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First Flight: Trapeze, Day 117

September 3, 2010

On a hot August day, the Circus Warehouse (formerly New York Circus Arts) comes alive with activity as I open the metal door. Gymnasts and fitness junkies tumble on the floor and navigate the aerial silks during a block of time set aside for open exercise, while students in intensive circus training programs balance and glide through the ballet barre instruction in the back. While preparing the space for our trapeze class, a tan, fit, and friendly man introduces himself to me as Gino Farfan, one of the three new owners of the newly restructured company. With extended compliments for the class’s talented instructor, Suzy Winson, Gino understates his own role as the man who watchfully times each move, jump, and catch as he calls instructions to everyone involved throughout the duration of the evening.

Time progresses. I meet Matthew Valenti, the thoughtful and effective general manager who offered me this unbelievable course as an added follow up to their Intro to Circus Arts Groupon deal. Suzi Winson introduces herself, and Michelle Arvin, my first instructor in this space, tells me of their (Michelle, Suzi, and Gino) recent move to ownership of the organization now operating under the name of Circus Warehouse. The other students, I discover, have entered this class from various journeys and all walks of life. Tonight, Michelle studies trapeze alongside the rest of us, including a gymnast from California, some foreign students either studying temporarily or on vacation, and a handful of New Yorkers looking to enhance their otherwise non-circus oriented lives. I stand alone as the only one who has never attempted trapeze.

By the time I again see Suzi up close, I have a harness, rosined hands, and a more rapidly beating heart from ascending the thin metal ladder up to the jump platform. Her smile reassures me, and while the net lies closer than I suspect, my eyes insist upon focusing on the gap between myself and the actual ground. With a few quick instructions from Gino on the ground and Suzi in the air, Suzi, holding me securely by the back of my harness, hands me the bar, prompts me to grab it with me second hand and “Hep!” I bunny hop off of the platform for my first flight.

“Forward, back, forward, stretch! Forward back forward!” Gino calls from the floor as I rediscover muscles clearly neglected since childhood. After a few attempts to master the timiding and motion of my swing, Gino encourages me to let go into the net with another “Hep!” My heart beats faster here too. Gently falling into the not-too-distant net, I feel quite the rush of joy from my first attempt and proceed to learn again from Gino, the proper way to dismount back to the ground.

Almost equally thrilling, I have the opportunity as I wait for my next turn to watch carefully the other students, all with different skill levels and body types. The men try their single or double flips, most of the students eventually attempt moves followed by catches, and one woman achieves her first successful double flip with a catch. A visiting student named William takes his turn on an iPod and, while waiting, listens to “Eye of the Tiger,” a favorite motivational song among this group. Meanwhile, Gino tells me of his status as a third-generation trapeze artist (quite humbly, in fact) who has studied since the age of six. He knows a septuagenarian still flying and in famously good shape.

Oh, that I could attest to such a high level of fitness! Perhaps with their helps someday I might achieve it.  Their online schedule lists some tremendously tempting options. More immediately, I might take some of their dance classes this fall before heading to Washington State for some concerts and auditions in November. I definitely need to dust off the dancing portion of my brain before actively participating in musical theater auditions!  While a lower cost also adds to the appeal of ballet barre, I definitely hope to take trapeze again soon. I know no other exercise that so fully engages me, physically or otherwise, and the company of the instructors and other students make the experience all the more worthwhile.  Not bad at all for a first flight.

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