Amy Roberts: Leap of faith
There are times in every adult’s life when it all just gets to be too much. The kids are sick, the mortgage is overdue, the boss is being a jerk, you can’t afford a vacation but desperately need one. The car is making a funny noise, the milk you just poured on your cereal is expired, and the dog just peed on the new rug. All in the same day.
These are the times when many of us fantasize about throwing caution to the wind and leaving it all behind in favor of a more glamorous life with little responsibility. The times we dream about running off and joining the circus.
If you’re having one of those days, I’ve got some good news for you. A new company — Utah Flying Trapeze — has just made it possible to join the circus, and still be back home in time for dinner.
They offer a two-hour trapeze school where amateurs can live out their fantasies of performing on the flying trapeze. A friend told me about it, it sounded like fun, so I gathered up a few neighbors and their kids last weekend, and we got our Cirque du Soleil on. The school is located in Pioneer Park in downtown Salt Lake and offers instruction for beginners up to professional-level trapeze artists.
Considering I get nervous standing on my tiptoes, and one of the kids in our class was five, I’m glad we enrolled in the beginner level course. I learned a lot, including that there is no shame in being shown up by a kid who can count her years on one hand.
I’m not sure what I expected, maybe a few hours of classroom work and written tests before they turn you loose on a trapeze; but within minutes of the lesson’s start, you’re in a safety harness and climbing a ladder to a very small platform. Which proved to be one of the most difficult parts of the day. But the instructor at the top encouraged me the whole time. "Everyone gets nervous climbing this ladder," he insisted. "You’re normal." My instinct was to correct him on that last part, but my teeth were chattering too much to get a coherent sentence out.
Before I knew it, I was holding onto a trapeze bar, the instructor was holding on to my safety harness and telling me it was time to jump.
My first "flight" was a disaster. It took me several minutes to leave the platform. And when I finally did, I couldn’t let go of the bar when I was told to. I’d stopped swinging, there was a net, and I was being belayed by another instructor. Yet I just hung there, unable to let go.
But eventually my arms got tired and gravity won out. I flopped into the net unsure if I was going up for a second attempt. "I don’t think I can do this," I told one of the instructors, who must double as a confidence-building therapist. "Oh yes you can. I promise. Everyone is scared their first time. I’m going to talk you through it, just listen to my commands. You did great! Just have fun with it." On and on his pep talk went.
And it must have worked, because each time I climbed that ladder and leapt from the platform, I got a little better. Eventually I was able to hang upside down from the bar, swinging with my arms hanging free over my head.
And then, for the grand finale, two hours after the class began, my classmates and I attempted a "catch." It was the same maneuver we’d been working on, but this time as you hang from your knees and let go of the bar, you reach for an instructor on the opposite trapeze and let go. Ideally, he catches you.
It took a few tries, but everyone who attempted it succeeded. And from the reaction of our fellow classmates, you would have thought we’d all just performed a death-defying trick with no net, over a raging fire pit and a swamp full of hungry crocodiles. Needless to say, we all got a little excited for each other. Which only added to the feeling of accomplishment.
While the Ringling Brothers won’t likely be recruiting any of us in the near future, the class was indeed a great way to escape reality for an afternoon.
Amy Roberts is a longtime Park City resident, freelance writer and the proud owner of two ill-behaved rescue dogs, Boston and Stanley.
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