A few weeks ago, I received a text from my friend Kourtney saying she was doing a trapeze class in the city. A trapeze class? I didn’t even know they offered those. At first I laughed and asked if I could come watch her for my own entertainment, but then she said it was only $10, and my interest was piqued.
“What the heck,” I thought. “Maybe the circus is my calling.” So I signed up, and last Tuesday, we went.
The company, Aloft Circus Arts, recently moved to Logan Square, and as a way to spread the word of its new opening, “taster classes” in trapeze, trampoline, silk and others were offered for only $10 during its first week. After that, those interested were able to purchase eight-week classes for various prices.
When we pulled up to the small church, I think Kourtney and I had the same thought of “there’s no way this is big enough for acrobats.” Walking in, however, we were proven wrong.
The church was divided into three different classroom areas: the basement was their fitness class, where strengthening and conditioning classes were held for athletes to build the important muscle groups needed in circus arts. The second floor had colorful silks, ropes and hoops hanging from the high ceilings, and the third floor, which was more of a balcony in the second room, was the static trapeze.
Now, when I signed up, I thought “taster class” meant I was going to be tightrope walking, flipping, bouncing on trampolines and the whole shebang; however, the trapeze taster class was strictly on the trapeze bar, which was probably better and safer for someone like me, who is pretty clumsy and uncoordinated.
Our two instructors started the class with some warm-up stretches and introductions. Normally, I dread the “say your name and a fact about you” spiel at the beginning of a class, but this time, I was relieved when I found out barely anyone had any circus experience whatsoever. I wouldn’t be the only one making a fool out of myself that night.
Next, they had us grab a bar, (there were four of all different heights), and hang to teach us the proper form, because you can be easily injured if you dangle incorrectly. Easy enough, right? I jumped up, tried to relax my shoulders and hung there. Then they had us add in a slight swing. At this point, my hands were burning and I could already feel blisters forming on my palm – how was I going to survive a 90-minute class?
However, after the first few moves, it went really fast, and I actually kind of impressed myself! Once I got the hang of lifting my body onto the bar, I was able to complete every move almost fluidly, without much help from the instructors. We hung upside down, flipped ourselves up to sit on top of the trapeze, wrapped our legs around to do the “mermaid” (pictured above), and a few other fancy moves. By the end, I was really surprised with how natural I felt hanging by a bar, something I hadn’t done since elementary school recess.
While I did work up a little sweat every time I would perform, it didn’t feel like too hard of a workout, even being in there for an hour and a half. But saying my arms were sore afterwards would be a major understatement; both Kourtney and I complained for three days how our “inner elbow muscle” (the result of us not knowing anything about muscles), shoulders and back hurt. I don’t have very much upper body strength to begin with, but the soreness from the class proved that we worked totally different muscles than we’re used to.
After that class, I have so much more respect for those who actively seek out circus arts, and those who actually perform in the circus. It clearly takes a lot of strength, as well as time and dedication to master the moves and be able to do them over and over again.
It also was a lot more fun than I anticipated. Actually, Illinois State University is one of the two schools in the country that has a student circus, Gamma Phi Circus, and I watched its shows a few times. While I always thought flying through the air looked freeing, performing tricks on a bar alone was surprisingly enjoyable, and those were just beginner moves. I can’t imagine how much fun the professionals have when they are 50 feet in the air hanging on to a rope by their pinky finger.
In the end, I am so glad I tried my hand at trapeze. The only bad thing I have to say about circus arts is that they’re expensive – we received a sheet at the end of class listing the different options, and some were $200-$300 just for eight weeks. But I had so much fun at the class, and actually felt stronger afterwards, that I considered doing it for a split second, until I remembered that I haven’t even started paying back my college debt. So, my future may not entail perfecting the circus arts, but I can say that I’ve tried it. That may be for the better though, because clowns scare me to death.