Photo courtesy Twin Cities Trapeze
I’ve officially run away to the circus. I didn’t fully understand what I’d gotten myself into until I was standing at the top of the platform fiercely clutching the bar, teeth chattering. An instructor shouted directions, and as soon as he yelled “Hup!” I jumped feet first.
To me, an ideal Sunday morning is spent brunching at French Meadows, not taking a trapeze lesson. But I was convinced by a friend to take a leap of faith (literally) out of my comfort zone. Twin Cities Trapeze is a facility in St. Paul that specializes in flying and static trapeze lessons, as well as Aerialates (aerial Pilates). My class consisted of nine people of all levels of athleticism. Flying trapeze classes are $45 for a 90-minute session, which is pretty reasonable considering the one-on-one time with the instructors and their careful, considerate guidance.
Thankfully, you’re not expected to jump in the deep end right away. About the first 20 minutes are spent practicing a “knee hang” position on the low bar. That’s the easy part, but next: my nerves kicked in. I cranked my neck back as I peered up at the narrowest ladder I’ve ever seen—it wasn’t more than a foot wide. I had to climb that?
The ladder shook and shimmied as each person in my group clambered up to the platform. My best advice? Do. Not. Look. Down. When I reached the platform, I genuinely wanted to cling to the instructor, and not just because he was quite attractive (contrary to the kind of clowns you might associate with a circus act). He strapped me into the safety harness, and then told me to reach my right hand out to catch the fly bar. Thank goodness they keep chalk at the top because my palms were drenched with sweat and the bar could’ve very easily slipped through my unsteady fingers.
Once I took that initial step off the platform and into empty air, trapeze didn’t seem so scary. One of the instructors claims that most people scream the first time they step off the platform. I was not one of those people (I’m more the hold-your-breath-until-you-pass-out kind of people). Luckily, the instructors maintain friendly banter throughout the lesson to keep you talking and make sure you’re feeling okay.
The fitted harness around my waist and the net below reassured my safety as I quickly turned myself upside down. Hooking my knees on the fly bar was a lot like hanging upside down from the monkey bars on the playground. Plus, I could still hear the shouts of the instructor over the blood rushing in my ears as he guided me through the steps.
Halle Mason at Twin Cities Trapeze. Photo supplied.
Everyone in my group took three or four turns climbing the ladder and flying. A few people in my group, including a former gymnast (definitely not me) managed to successfully perform a catch. A catch is a move involving two flyers. One person reaches backwards in mid-flight, grabbing the upper wrist of their partner, and releasing their legs from the bar to hang below.
To perform a catch, you don’t need to have the flexibility or strength of a gymnast. Though I didn’t personally succeed a catch, I had a blast watching everyone else. A guy in my group, a tall and lanky sort of fellow, achieved a catch on his last round. He rolled off the net with the biggest smile on his face. Even when one girl reached too late and missed the instructor’s hands, she just swiftly supermanned her way down to the net. They take all the necessary precautions to ensure participants’ safety.
I will definitely return to try another hand at trapeze. It’s an activity that allows you to get the sensation of flying without having to jump out of a plane—and it’s a great workout (you won’t need to go to the gym that day). I highly recommend going with a friend or group for two reasons so you have someone to encourage/force you up the teeny, child-sized ladder. Plus, you’ll have someone to take a picture of you when you fly. Because if it’s it not on Instagram, did it even happen?
Learn more about the unique art of flying at Twin Cities Trapeze.