What do you do with a group of multi-aged cousins from cold climates who are eager for sun and fun during a visit to sunny Los Angeles? Send them to trapeze school, of course! We took six cousins – ranging in age from 12 to 22 – a bevy of iPhone-toting parents, and some strong-stomached grandparents, to the Santa Monica Pier for a fun, two-hour session and we all felt like we’d run away to the circus.
Nestled between the Ferris Wheel and a bevy of hot-dog stands on the Santa Monica Pier is a discreet group of ropes and nets, home of the Trapeze School New York, Los Angeles chapter. A few diligent aerial athletes were calmly working on their craft, amidst the steady tourist stream along the wide, wooden-planed pier and we were welcomed in, asked to sign away our lives on a legal waiver, and led to the ropes area. As we waited for the session to start we watched a family bouncing around on a trampoline, a group of girls working out on the silks, and a class finishing up their trapeze lessons. As we watched them fly through the air, we were caught up with doubt: would we actually be able to do what they were doing after a two-hour session?
The company’s motto made us smile:
Forget Fear. Worry about the Addiction
Two hours later, we were totally hooked. Turns out, they’re pretty much right about getting addicted to flying through the air. Over half of our group decided to return for a second (and third) lesson! And a certain fifty year-old discovered her inner aerial-artist self (although there was a little soreness the next day!). Everything about the experience was ideal. The instructors were strict about rules, but instilled confidence in all of us and safety was clearly the #1 item on the agenda. The balance of learning and doing was appropriate to satisfy worried parents, and to occupy antsy kids. Fun was had by all via the delight that comes from mastering something new. Even those of us on ground enjoyed watching our offspring conquer something new. From young to old, confident to trepidatious, everyone had a blast.
Here’s how it works: After a 15 minute basic training course on the ground, the participants were sent up the ladders to try their hand at simple swing and hang techniques. After everyone mastered that, there was another brief training session and everyone went up to try the next move, which was to hang from your knees. By taking small steps through the process, the kids all gained confidence and began to conquer their fears.
Safety is, naturally, the main concern to parents and there were certainly moments that looked a little dicey to a mother’s eye – arms akimbo, a drop to the nets that seemed to be too tilted towards the head — but anything potentially bad was averted by the elaborate ropes on each person, which are controlled by an instructor on the ground.
Soon they knew how to catch the bar, release the ropes, swing through the air and fall safely in the the nets. The final test was to release the bar, and fly through the air to be captured by one of the staff before dropping safely down into the nets.
TSNY was started in 1998 by a guy who took a trapeze class on a vacation and came home to create a school “that helps folks discover (or rediscover) what they’re capable of.” Like most outdoor ropes or adventure courses, participants must push past their natural fear, which when conquered, is exhilarating. My nephew was so terrified of flying that he was visibly shaking on the high post and after his dismount. Yet, he kept battling and at the end of the two hour session, was grinning from ear to ear, having captured the hands of the trainer as he released his bar and survived a few air bound seconds. Victory!
I have heard stories about trapeze lessons goals set by people facing “big birthdays” and the exhilaration felt in the process is a great gift. And it should be — learning to fly is pricey – on the weekend the two hour session costs $65, (it’s a little cheaper during the week), and there is a break if you sign up for multiple classes. Tip: you need to know whether you like it or not before you sign up for a series! Beginners can come in a group or fly solo, and those who get addicted can return for ongoing workshops in trapeze, silks, or trampoline.
TSNY has chapters in five cities across the US, and the organization really knows what they’re doing in terms of safety and teaching methodology. The company’s website is worth perusing and answers any question you might have, including FAQs about the science of flying! They have a winter intensive workshop starting now, with discounted pricing available.