Tag Archives: static trapeze

The Trapeze Diaries – Book Review

9 Jan

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Circus people make this look so damn easy,” the Aerialist says , pointing at the trapeze. “But it takes so much patience and it hurts like hell. You’re probably going to cry; you’ll get angry and frustrated. You’ll definitely bruise and most likely you’ll get scared.” The Trapeze Diaries – Marie Carter

Since I found circus (Or since circus found me) I’ve read as many books as I can on the subject and the autobiography, The Trapeze Diaries was one of my first. It’s been a few years since I’d picked it up though so I’ve read it again to refresh my memory.

Marie Carter is a twenty-something year old Scots writer whose move to New York coincides with the sudden death of her father. In the flurried activity of her emigration Marie doesn’t have a chance or the ability to grieve properly for her father but once in New York she finds that she can no longer contain the heavy feelings of her loss and her grief begins to seep from her every pore.

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Author Marie Carter

At this time she goes to see an aerial performance and becomes spellbound so she decides to take training on the fixed trapeze. We follow Marie as she goes through an excruciating but enlivening process of study. Her training begins to sculpt and strengthen her body and it has a similar effect on her mind and resolve as she gradually begins to let go of her fears, trust herself and as a result progress in her ability as an aerialist.

Intertwined with the tales of her aerial classes, the book gives touching accounts of Marie’s relationships with her mother, her brother, her late father, her friends, her lovers and herself and you can’t help but feel a kinship for the author willing her on to succeed as she goes through her mourning and her study.

The Trapeze diaries is a beautiful book, written with a real honesty and pure heartedness and for aerial diehards Marie really brings to life the fear, the frustration, the soreness,  the calluses and the pain of the beginner trapeze student. A highly recommended book.

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Rope me in!

30 Nov

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I’ve been training on the trapeze and lyra for a few years now but keen for a change and a challenge I decided to dip a very cautious toe into the world of rope/corde lisse.

I’ve always been in awe of people who train on the rope because let’s face it, it looks terrifyingly hard. Not only does it require brute strength it also requires a high tolerance for pain as the texture of the rope gifts you with all manners of burns, tears and bruises. This is before we even add in all the scary hands free drops. It’s definitely the preserve of the tough skinned kamikaze daredevil…

When I was at school, I can remember the evil sports teacher/crone Miss Miller asking us (A bunch of 11 year olds) to climb a rope without actually teaching us how to do it – an interesting teaching methodology. As you can imagine her method wasn’t a great success.

So it wasn’t until I started taking trapeze classes that I was reintroduced to the dreaded rope where it was used as part of our strength and flexibility building conditioning exercises. I was taught for the very first time how to climb a rope and boy was it hard work trying to haul my tired body upwards whilst holding on with weak kitten arms and a death grip in a desperate attempt to avoid falling off and dying. How I hated my climbing…

But then a strange thing happened. I got stronger and started to look forward to the rope!! Don’t get me wrong, it never got easier, mainly because of the amount of times we had to climb the rope in one class, but I started to actually enjoy it!

So this formed part of my decision making process to push myself by taking rope classes. I also thought that it would mean that I could feel more confident doing work on the trapeze ropes – use all parts of the equipment.

So far the classes have been tough and I have an assortment of rope ‘artwork’ across my body to prove it – particularly the bruise over my right hip which will not go…. I came to rope with pretty limited skills like catchers, hip lock, foot locks, knee drops, girl rests in rope and that’s pretty much it. I’m now being introduced to straddle climbs, hip lock climbs, scissor climbs, salto drops, the propellor and many more…

It’s early days yet and I am frustrated feeling limited in what I currently can/can’t do and I’m trying to overcome my fear – due to two falls in my first class – but I’m getting there and I’m getting stronger so watch this space. I’m won’t say that I love my classes just yet but I’m hanging on in there…. Literally!

Falling

26 Jul

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I fell from my trapeze a few days ago.

I was performing a relatively simple move so I was really shocked to find myself slipping out of my hold. I still don’t really know exactly what happened but I was upside down and all of a sudden I lost the grip of my left hand and my right leg slipped from the rope. It was pretty much a rapid downward descent from there. In my shock I tried to wildly grasp at the trapeze which meant that I over rotated on the left side of my torso and yanked my head up and around (‘cruunch’) to see what was going on but there was no recovering from the laws of gravity and I landed heavily and awkwardly on my left side – thankfully on a crash mat.

I sprang back up again really quickly wanting to avoid a stop the traffic moment and although I felt a teeny bit sore I got right back on the trapeze. I was fortunately absolutely fine and was thanking God for the crash mats that we use. However, two days later at midday I left home to go to a trapeze class and the minute that I sat on the tube, I felt a dull and aching pain in my left side and difficulty turning my torso. The left side of my neck was also affected and the pain increased throughout the day. I was really shocked because I felt fine for two days and then all of a sudden I felt excruciating pain in my neck and back as a result of this fall.

It’s now three days later and I’ve had a break from the trapeze during which I’ve been trying to move less – turning in my sleep has not been working out for me.

The pain has subsided a little and I feel better which is great but I’ve had more that one moment of panic wondering if the pain would ever go away.

The thing that surprised me the most was how much pain you could be in even when you do land on a crash mat. I’ve fallen on a crash mat before but that time it was flat on my face during an in-class performance and the only injury was to my pride – embarrassed. This time the resulting pain was unexpected and has made me think about crash mats in an entirely different way.

I once asked one of my teachers about the best way to fall and she gave an insightful response which was that there isn’t a correct way to fall. I think she’s right (although there’s probably a physicist somewhere who may argue with this). You don’t want people to think of falling as an alternative option and something that they can do safely. It’s best just to try to ensure that you never fall.

Falling from the trapeze believe it or not is not actually inevitable but for many people who have never practised aerial arts, falling and aerial arts are inextricably linked. That’s where their fear and excitement comes from and that’s why they watch behind their fingers. They believe that there is a high probability that the performer may fall. I’ve even seen numerous students in classes across London freeze and refuse to perform a move or a trick because they are terrified by the ‘thought’ of falling. They have a teacher close to them ready to spot, they may be on a safety line or have the biggest crash mat underneath them but the thought of falling prevents them from going any further.

I’ve not seen many people in any of my classes fall from their equipment. It’s not that common to be honest but when people do we usually take a sharp intake of breath, stop for a moment and ask if they’re ok – it’s all very real and it could so easily be any one of us.

What have I learned form this experience? To fully concentrate especially when I’m doing a move in a new way even if it is a move that I have done hundreds of times over and that falling on a crash mat can be a softer landing but boy it can’t save you from the agony of awkward landings…

Queen of the Circus

24 Jul

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Hello my name is Xylia and I’m a circus addict. Well more of an aerial performing addict…

I came to circus by chance. I was part of a dance troupe and was also an avid vertical dance student but I was looking for other skills to add to my repertoire. I heard about circus introduction days that were taking place at a London circus school and I signed up. I tried a variety of different circus skills including the flying trapeze, juggling, stilt walking, acrobalance and tightrope walking but fell in love with the static trapeze – straight away. I put my name on a waiting list and it took a year for me to be be given a place but I have to say that it was really worth the wait. I fell in love instantly.

Some 3 years later and I’m still hung up on circus, fitting in classes around my full-time work. Although my main practice is in static trapeze I have also taken classes in cerceau, corde lisse, silk sling and the swinging trapeze at schools across London which include, The Circus Space, Aircraft Circus (The Hangar), My Aerial Home and Gorilla Circus. I’m not a professional aerialist, I’ve never performed – although I plan to in a low key way very soon – and I feel as if I still have more to learn so that I become better but I’m up for the challenge.

Through my blog I hope to share various tips, history and my expansive love for all things aerial, for all things circus. Maybe I can even tempt a few of you over to the other side with me – the circus side…. See you there!

Photo credit: “Circus Alphabet”, Whitman Tell-A-Tale Book, 1954. Illustrations by Patric Hudson