Friday, November 18, 2011

My First Time on Flying Trapeze

By Amy Baranski

Note to reader: Video of my very first flight is at the top. Scroll down for the video of my last flight: incomplete knees up, hands off, catch.

What's the Big Deal?

Last night Melissa and I headed to SANCA, the School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts, for our first ever flying trapeze lesson. About an hour before class Melissa texted me something abut pacing, checking Facebook obsessively, and being really nervous. I casually replied that I was blissfully unconcerned by the fact we were going to shortly jump off a platform and hang from a bar some feet in the air. I wasn't nervous because I thought it was a joke. There was no way that I'd be able to hang on for even one swing. And that's all we'd be doing anyway, is jumping off the platform. Flying on the trapeze and doing tricks seemed totally absurd. So what's there to be nervous about? I was just watching old episodes of Gossip Girl and making Chicken Mulagatawny--a recipe Melissa handed to me.
Me taking off.

Melissa and I arrived to SANCA in Georgetown (an industrial neighborhood in South Seattle). We saw a large and brightly light tent. "That's got to be where the flying trapeze is." Dear God it was outside! We went into the front office, which is a separate building. There were two gyms with aerial silks and ropes. I saw a balance beam, hula hoops, brightly colored jump ropes, harnesses with people hanging from the ceiling doing back-flips  There were people of all ages there too. It seemed fun, less intimidating than a gymnastics-style gym. But, intimidating enough!

I Thought She Was Joking

We walked out to the tent. There were five total beginners. Three students had taken more than one class. We were separated into the appropriate groups  Our instructor, Orville, led us through some warm ups on the ground (it was freezing in the tent). Then Kelly, a very petite woman, told us what we'd execute today on the bar. She said we'd start with a trick "because I think you can all do it." [Insert hysterical laughter].

Trying to keep my heels back. They say to do that.
She proceeded to describe the trick, which was swinging out, turning upside down by putting our knees over the bar, LETTING GO OF THE BAR WHILE UPSIDE DOWN, turning back to our starting position, and dismounting with a series of back-flips onto the net.

Then she continued the little charade by walking us through each step: how to grab the bar from the platform; how to jump off the platform; and how to move our bodies while in the air. Too funny. I almost asked when class was going to begin because surely she wasn't talking to me. I cannot hang upside down from a bar and let go of my hands. I've never done that. I don't even think I did that in kindergarten--you know that magical time when you're super short and flexible and monkey bars seem really fun. I slowly started to realize the instructor was not joking.

Not quite sure how I'm doing this.
But it felt easier than I thought it would be.
Some Like It Closer to the Ground

My fears about flying trapeze stem from an old Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis flick called Trapeze. I watched it when I was little (my parents were big into us watching old movies). There's a fall involved. So, I'm mostly scared of a technical malfunction with the net and breaking my back, or strangling myself in some of the rigging. I have a fear of heights in the sense that my blood races a little when I'm higher. I feel a bit dizzy. I don't like to smile much. But I've always been able to overcome these challenges.

My friend Melissa however, has a more genuine fear of heights. I've witnessed it. This is the kind of fear that can turn a person into weeping stone. You may recall that Melissa cried on our hike up to Lake Caroline during hiking/backpacking month. Now, she needed to climb a ladder 23 feet in the air, jump off a platform, swing out, and let go. Would she do it?

Broken Safety Line

To get up to the platform--which floats 23 feet in the air--you have to climb a very tall ladder. It's a painter's ladder. A harness is fastened above your hips and below your ribs. It's cinched so tight you can barely breathe, but your posture is great.

Once the student before you jumps off the ladder you ascend.But before you climb you hook yourself in to the safety line. This will stop your fall in the event that you slip off the ladder.

Just as the first beginner student approached the stairway to heaven the gear box to the ladder safety line broke. The instructors tried to fix it and then decided to move on. We would climb the ladder without a safety. I could see that the instructors thought it was a bit shady. We went forward. I thought for a second that Melissa might not climb the ladder. Okay it was more than a second. That's all she has to do. Once you're up the only way they let you down is by jumping off the platform and falling into the net.

I started to get nervous.

Next in Line: You

Stairway to heaven.

Kelly reminded me of the positions: grab the stable wire by the left of the ear with your left hand, step to the edge of the platform so that your toes are hanging off, widen your stance beyond hip width, lean your hips over the platform, reach for the bar with your right hand extended at eye level, move your left hand to the bar, "READY" bend your knees "HOP" jump off the platform, straighten your legs and keep your heels together. Wow. I was on the bar in the air, I could feel the swing.

Then the command from the safety, "KNEES UP!" I crunched my body and barely got my legs high enough to scramble over the bar. "HANDS OFF." I let go. I'm not falling! "REACH BACK". I correct my posture. "HANDS ON." I grab the bar again. "FORWARD, BACK, FORWARD." I whipped my legs then bend me knees and let go of the bar. I feel suspended in air and then I loose all orientation--I am somersaulting in the air. My eyes are closed. I reach my hands up around my head to instinctively protect it. I'm on the net. APPLAUSE.

So...did Melissa climb the ladder....stay tuned for her story.

1 comment:

Cassandra said...

Sounds like a lot of fun! Any chance the videos will be available?

Great job conquering a challenge!