Trapeze

For our first foray into Navy Yard for the Know Your Neighborhood series, we looked at one of the most known unknowns of our neighborhood: the Trapeze School of New York—Washington, DC.

It’s Sunday morning and the sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and I’ve got a spring in my step. As I leave my home, I ride my bike down M Street SW, thinking only of what lies ahead. When I arrive at 4th and Tingey St. SE, I see the phrase that will be my motto for the next two hours: “Forget fear. Worry about the addiction.” The Trapeze School of New York’s logo could not be better suited for a school where people voluntarily fly through the air.

After I sign the waiver, I am directed not inside, but to the outdoors trapeze area—the nine-person class will be held outside! It’s sunny and 75 degrees, and here I am a basking in the slight breeze coming off the water. Rarely have I felt as refreshed as I do in this moment. As the instructors suit me up in my harness, they ask me about my previous experience with flying trapeze; I give a chuckle at the thought of the question. Just then I look around and realize that most of the eight other students have been here before. There is the trapeze-master mother with her ten-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son, the two early-30s guys clad in Ray-Bans and Urban Outfitters shirts, the mid-20s special education teacher with blue hair, and the young blonde who is getting back into flying trapeze after three years. Then there’s me, the definitely-not-qualified-to-be-here Editor-in-Chief of The Southwester. We run through the basic commands and safety brief, and before too long I am climbing up the ladder.

Standing on a platform 30 feet off the ground, I look to the south and gaze at the river. Nationals fans are grabbing outdoor seats at Bluejacket to the north. I am being latched into the harness that will act as my safety blanket. In my first run, I practice a basic swing just to get a feel. After swinging back and forth and getting accustomed to the commands, I let go of the swing and safely fall back into the net—a very freeing experience.

On round two, my instructors give me confidence and say I should try for an upside down hang from my knees. Given that there are two children in the class who are one-third my age and already performing this move, I quickly agree. As I stand on the platform and go through the moves in my head, I remember what they told me about the safety equipment — “It’s practically impossible to get injured.” I hear the ‘hep!’ call and pop off the platform. I swing forward and when I reach the apex, I pull my long legs to my chest and throw them over the bar. “Hands off!” is the next call. I release my hands and swing upside down through the air taking in the same views as I did from the platform, but now upside down, catching an even more breathtaking view that few experience. On my next three turns, I repeat this hanging move as it is the basis for a “catch,” all while learning a new dismount off the bar: a backflip! This is the first backflip of my life. And it comes from 30 feet in the air.

With two turns per flyer left, we each will have a chance at a catch. A catch is when an instructor on the opposite bar hangs by his legs and catches you as you release from your own bar. This move seems out of the realm of possibilities given I just started my flying trapeze career a mere 90 minutes ago. As I climb the ladder, I go through the moves in my head. I’ve done this multiple times now. I know the calls. I know the timing. I am ready. As I hear ‘hep!,’ instinct throws me off the platform. I swing forward and immediately forget everything. My mind goes blank. The instructor calls for me to move to the knee hang, I awkwardly get into the move just in time. As I fly upside down towards the instructor, my timing is off – way off. We are not near each other—he realizes this, I do not—nevertheless I thrust myself forward, releasing from the bar and flying towards no one. In the most dramatic of failed Peter Pan impressions, I fall face first into the netting. We all get a good laugh.

Attempt 2: Redemption. After making a ‘trapeze bro pact’ with my eight-year-old classmate, Jonathan, I am back up on the platform for the last and final attempt. Jonathan, my four foot tall compadre-in-arms, has just successfully landed his catch. I’m the last flyer of the day. The crowd is watching. I fly off the platform, focused on my move. I easily make the change to my hang and open up at just the right time for my instructor to catch me. I release my legs and fly through the air, taking in an amazingly new view while I release an exultant shout of happiness!

As I bounce down to the mat, I give a hearty laugh while my classmates give me a round of applause. A mere two hours ago, I was a mortal, but now I am a flying trapeze artist…or so I tell myself.

For more information on the Trapeze School of New York—Washington, DC, visit http://washingtondc.trapezeschool.com; or call (410) 459-6839; or Email: dcinfo@trapezeschool.com. With classes ranging from flying trapeze to trampoline to juggling to balancing and aerobic, there is surely something for everyone. Classes are held seven days a week, and the school is also open for parties and corporate events.

By: Shannon Vaughn

Editor-in-Chief, The Southwester

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