I’m looking straight ahead at the sparkling buildings of
lower Manhattan. To my right, the sun is winking below the
horizon of the Hudson River. I’m several stories above the cars sprinting
along the West Side Highway.
I’m ready to jump.
Before you question my sanity, I should tell you that I’m
standing on a platform at the Trapeze School New York, and I am holding a trapeze
bar firmly in both hands as I wait for the command to leap off the edge.
The instructor yells “Ready!” and I bend my knees. On his command, I hop off and fly through the
air. It’s surprisingly easy, and
requires much less upper body strength that I’d imagined. At the top of the swing, I’m weightless; I
tuck my knees in and over the bar, accomplishing the knee hang. Once the swing reaches its next peak, I’m
told to release my hands so that I’m holding onto the bar with nothing but my
knees. On the instructor’s next command,
I return to hanging by my arms, then kick three times in rapid succession and
do a back flip onto the net below.
This is just in the first 30 minutes of class.
I’d signed up for a two-hour trapeze class. Although I’d
been told no experience was necessary, I was initially a little worried. After all, it seems like the type of skill
that would take months, not minutes, to safely attempt. But as promised, it was
possible to learn to fly as a newbie. With a few simple instructions, my fellow classmates and I were ready to
face the trapeze.
After my first flight, I know I’m hooked. When my second turn comes, I’m able to focus
on each aspect of the process: getting harnessed onto a rope for safety,
climbing up the ladder to the platform, chalking my hands to improve my grip,
and then squarely facing the trapeze. Once I grip the bar with both hands, I lean forward while the instructor
holds my safety belt from the back.
The idea of leaning off an edge with a relative stranger
holding you is initially a bit unnerving. Your immediate instinct is to ask “do you have me?” – which the
instructors assured me is the most common question they hear. The answer is yes, they have you.
Once I’m confident that I’m secure, the only task left is
to take the small hop off the board. One instructor
told me to think of it as taking a little leap into the deep end of a
pool. I hop and feel a small rush of air
tickle my face until I launch into the knee hang once again.
My instructors are huge trapeze enthusiasts
themselves. This isn’t just a job for
them; it’s a passion. One of them offered this advice to new fliers: “Don’t think too much, which is
hard for many people. The trapeze is the ultimate way to really be in the here
and now,” she said. “Let your body do the work and react to the commands as
soon as you hear them.”
About 75 percent of my class members are new to trapeze,
while a handful have already taken several classes and can perform numerous
tricks. I find the mix of newbies and
veterans beneficial since it allows those of us with little experience to
realize what’s possible if we stick with it.
Once we’re comfortable with the knee hang, we’re allowed to
attempt a “catch” at the end of class.
It requires exact timing. Most members of our class are fairly
convinced it looks like something that is way beyond our skill level. Still, we decide to try it.
For the catch, I begin by doing a knee hang, except that
midway through it, I extend my arms toward the instructor who is hanging upside
down and swinging toward me from another bar. We grip each other’s forearms and I let go of the bar. Suddenly, I find myself swinging back and
forth beneath him. What a high!
Many Sex and the City
fans might be familiar with the Trapeze School New York after seeing it in an
episode where Carrie took trapeze lessons. The school actually has two sites in New York now: an outdoor spot at Pier 40 (on
and Houston), and an indoor site on West
30th Street. On a good weather day, the outdoor location
provides stellar views of the city and the river.
Santa Monica Pier
The school recently opened a location along the Santa
Monica Pier in Southern California, which I
checked out as well. The rig was the
same as it was in New York,
although the experience itself was quite different. Instead of being perched near the Hudson
River, this school had the Pacific Ocean as
its view. Fliers were surrounded by the
giant Pacific Wheel and the general festive atmosphere of the pier’s Pacific Park and its assorted rides. But the
biggest difference was that in Santa
Monica there were tourists who stopped to watch.
Since the school is literally on the pier, it’s within full
view of anyone who passes by, which class members may find exciting or
nerve-racking. At first I felt a little nervous because of the audience, but
then I decided to use the onlookers as motivation. After all, when else in my
life am I going to have 100 strangers cheer me on as I fly on a trapeze! I
found it invigorating to watch these impromptu cheerleaders clap for class
members when they performed a trick well, and show support even when they
didn’t quite succeed.
The school also has locations in Boston
and Baltimore. Flying trapeze class prices range from $47.00
and up for a two-hour class, plus a one-time registration fee of $22.00. Prices vary depending on the day and time of
the class. No experience is necessary.