My Flying Trapeze Experience

I took a flying trapeze class in mid-October at TSNY LA, and absolutely loved the experience. It was the salted caramel pretzel of experiences, frightening and exhilarating and challenging and fun all at the same time. Once I was on the trapeze swing and doing tricks, I felt a complete rush of excitement, but every single time I had to stand on that VERY narrow platform, 20 feet up in the air, the adrenaline would surge through me, and I would feel very nervous. Honestly, standing on the platform was the only negative part of the experience for me! The actual tricks I learned were completely awesome, and I had NO fear while doing them. The competitive spirit in me kicked in, as did my gymnastics background, and I put in 100% effort so that I could kick ass up there. I am proud to say that I did not disappoint myself. In my last trick, I completed a successful catch from a knee hang position on the fly bar, with the catcher on the catch trap (the other bar). What a rush!

Though the experience was supposed to be a bucket list item, I enjoyed the experience so much that I am considering taking regular classes. Call me crazy, but I loved the challenge, and since my body remembered all the childhood tumbles and moves from gymnastics, the kid in me was awakened. Another thing I noticed was that my upper lats were more sore after doing trapeze work than when I hit back day at the gym. I truly enjoyed the new physical challenges and hope that my schedule allows me to fit regular classes in.

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For those of you who want to know more about the flying trapeze, I have copied and pasted the Wikipedia definition here:

The flying trapeze is a specific form of the trapeze in which a performer jumps from a platform with the trapeze so that gravity makes the trapeze swing. Most flying trapeze acts are performed between 20 and 40 feet above the ground.

The performance was invented in 1859 by a Frenchman named Jules Leotard, who connected a bar to some ventilator cords above the swimming pool in his father’s gymnasium in Toulouse, France.

In a traditional flying trapeze act, flyers mount a narrow board (usually by climbing a tall ladder) and take off from the board on the fly bar. The flyer must wait for a call from the catcher to make sure he or she leaves at the correct time. Otherwise, the catcher will not be close enough to the flyer to make a successful catch. The flier then performs one of many aerial tricks and is caught by the catcher, who is swinging from a separate catch bar. Once in the catcher’s hands, the flyer continues to swing and is thrust back toward the fly bar in a maneuver called a “return”. A return could consist of some kind of twist back to the bar, an “angel” (when the catcher holds the flyer by the feet and one arm), or any other trick that a flyer can think of to get back to the bar. Once back to the fly bar, the flyer can return to the board, and another flyer takes a turn.

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Terminology:

Listo/Lista – Ready: Used by the flyer and/or catcher to signify that they are holding the fly bar (for a flyer) or have built enough height in their swing for a catch (for a catcher) and ready to go.

Ready – Used by the catcher to tell the flyer that they should leave the board momentarily. The flyer bends their knees and if executing a one-handed take-off, dips the bar so they can raise it higher when they jump off the board.

Lining Up – Called from the board. When the person working the board for those who have not yet learned to retrieve and serve the bar themselves gives the flyer the fly bar. It really means that the flyer is “lining up” their trick.

Hup – Signal to leave the board and/or the fly bar. Sometimes used by the catcher to tell the flyer to let go after a catch when landing in the net.

First – Usually called by someone pulling safety lines when tricks are being thrown to the net. It is used for front-end tricks to signify getting to the first position.

Final – Also usually called by one pulling safety lines. It is used for front-end tricks to signify getting to the final position.

Gotcha – Some catchers say “Gotcha!” when they catch to signify that they have a good grip on the flyer and that the flyer can let go of the fly bar.

Catch Trap – The trapeze that the catcher swings on.

Fly Bar – The bar the flyer uses.

Apron – The net in front of the catch trap. (The back apron is the net in back of the board.)

Rise/Riser – A narrow board placed on the rungs of the ladder to allow the flyer to take off from a higher point.

Noodle – The long pole used to reach the fly bar when the person working the board cannot reach it normally.

Mount – When the flyer mounts the board after a return.

Return – When the flyer, after a successful catch, manages to return to the fly bar, and often all the way back to the board. In professional shows, the flyers rarely come down from the board.

Grips – Can be gymnastics grips or ones made out of tape. They are used to protect the flyer’s hands.

Chalk – Used by the flyer and catcher to absorb wetness and to reduce sticking to things such as the fly bar.

Force Out – Kicking the legs out at the peak of the flyer’s swing to gain height.

Hollow – Comes right after the force-out. It is basically a neutral position.

Sweep – Comes after “hollow”. Signifies kicking the legs back.

Seven – The last part of a force-out swing. Flyer brings legs in front of them so they will not hit the board.

Cutaway Bar – The bar that the catcher holds when the flyer executes tricks to the catcher such as normal Cutaways and Reverse Knee-Hangs.

Cut (as in Cut Catch) – The flyer is caught in a legs catch and swings out into the apron. On the next swing into the apron, the flyer thrusts their body up, and the catcher lets go of the flyer’s legs and grabs their hands.

Tricks

Below is a list of flying trapeze tricks that can be thrown to a catcher:

Feet Across (a.k.a. “Legs”)
Heels Off
Hocks Off
Splits (Front End/Back End)
Straddle Whip (Front End/Back End)
Whip (Front End/Back End)
Bird’s Nest/Birdie (Front End/Back End)
Shooting Star
Half Turn
Straight Jump
Cut Catch
Uprise Shoot
Forward Over
Forward Under
Double Over
Passing Leap
Piggyback
Pullover Shoot
Reverse Knee Hang
One Knee Hang
Flexus
Somersault
Hocks Salto
Front Hip Circle/Back Hip Circle
Seat Roll/Penny Roll (Full Time/Half Time)
Planche (Front End/Back End)
Pirouette (540)
Layout
One and a half Somersault
Cutaway
Cutaway Half
Cutaway Full
Double Somersault
Double Cutaway
Double Cutaway and a half twist
Double Layout
Full Twisting Double
Double-Double
Triple Somersault
Triple Twisting Double
Full Twisting Triple
Triple Twisting Double
Triple Layout

These are tricks performed bar to bar:

Hocks Off
Splits (Front End/Back End)
Straddle Whip (Front End/Back End)
Whip (Front End/Back End)
Bird’s Nest/Birdie (Front End/Back End)
Half Turn
Straight Jump
Planche (Front End/Back End)
Layout
Double Somersault

These are tricks that can be performed without a catcher:

Salute
Half Turn
Force Out Turn Around
Back Mount
Suicide
Reverse Suicide
Pirouette

Returns:

Half Turn
Flexus
Birdie
Legs (Twist one direction to grab the bar.)
Angel (1 or 2 legs)
Pirouette

TSNY Trapeze Tricks Chart
If you are in the Los Angeles area, and you are interested in taking a flying trapeze class, here are two excellent schools. The first one is the school I went to for my first class, and the second one is the place where I will probably take more classes.

http://losangeles.trapezeschool.com/

http://www.flyingtrapeze.com/

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