The Cyr Wheel
Invented at the end of the 20th century, the Cyr Wheel, as it was named in 1998, is an artistic apparatus designed for circus performances. It is a single ring made of aluminium or steel with a dimension of approximately 10 cm taller than the user. The typical wheel movement is the “waltz”, a continuous spin or swirling pirouette, similar to that of a top or a coin rotating around its axis. Daniel Cyr’s efforts and research work led to the design of the apparatus and the development of the technical vocabulary of the practice.
Born in Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Quebec and a graduate of the National Circus School in Montreal, Daniel Cyr first made a name for himself as an acrobatic free-ladder specialist. In 1993, he co-founded Cirque Éloize and was the head of the research and development for the company’s acrobatic devices and apparatus design. He built his first wheel in 1996. The idea came to him from a large hula hoop and an old circular wrought-iron coat rack. Made of a single piece of raw steel, the wheel was rough. He enhanced the design by adding a PVC coating and as a result improved the wheel’s adhesion to the floor. He then came up with a multi-part design that could be disassembled, which made it easier to apply the coating. Daniel Cyr made his initial appearance with the apparatus in 1998 in the Cirque Éloize production of Excentricus, which is when the Cyr Wheel got its name. And so began a worldwide journey.
The first stages of the journey
Cirque Éloize performances that featured the Cyr Wheel initially introduced North American, European and Asian audiences to the amazing new form of art. In addition Daniel Cyr’s tutoring allowed a few lucky performers in the company to learn how to work the new piece of equipment: first, Antoine Carabinier Lépine who appeared initially in 2002 in Nomade and then Jonas Woolverton and Krin Haglund who presented the first Cyr Wheel duo in 2003 in Rain. In 2005, Eric Saintonge took over in Nomade. As Daniel Cyr’s early students, these four performers greatly contribute in making the new circus discipline widely known.
In 2003, Daniel Cyr was invited to take part in the Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain where he won the Silver Medal. The achievement contributed to widening its appeal throughout the circus community. In fact Daniel Cyr’s performance at the festival brought the apparatus to Valérie Inertie’s attention. In turn she benefited from Daniel Cyr’s tutoring. Her research work in the making of her acts contributed to the artistic growth and development of a female vocabulary of this practice. She was the first performer to present Cyr Wheel acts outside Cirque Éloize. Her first stage appearance took place in 2005 at the Festival de cirque des Iles-de-la-Madeleine, Daniel Cyr’s home town. Valérie introduced this new device in the world of German variety theatres and leading European circuses, such as the Festival International du Cirque de Monte-Carlo in Monaco, The Great Moscow State Circus in Russia, the Koninklijk Theater Carré in Amsterdam, the Cirque Knie in Switzerland and the Weltweihnachtscircus in Stuttgart, Germany. She has performed Cyr Wheel acts in over 30 countries and as a result is broadening the appeal for this art.
At the request of Cirque du Soleil, Daniel Cyr was called on to take part in designing a wheel act for the production of Corteo directed by Daniele Finzi Pasca. Corteo has been touring worldwide since 2005 and as a result, the Cyr Wheel keeps gaining in popularity. In 2006, Daniel Cyr was invited to take part in the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Torino, Italy. He has also been involved in other large-scale events and continues to perform his acts as a guess artist in divers circus of the world.
Gaining International Reputation
The apparatus keeps broadening its appeal thanks to the many enthusiasts taking up the Cyr Wheel and design companies selling Cyr wheels. Many circus schools now have wheels and provide training. The ENC and ESAC schools are two institutions that have benefited from Daniel Cyr’s instruction. The internet also helped spread the practice and greatly influenced the development of subsequent rotational circus apparatus. In 2004, the Stars of Beijing Circus used miniature wheels and rotated at high speeds. Quebec-based artists also explored this concept. The X wheel, the square wheel, the “charette”, the spiral, the circle cube are only some of the many variants that have been designed up to date. Since Daniel Cyr’s performance at the Festival de Cirque de Demain, wheel sports are also becoming increasingly popular. There are new trends in Rhönrad athletic training and a new sport called Mono Wheel has been introduced. In a few short years, the Cyr Wheel has gained world appeal and is becoming more and more widespread in circuses and among wheel sports.