Flying Trapeze (what else?)

This weekend (writing this on Oct. 7) was the weekend I’ve been waiting for! The weekend of the flying trapeze intensive. The workshop was with Debs Richards at Aerial Edge. It was fabulous and so much fun! I want to say that I wish it was even longer than six hours but by the end of it today I felt like the skin on my hands was about to come off, so while mentally I wanted more, physically I would have turned into a puddle if I’d tried.

There is something incredible about Aerial Edge and the people it attracts. There is an energy to the facility that just feels welcoming and upbeat. Debs is a visiting instructor, just up for the weekend. She is fun, upbeat, attentive and a great instructor. My biggest nemesis is working on my swing and it was a bit comical working with her on it. She was so patient with me and she really was determined to find out how to make it click in my head.

When I started static trapeze many years ago I found beats to be incredibly difficult. Beats are essentially the swinging action one does under the bar (that’s the best description my tired brain is allowing me right now). It looks easy to the average viewer, you just hang there and then swing. When doing beats there is a conscious engagement of particular muscles, you really do have to be aware of what you’re doing or you will either eventually hurt yourself, not be able to effectively get into position for other tricks properly, or you’ll just look sloppy. I have a shoulder injury from simply doing beats years ago and to this day it still bugs me, nothing major but it is a nuisance. I worked on beats a lot and I don’t recall ever getting good at them. I feel like swinging on the flying trapeze will essentially be my nemesis as beats were on the static trapeze. I’ll go into why in just a moment.

For me the scariest part of flying trapeze is the platform. You crawl up to it on a ladder (which I have numerous bruises from knocking my knees into) and the platform is maybe 6 feet from side to side (maybe less) and from front to back it’s maybe two feet at the absolute most. I literally have nightmares of being on narrow platforms that I’m about to fall from, I am terrified of heights, so I’m eager to jump off once I get up there. Also, every time I’m on the platform I’m thinking of all the ways one could fall from the platform and not land in the net, but rather on the cement. I am going up the ladder without being attached to anything at this point and I’m not shaking while waiting on the platform now, so that’s an improvement. I have developed a fear of hitting the platform after slamming my calf into it on a back swing yesterday and bruising the muscle, so I’d really love for that not to happen again but it will, it just will. Aerials hurt.

Back to the swing. As I prepare to jump off of the platform I have a lot going through my head (make sure hips are forward, straight arm holding the pole behind me and straight arm holding the trapeze bar (which is damn heavy), attempt to stand straight up even though I’m leaning at an angle but keep shoulders down, smile, pull up the trapeze bar as I jump but remember to jump up and back rather than slightly hopping off the platform, don’t bend my arms when I take off, remember to look over the bar as I jump, listen for the instructor, oh God… what trick was I going to do again?), and to me the swing is a bit complicated still, so having all of that in my head before the jump almost causes me to forget what I should be doing because I’m so focused on my take off. There is so much to the swing. I don’t know what I expected but it’s so hard for me. There are so many elements to the swing. The entire time the instructor is telling me what to do from the ground but my body seems to have rebelled and is doing the opposite of everything being said to me.

Part of my confusion is mind and body connection and part of it is not fully understanding the flying trapeze lingo. Since I haven’t gone through an official beginner course I haven’t learned a lot of the basic terms. While I’m flying I’m hearing instructions for things that I don’t understand. Some of the instructions are: seven, back, forward, out, set, hold, position, hands, hup, and so on. I was familiar with some of these going into the workshop but there are several that I either hadn’t heard or hadn’t figured out what they actually meant. Like “forward,” I assumed it was like a full beat forward but what I FINALLY realized by the end of the workshop is that it’s rather a pulse that you quickly do to add momentum to the back swing. Anyways, I feel like I have a grasp on the terms at this point; however, they fly so fast at me when I’m in the air that my brain doesn’t turn the words into movement fast enough. That said, I feel like I’m getting closer. My swing isn’t pretty but I know I’ll get there.

We got to learn quite a few tricks during the workshop and I just feel so fortunate that this workshop happened so early in my flying trapeze adventure. Debs is coming back in November and my goal is to have a passable swing by her next workshop. I love doing the tricks but I feel like I’m missing out on a fundamental building block by not having that solid swing in place. I’m still surprised at how well my body has held up this weekend. I’m sore but I never once felt like I needed a break to recoup, which is a good feeling. That makes me realize I have made some strides, however minimal, in my general strength.

All in all it was just a great weekend. I really enjoyed the other students, a lovely and supportive group, Debs was awesome and as usual all of the Aerial Edge staff were fantastic. I look forward to continuing forward with this. I must continuously remind myself that this is very new to me and I need to be patient with myself, even when I can’t seem to get my frigging swing right. It’s like this whole move to Scotland, just keep moving forward and eventually things will fall into place.


As a side note, are you going to be in Glasgow and want a little circus in your life? Be sure to check out Aerial Edge (! (picture taken at AE, the flying rig is in the background)

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