Ace Tones has recently made a new addition to our array of entertainments: stilt walking and dancing.
Have a look at the dedicated page on our website to see how stilt walkers can bring fun to your next event, or read on for some interesting facts about stilt walking.
How did it all began?
Stilt walking is an established tradition in places that have been historically challenged by pervasive flooding e.g. Les Landes marshes in France, or the temperamental Liao River in northern China, which used to flood its banks. Nearer to home, people used to walk on stilts before the East Anglian Fens were drained. So it’s a good bet that stilt walking arose as a solution to walking through swamps. Having said that, there are places in Africa where people go up on short stilts to keep their feet away from the burning hot sand.
There are many other uses for stilts, once you’ve learnt to handle them. Shepherds can get a much better view of their flocks from higher up. You can also walk much faster on longer legs. And think of all those jobs you couldn’t do without a ladder, like hop and fruit picking.
How far back does stilt walking go?
Thousands of years, maybe well before recorded history began.
Stilts are mentioned in legends around the globe. Walking and dancing on stilts is a traditional art practiced for thousand of years by the Han people in Northern China. Evidence of stilt walking has been found in places as distant as the Benin civilization in Nigeria, Mayan Indians and ancient Rome and Greece.
Stilt walking for fun
Dancers on stilts have been entertaining crowds at pageants and religious festivals since times immemorial. The Chinese Spring Festival and Lantern Festival are good examples. From ancient Rome come stories of street dancers on stilts who appealed to the gods.
Stilt walking, or running, can get competitive too. The stilt jousting tournament in Namur, Belgium goes back some 600 years. Opponents try to defeat each other by knocking down each other’s stilts. Kicking, poking and butting one’s rivals is also allowed! The last person standing – on stilts, of course – is the winner.
If you think stilt walking is a challenge, what do you say to stilt jumping? Remember the stilts acrobatics at the closing ceremony of Beijing Olympic Games?
World records on stilts
The longest walk on stilts: In 1891, Sylvain Dornon, a French baker from Les Landes, stilt-walked from Paris to Moscow, a distance of over 2000 miles, in 58 days.
The highest stilts ever walked on: The official record is held by a Chinese. On 15 November 2006, sports teacher Saimaiti Yiming took 10 steps on 16.41 metre-high (53.8 feet) stilts without touching his safety lines.
There in an even higher, unofficial record. In November 2008, Australian circus performer Roy Maloy took 5 steps on stilts 17 metre (56 feet) high. You will not be surprised to hear his words, recorded by national broadcaster ABC: “I was more convinced that I was going to die than at any other point in my life.”
Would you like to have your own stilt walkers entertaining guests at your next event? Have a look at Ace Tones’ Stilt Walking service page or get in touch.