Silks Class

aerial silks

Last fall, I began taking flying trapeze classes and loved the challenge of performing tricks while suspended in the air. What I did not enjoy was being up on the pedestal board, which is the 12 inch deep platform that performers stand on and launch from. Even though I don’t have a significant fear of heights, that damned platform would freak me out every single time I went up there. When you set up to launch off the board, you have to lean completely forward, either by holding onto the side rail or having someone hold you at the waist while you lean waaaaaaay forward. It’s completely unnerving. After three flying trapeze classes, and twenty visits to that blasted board, I still hated being up on the board so much that it distracted me from the joy I felt when I was finally swinging on the trapeze. I could no longer deal with the feeling that my heart wanted to leap out of my chest every time I stood on the board, so I abandoned my pursuit of the flying trapeze.

Though I was pretty much done with flying trapeze, I began to consider taking classes in static trapeze, bungee trapeze, and lyra hoop. I also looked into aerial silks and was so fascinated that I had determined that it was the aerial art I wanted to try next. My roommate and friend Myra bought me a silks class session for Christmas (thank you Myra!), so my opportunity to try silks came about even sooner than I had expected. I booked a class session and headed over to the dance studio earlier this week after work.

The instructor, Kylie, was very friendly and really knew how to explain the tricks in a way which anyone could understand. She showed me the first move, which was a straddle mount inversion. You can see a straddle mount inversion demonstrated in this video:

After Kylie demonstrated the move, she had me come up and try it. I grabbed the silks and attempted to jump into a straddle. No go. My legs folded in and I sank to the mat. I tried a second time and got it, but I didn’t look nearly as graceful as the former ballerina who was now trying to instruct me on the art of aerial silks.

We then did the single foot lock:

And aerial splits:

Throughout the class, I also did arabesques and other ballet-inspired moves while suspended on the silks (it’s a good thing I took basic ballet when I was a kid!). At the end of the 75 minute class in aerial silks, my interest had not waned. I was intrigued. I loved the challenge of using the strength in my abdominals and arms, but the forearm tendinitis and achiness in my wrists and hands became limiting factors in my stamina, so I have some concerns about taxing my body by taking more classes. There are other obstacles as well: 1. lack of free time, 2. lack of funds, and 3. not wanting to remember all the choreography in my already very full brain.

If you are considering taking aerial silks, be aware that you will be at a distinct advantage if you have a strong upper body, because you will be supporting your body weight with your upper body for the majority of the time. If you have severe arthritis in your shoulders, elbows, wrists or hands, you will not enjoy silks. This is a VERY challenging art!

Static Trapeze

static trapeze

I recently started taking flying trapeze classes and have enjoyed them immensely. However, I began to analyze the reasons why I enjoyed the flying trapeze, and realized that the acrobatic moves were the most intriguing to me. Though I love the whole idea of swinging 20 feet up in the air and doing catches with the catcher, the timing is critical. When you’re trying to think about your trick, setting up your trick with proper timing, and paying attention to the calls from the catcher, all while swinging up in the air, you can get a bit rattled.

I thought that if I removed the flying variable from the trapeze, perhaps I would be able to concentrate more on the tricks. Because of this notion, I am looking into taking static trapeze classes as well. I took gymnastics for several years when I was a kid, and since my best event was the uneven bars, I thought a great progression from childhood gymnastics would be the static trapeze. I like the fact that trapeze isn’t the first thing people think of when considering athletic pursuits, and I also like the fact that trapeze is vastly different from weightlifting. Hopefully my creaking joints and reduced flexibility will dissipate as I venture more deeply into the trapeze arts.

Once I take static trapeze, I will post an update on the experience.

My Mom Thinks I Am Fearless

My mom has always been my biggest cheerleader, and encouraged me to give every endeavor all of my energy and ability. She is also a typical mother, and worries about my safety, particularly when I travel. She was so concerned when I went to Hungary alone last year that she worked herself up into a fuss, almost begging me not to go. I later discovered that she was concerned that I would fall in love with the country so much that I wouldn’t want to return to California. Though I loved Hungary, and would love to visit again, I have zero desire to live there, so my mom has nothing to worry about. It’s funny how my mom will suddenly become anxious when I tell her I have a trip coming up, so I figured the same anxiety would kick in if I took part in a daring activity.

trpeze
This year, I took two flying trapeze classes, and loved them so much that I plan to take a class each month to satisfy my desire to learn as much as I can about the art of trapeze. I told my mom about the first class I took with some hesitation, because I thought she would scold me for doing something she might perceive as dangerous. We were at lunch, and while we were waiting for our food to arrive, I showed my mom video footage of me up on the trapeze, doing a knee hang, then dismount. I waited for her to berate me, but instead she calmly watched the video and said, “Good for you, I’m impressed.” I asked her if she was okay with the fact that her 49 year old daughter swung from a fly bar (the pole the flyer uses to swing from and do tricks). Her response was, “You’ve always been fearless. I’ve never worried about you being afraid of doing daring things.”
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I was so surprised, because I thought my mom was under the impression that I shied away from daring activities. As we talked more, I realized that my mom admired my willingness to engage in activities which forced me to deal with heights. In addition, my mom revealed her own fear of heights, something I never realized until that moment. She said, “Why do you think I had other people take you on the roller coasters when you were a kid? Why do you think I had someone else take you up on the giant carpet slide?”

My mom had a fear of heights all this time, yet I never knew that until two months ago!

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/