By Lauren Freedman and Nina Sharma

Hanging Over the HudsonBAP sends two Barnard college students to trapeze school!

  |  Theater & Performances  

“You go first.” “No, you. Please, I insist.” Deciding who would take the first plunge may have been the most difficult part of our trapeze experience. But once we were up on the platform, we weren’t about to turn back. We came to Trapeze School New York (TSNY) expecting a one-of-a-kind experience — and that it was. With a few minutes of preparation, we ascended the 23-foot ladder to our jumping-off point. We weren’t about to just hang around. We were about to learn some new tricks. Trapeze artists have a knack for making what they do look as easy as swinging on the monkey bars. We won’t be the first to tell you that their skills require years of training and you may not get it the first time. But in groups with a maximum of 10 participants, you’ll certainly get your fair share of flight. We trained for our first trick — the knee hang — on the ground. This was perhaps the most basic trapeze feat: to use the momentum of our swings to hook our legs over the trapeze bar and let our hands go so that in a moment of weightlessness we were able to hang upside-down. Though our relatively small class afforded us each six turns on the trapeze, we never quite got the “hang” of it — but there is no doubt that the encouragement and helpful advice of our instructors aided tremendously in our improvement. Needless to say, we definitely did better than we thought we would. The most frightening moment was at the top of the jump: gripping the bar and ready to go, we were comforted by the degree of safety guaranteed in our experience. A harness and pulley system was in place both as we climbed the ladder to the platform and as we flew through the air on the trapeze; our instructors controlled them. The platform itself is larger than standard trapeze platforms, contributing not only the feeling of extra safety but also to a sense of comfort so high in the air. In addition, we flew over a safety net, from which we were taught to dismount with individual assistance. What makes classes at TSNY such a good family outing is that they teach individuals many basic mental and physical skills: perhaps most importantly, one has to listen to directions very carefully while performing difficult physical tasks. For example, we had to listen for our cues to jump off the platform (“Hep!”), to perform the trick itself, and even to descend from the sky. In conjunction with the physical exertion of the trapeze experience, a good deal of mental toughness is developed during the two-hour lesson. To overcome any fear or trepidation, it is important to be patient with oneself and to cooperate with the instructors and with one’s peers. What’s most impressive about TSNY is that anybody from the age of 6 and up can participate. Our facilitator, Dana Rosengarten, told us that all different types of people come to TSNY. In our group, a 13-year-old on her second trip to the school (minus Mom and Dad, no less!) was giving us helpful tips and doing a beautiful job on the knee hang. For those whose fears are too great, instructors will skillfully talk you back down the ladder and attempt to counsel you and encourage a second try. All of our instructors were quick to point out that most people — even the kids — give the trapeze a second chance. Be prepared for muscle soreness in your upper body for a few days after your first flight. For those whose hands are more delicate, it’s a good idea to call ahead and find out about using grips — if you hold on to the bar as tightly as we did, your hands might blister or rip! Before we went to TSNY, our parents warned us not to run away with the circus. Though we were happy to return to the ground with a new appreciation for aerial acrobatics, our lessons at TSNY have really made us rethink our career options.

Info: Where: Hudson River Park, between Vestry and Debrosses on the Hudson River (south of Canal, on West Street) When: Daily, one- to two-hour classes throughout the day; check website for registration details, class schedules, and weather updates. How much: $35-$65 person per lesson; cost depends on day, time, and length of lesson. Online registration is required. For more info: (917) 797-1872; NOTE: • Kids under 12 must be accompanied by an adult. • Arrive 15 minutes in advance of class time. • Wear workout clothes — we recommend long pants to avoid knee abrasions. • Croakies required for eyeglass wearers. • Don’t forget the sunblock — but apply it at home so your hands won’t be greasy! • Bring water.