Trapeze Flying in St. Louis | Midwest Living

Trapeze Flying in St. Louis

The 13-year-old boy made swinging from the trapeze bar set up outside St. Louis’ Union Station look easy.

Through the Circus Harmony Flying Trapeze Center, Yair Kadan of St. Louis swung a few times—at least 25 feet above the parking lot—then dropped into the net with an easy bounce. Each time he added a new skill, including a flip dismount, hanging by his knees and the ultimate triumph: a catch. With calm coaching from staffers, he swung by his legs, reached forward and grabbed the outstretched arms of trainer Jason English, who was swinging from another trapeze.

Those of us watching broke out in cheers and applause, sharing Yair’s joy and relief.

Gulp. My turn was next. No way could I do a catch. Sometime in my late 30s, the inner equilibrium that fueled a childhood full of cartwheels, flips off swim rafts and summer pool somersaults gave way, leading to severe vertigo with any upside-down dips. Roller coasters and thrill rides? No, thanks.

But a sense of daring? That was intact. Every year’s goals include “Do something that scares me.” Yep, this qualified. And then some.

I had an introduction to Circus Harmony a few years ago through its classes at the wildly creative City Museum. A group of girlfriends and I learned how to juggle and balance on a tight wire. Other classes cover aerial silks, balancing on a lyra or globe, and mastering the unicycle.

Second thoughts about this new high-flying trapeze fired up as manager Matt Viverito cinched me into a safety belt. Doubts escalated into a “What am I doing?!” mental chant as I made my way up a wiggly extension ladder. By the time I reached the oh-so-small platform, what could have been a case of butterflies in the stomach had turned to squawking crows. Every survival instinct in my body was screaming, “Step away from the edge!”

Jason was telling me the opposite. “Now put your toes over the edge. Now lean forward and grab the bar.” Yes, he held me by the harness, but being coached to lean forward so I was staring at the net 25 feet below was terrifying.

“Now grab with both hands,” he said. “Take a deep breath … Now just hop forward.” With my heart pounding, I did!

I soared forward with a thrill, swinging a few times until Matt said, “Hup,” signaling it was time to drop to the net. That was scary, too, despite the gentle bounce it turned out to be. I dismounted on jelly legs, body on full alert.

After watching three others take their first swings, I decided to try again.

“Do you want to do a back flip?” Matt hollered when he could tell I was more comfortable.

“Nope!” I shot back. I just wanted to swing, to relish the weightlessness and the rare sense of flying.

“It’s a good exercise in listening, facing fears and letting go,” Matt said. A local rabbi and trapeze fan put it this way: “It’s very deep up there because you have to hold on and let go at the same time.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Pay-per-swings at the Circus Harmony Trapeze Center are $20; 90-minute classes cost $60. 

Top photo by Lisa McClintick; other photos courtesy of St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission.

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