Walking and doing pirouettes on a thin rope is one of the oldest expressions of circus art. There are records of artists performing these acrobatics in the old Greece, in China and in India and in the Middle Ages, street entertainers who danced on a rope were the most popular attraction in European fairs.
There are two variants of the rope walking act: the loose rope and the tightrope.
At the beginning, the acts were performed at a maximum height of 3 meters on a loose rope but in order to cause more amazement among the public, sometimes sharp swords were placed under the rope to higher the risk of death if the artist lost balance. Later on, grandiose acts were performed where artists climbed to the top of the tower of a church or palace and went down from it walking on a tightrope. At present, this act is performed in skyscrapers, bridges or impressive natural scenarios, like Niagara Falls.
Always trying to startle the audience, tightrope walkers have added elements to increase the risk of their already dangerous trade, e.g., wearing baskets in their feet, tying their ankles, covering their eyes, and riding bikes or monocycles. In one of the most recurring acts of tightrope walkers performed by women in the XIX century, they took off their skirt to prove their great skills on the rope and showed their legs for the pleasure of the male public.
The most recognized tightrope walkers in history have been Blondin and Con Colleano. Among women we find Miss Cooke, Ella Zuila and "Bird" Millman; however the most famous of all times are definitely the Wallenda family.