“What am I thinking?” “Have I lost my mind?” “I’m never going to be able to swing my legs up onto that bar!” “I’m going to look stupid.” That’s what was running through my mind as I pulled myself up each rung of the ladder on my climb up to the 22 foot high platform on a rooftop with New York City far below. Arm shaking like a leaf, I obediently reached out and grabbed the bar. With hips thrust out and the weight of the bar pulling me forward, my instructor hanging on to my safety harness was the only thing keeping me from swinging right off the platform. “Ready! Hep!” And with those commands my body was hurtling through the air on the flying trapeze.
I’m at the Trapeze School New York and I have three instructors for my class. It’s an all levels class and today I’m the only beginner. The other nine girls are all experiences flyers and it’s hard not to be distracted by their stunts as I get a verbal lesson from James.
The instructions are simple. Hold the bar with hands together in the center. When I hear the command “Ready!”, I am to bend my knees. And when I hear the command “Hep!”, it’s time to jump. Another instructor manning the safety lines calls out more commands, in my case “Legs up!” because my first trick is going to be the knee hang. By arching my body like a banana, I’m going to create enough momentum to easily swing my legs up onto the bar and hook it with my knees. It all sounds incredibly easy.
Except as I leap off the platform and swing through the air for the first time, I don’t hear Hal calling anything because my mind is screaming “Holy sh*t!” I swing back and forth, my arms aching with the weight of my body and eventually I hear Hal calling to me to drop to the net below. Surprisingly I don’t think twice that I’m trusting a net to catch me and I just drop. I lay there for a minute to catch my breath and let the adrenaline rush wear off. That wasn’t at all like swinging across the monkey bars in the grade school playground.
I’m still shaking when my turn comes around again, but I scale the ladder and get ready to fly again. This time I know what to expect, and I actually hear Hal’s commands. But I’m still nervous and the pounding of my heart in my ears makes me miss Hal’s command of “Legs up!” I swing back and forth, but have lost my momentum and my core doesn’t quite get the job done with getting my legs up. I drop to the net below again.
As I climb the ladder up to the platform for the third time, I tell myself that this time I’m getting my legs up no matter what. Here’s the thing about the flying trapeze – it really is mind over matter. I had psyched myself out and was already convinced I sucked at trapeze. But I wanted my picture doing more than just dangling from a bar with a look of horror on my face. I was going to do that knee hang this time no matter what.
“Hep!” I leaped and when Hal yelled “Legs up!”, I swung my legs up. And they made it on to the bar this time. As I swung by my knees, I heard cheers from the other girls below.
I flew a total of fives times in my two hour class and managed a knee hang three of the five times. Each time I did a flip off the net and back to solid ground, I gave myself a mental pat on the back just for climbing up there, flinging myself off a platform, and getting my legs up and over that bar. It was way harder than I expected, but also way more awesome! I would totally try the flying trapeze again.
Know Before You Go
- Anyone can do the flying trapeze with the help of the knowledgeable instructors at Trapeze School New York. It’s also perfectly safe and safety is paramount. You are clipped in to safety lines any time you are on the ladder, platform, or trapeze.
- You will definitely get some bumps and scrapes. These can be minimized by wearing capris that cover your knees or pants. Clothing should be tight fitting so it doesn’t get caught up in the safety lines. Also bring a pair of socks to wear.
- Classes are very affordable at $50 for the morning session or $60 for all other sessions. Check the class schedule to sign up for a class here. Not in NYC? Trapeze School also has locations in Boston, Chicago, Washington DC, and Los Angeles.
- A photographer will photograph your trapeze session and photos are available for purchase. Or feel free to bring your own camera. There are picnic tables where a family or friend who doesn’t want to try the flying trapeze can watch you soar through the air.
Disclosure: My all levels class was hosted by and all photographs were supplied by Trapeze School New York in order to bring you this story. As always, all opinions (and decisions to fling myself off platforms) are entirely my own.