why I teach (and do) flying trapeze

flying trapeze girl catching girl

It’s easy to get caught up in the details.

Ready; bend your knees. Yep, those things halfway down your legs. Bend them. Great, now jump. No, don’t bend more. Jump! Slide your feet off. Both feet. Oh god. Stop crumpling over like that. Keep your arms straight. Move your feet. Slide them forward. Forward. Forward. Off. Yes. Okay.

Legs up, hook your knees! Oh, oh, no. Just wait. Hang straight. Stop kicking! Hang straight. Now let’s get the timing just right—just listen to me! I’m trying to help you!—legs up! Awesome. Just sneak your feet through. One at a time… Okay, hook your knees and really squeeze your heels down. Why aren’t your toes pointed? Point your toes! Okay, hands off. Whoa! Slowly. Slow with the hands. Reach back. More, more, more… Why are you bent at the waist? Look back behind you! Arms by your ears. No, not hands over your ears. Arms straight. Look back. Good.

Now let’s get you back down.

flying trapeze knee hang

When I’m in the middle of coaching beginners through their first flying trapeze class, I can get fixated on the mechanics of their first trick, the knee hang. We have two hours to get ten students to a point where they can try for a catch: where they’ll hang by their knees from a swinging, steel bar, 20 feet in the air, and swing across to an instructor (known as the catcher, also hanging from their knees from a swinging, steel bar, 20 feet in the air). In an ideal world, they’ll get to their knee hang in time, meet perfectly in the middle, and go for a second swing hanging from the catcher.

As instructors, it’s our de facto goal to get as many students to achieve the catch as possible. So we push our students to listen better and react quicker and move faster. And when they succeed, everyone is thrilled.

But, at the end of the day, I don’t teach flying trapeze to teach people how to hang from their knees. (Unfortunately, being able to do so is unlikely to come in handy in your day-to-day life.) I don’t care if you don’t make a catch. Yes, there is a rush of adrenaline and achievement from getting it done. But there’s also a rush of adrenaline and achievement just from simply flying.

girl in pink shirt swinging on flying trapeze

I don’t care if you can hang from your knees. I don’t care if you can even hook them. I care that you show up, and climb the ladder. I care that you did something you didn’t know you could. I care that you feel your heart pumping your blood through your veins. I care that you forget about your day job, about who left dirty dishes in the sink, and about what you’re going to watch on your PVR when you get home.

Yes, at some point it becomes about skills. If you don’t keep challenging yourself, you don’t get to keep having that feeling. But the important thing is finding that buzz in the first place. That singular focus is the reason I show up, and it’s the reason I want you to show up too.

back end straddle whip on flying trapeze

Forget sitting in a candlelit room, listening to pre-recorded sounds of the ocean.

This is my meditation.

girl doing splits on flying trapeze no safety lines

Note: In case you didn’t notice, I messed around with my website! Check out more of my circus stuff or follow me on Instagram.

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