothes as if by magic behind a screen.


In addition to the longer entrances, performed by the eccentric clown, circus shows also offer the comic reprise in the interval between two attractions.


Specialty technique in the assembly and maintenance of attachment points for aerial devices.


From the Latin resecum, used to describe dangerous situations, it also suggests the possibility of gains or losses. In the circus risk is often the conductor of the narrative. Artistic or physical risk is present during the formation and performance of circus artists.

Russian cradle

Aerial acrobatic technique executed by a pair of performers using two fixed masts with small supporting platforms. One of the acrobats stands on the device holding the other, who can swing, be thrown and perform different moves in the air. In Portuguese, it´s called quadrante coreano.


A circus technique that consists in using the bodies of the performers (and sometimes of members of the audience) as the support for circus equipment, such as the lyra (aerial hoop) and tightrope wire.


Quick scenic presentation, usually satirical,comic and parodic in nature and performed by a small group of actors. Based on everyday situations and habits, not intended to explore the psychological aspects of the characters in depth. As an entertainment feature, it was widely used in musical shows (magazines, music hall, and vaudeville), popular theater, passing later to radio and television.

Tightrope walker

1. Tightrope walker who walks on the wire or rope; acrobat. 2. Fig. Fickle person in their opinions and political party positions. Tightrope walking.

To anchor

To create a solid foundation. To be secure on a spot. Also refers to anchoring an idea through solid argumentation. In the circus, to anchor refers to setting up the big top on a lot (or city, country) and to acts in which the artist needs a support, an “anchor” to conduct his performance.

Tony de Soiree

Technical name for a given function of a clown. He must know the various circus skills to participate as a comic element in serious performances by saying nothing oral most nothing. For example, it is quite common to have a clown on the flying trapeze, tasked with bringing a kind of relaxation between manoeuvres for both the public and especially for artists who have time to rest and recover energy for future manoeuvres. Tony de Soiree is also responsible for performing the reprises that are inserted between different numbers. Once again he is responsible for the comedic pause that interposes itself between the sublimity of the attractions. He does the opposite of the clown or eccentric.


Drama characterized by seriousness and often involves a conflict between a character and some higher instance of power such as the gods, fate or society. Greek literature brings together three great names that are genre references:Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides.


Combining elements of comedy and tragedy, it is one of the earliest dramatic genres, having emerged in ancient Greece. The narrative may feature sarcasm, irony, melodrama and farce.


Equipment used for aerobatics, consisting of a bar suspended by two ropes on which the artist creates figures and gives demonstrations of strength, elegance and flexibility. There are different variations of equipment: fixed trapeze,which is immobile and gives greater stability during the execution of maneuvers; swinging trapeze, allowing both typical fixed movements,as well as elements of falls, twists, turns, somersaults etc; and the flying trapeze, the most common form – and possibly the most difficult and dangerous – in which the artist jumps from one trapeze to another, or into the hands of a porteur properly positioned on a platform.


Apparatus used in balancing acts only composed of the back of a bicycle – the wheel and pedals without the handlebars. It can have different heights and more than one wheel making up the rolling system.


1. Musician who has exceptional mastery of the playing technique of an instrument. 2. Any artist who shows great mastery of the artistic and technical processes which he performs. 3. Anyone who demonstrates great skill in what he does.[From the French virtuose Sp. virtuoso]

Visual poetry

When the visual character plays a central role in the composition of the work. It may or may not include words and written symbols. There are examples of visual poems in ancient times, such as “The Egg” (circa 300 BC) by Simmes of Rhodes, where the text is arranged on the page in an oval shape.


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