Living on a Wire: 3 of the Greatest Tightrope Artists All Time

Living on a Wire: 3 of the Greatest Tightrope Artists All Time

21st November 2019

Walking across a tightrope at a great height has long been regarded as one of the most spectacular feats of daring that anyone can attempt. Technically known as funambulism, this is an activity that has produced a number of world-famous acts and unbelievable feats of bravery over the years.
Charles Blondin Crossed Niagara Gorge Blindfolded
No discussion of tightrope walking is complete without a mention of the legendary Frenchman. During the second half of the 19th century, his name was so closely associated with this art that many people who performed at heights used the Blondin name.
He trained as an acrobat from the age of five and made a living from tightrope walking during decades. Perhaps his most spectacular stunt was when he crossed the 1,100 foot Niagara Gorge on the border between the US and Canada.
Blondin amazed the public by crossing Niagara in a number of incredible ways. He did it while blindfolded one time, and while on stilts on another occasion. These feats were typically done without any safety equipment such as a net or step unit.  
Karl Wallenda and the 1,800 Feet High Crossing
The founder of the iconic group called The Flying Wallendas was born in Prussia and started performing at the age of six. He later moved to the US to show off their revolutionary seven-man pyramid and other outstanding feats.
Wallenda became famous for carrying out headstands while crossing the Tallalah Gorge in Georgia. At the age of 69, he set a new world record by carrying out a courageous crossing at King’s Island at the height of 1,800 feet. Tragically, he died in 1978 when attempting to cross on a wire between towers in Puerto Rico in high winds.
The Wallenda name lives on in the tightrope world, though. Lijana and Nik Wallenda hit the headlines earlier this year when they successfully crossed Times Square in New York at a height of 25 stories, with the two of them meeting in the middle and passing one other at the dizzying height of 1,000 feet. 
Con Colleano Did a Forward Somersault on a Tightrope
This renowned Australian artist became known as the Wizard of the Wire thanks to his intrepid feats. Born as Cornelius Sullivan, he learned circus skills from his father before starting to perform in his own right.
His greatest claim to fame occurred in 1919. This was when he became the first person to complete a forward somersault while on a wire. This cemented his reputation as one of the greatest highwire artists of his generation and would remain as the conclusion of his act from then on.
Colleano performed in places like South Africa and the US, using a Spanish toreador image and carrying out bullfighting moves and Spanish dances while up on the tightrope. A genuine star at the time, he was earning a staggering S1,000 each week as the main draw of the Ringling Bros circus that attracted up to 16,000 spectators.