Mary Lowry takes a turn on the flying trapeze in the above video.
I was six years old and my mother took me to the circus. The elephants, the clowns crammed into cars, the roaring lions and their trainer were fun enough.
But I wasn’t mesmerized until a husband and wife trapeze couple and their six year-old daughter climbed up onto the platform high up in the air. The little girl’s sequined costume matched that of her parents and she flew through the air on the trapeze with a fearless grace.
I felt the deepest envy. But more than that, I felt a complete and utter disappointment in my own parents. What was wrong with them that they were not trapeze artists in the circus? Why had they not provided me the opportunity to be the little girl doing a graceful double back flip off of her trapeze? My sense of having been born into the wrong family was profound.
But of course, as the years passed I forgot that day of disappointment, that feeling of having missed my true calling. I didn’t remember it until I began to see ads for Trapeze Austin, a local business that gives trapeze lessons.
Nothing about paying $75 dollars to take a turn on a trapeze appealed to my Do It Yourself athletic nature. But when I saw a posting on Craig’s list for a part-time trapeze artist/instructor position at Trapeze Austin, I was intrigued. Getting paid to learn the art of the trapeze definitely held its appeal. I read through the job requirements –
Great with people
Able to lift your own body weight
Afraid of heights ok, but not terrified
I thought “Eureka, that’s me! (Except for the ‘not terrifed of heights’ part).”
I emailed a query about the position, but alas, it was already filled. But Cassandra at Trapeze Austin told me another position might open up soon and I should try out a class.
And suddenly, $75 to investigate a future career didn’t seem like so much money at all. I mean, law school costs $100,000. A trapeze class or two would be a drop in the career training bucket.
I arrived at Trapeze Austin nervous and excited. And as soon as I saw the trapeze—a full blown circus trapeze with platforms high about the ground—I forgot all monetary concerns. Would I be an old woman regretting the regular expense of trapeze lessons? Hell no! I’d just be happy to remember having been fearless enough to fly.
I met the trapeze instructors, all of whom were friendly and engaging. Russell Toretto, the owner/director of Trapeze Austin, welded the trapeze himself, and not only has incredible grace and skill on the trapeze, but also has a true talent for teaching.
On a practice trapeze close to the ground, the instructors taught the 10 of us in the class the trick we were to learn that day. Then they belted us into safety belts. I volunteered to go first and began the long climb up the 25 foot ladder to the trapeze platform.
I am not just afraid of heights, I am mortally terrified of them. So much so that when I worked construction I would never, ever walk a top plate; and I came to harsh words with my carpenter boss anytime he wanted me to scurry up a ladder and yank out a second story window. So the climb up the ladder, and especially the transition from the ladder to the platform, was very scary for me.
The instructor Kenny hooked the safety lines onto my belt and I stood with ten toes hanging over the edge of the platform, and the trapeze finally and wonderfully gripped in my hands.
“Ready!” And I bent my knees.
“Hep!” And I jumped off the platform.
Following the instructor’s calls I hooked my knees over the trapeze, let go with my hands to hang free, grabbed the trapeze again with my hands, lowered my legs, and did a back flip off the trapeze to land in the net.
By the end of the first class, I completed a mid-air transfer, flying through the air and being caught by the wrists by a female instructor swinging from another trapeze.
I have fought forest fires; I have run marathons; I have backpacked across the Canyonlands; I have climbed the spiraling staircase inside Gaudi’s La Templa de la Sagrada Familia; I have watched as my sister’s first baby was born.
But never have I experienced such joy, such exhilaration, as I did when flying on the trapeze at Trapeze Austin.
The instructors are excellent. Safety is their first concern. And they clearly have a passion for pushing students to learn the difficult art of trapeze.
I hope to someday be gainfully employed there. But in the meantime, I’ll keep going back as an enthusiastic and grateful student of flight.
For more information about Trapeze Austin click HERE.