Circus Arts run classes in circus skills and trapeze in Byron Bay, Ballina, Sydney and Brisbane. They own and operate Brisbane's only trapeze rig, in Alderley, North Brisbane, which sits beneath an old chimney stack by the train line, making it easy to find and get to.
My brother-in-law had once taught trapeze at a resort in Mexico. I had had no experience with it, or indeed any circus-related activity besides juggling, so last weekend he had me booked in to a Saturday class. The one casual class cost $60, but if you buy in packs of 5, 10 or 15, classes are $39, $36 or $33 each, respectively.
For those still a little unsure, the flying trapeze is that part of a circus performance involving the suspended bars and the swinging circus performers, who fling and catch themselves over a net. Arriving at the rig, seeing the sprawling net and the wiry bars, it dawned on me that I had no idea what I was expecting of myself, whether I could find the courage, and if I'd live to post my status update.
At 9:30am the class began. After being fixed with a belt and given the safety briefing, the 12 or so of us in the class were taken to a practice bar to run through the basics of the first manoeuvre we would make: the 'knee hang' (hanging upside-down, suspended at the knees). There's any number of fantastic tricks and moves you can learn at the rig if you decide to go regularly, but the knee hang is the most basic.
The class, I noticed, comprised young and old, some agile-looking and some less so, but we were all complete novices. Some were there for birthdays, some dragged along by friends and partners, some to overcome their fear of heights, and others to seriously pursue the art of flying trapeze.
After instruction, the trapezing began. We had three attempts at performing the knee hang and two attempts to complete the knee hang and get caught by a swinging catcher, sat on the suspended 'catch-trap' about 15m at the other end of the net. In all, five swings per person for the day. Surprisingly, almost everyone in the class had the move worked out by their third attempt, and most were caught by the catcher by their second catch.
Is it scary? Yes. Climbing the ladder to the board only partly prepares you for the rush of adrenaline as you lean out to the bar and, on the instructor's command, let your feet drop and fall into the swing. That your safely roped-in and suspended 'in lines' is only an afterthought. I'm not especially afraid of heights, so I was surprised that my nerves only began to settle just before the final swing.
Is it safe? Yes, but it's not without risks, which the instructors clearly explained during the class. The swinging and manoeuvring is all done with ropes attached to your tightly fitted belt, so any fall to the net is significantly slowed, reducing the risk you'll land awkwardly and hurt yourself.
You certainly don't have to be a trim, taut gymnast to give it a go; if you can support your own weight, you can swing on a trapeze rig. I'll be back at the rig next week to try a different trick.
Classes are run on Friday evenings, Saturdays and Sundays, and can be booked through the Circus Arts website circusarts.com.au.