Fly through air with greatest of ease
By Moira McLaughlin
Friday, March 26, 2010
"Some people don't care if they live or they die. Some people wanna know what it feels like to fly. They gather the courage and they give it a try."
-- Patty Griffin, "Trapeze"
Here's something different to do this weekend: Find out what it feels like to fly.
"I'm Mandy. Have you flown with us before?" the charming and enthusiastic trapeze instructor, Mandy Keithan, 31, asked a group of seven fliers on a recent Saturday morning.
It's thrilling. It's fun. It's an adrenaline rush. It's a confidence boost. It clears your head. That's how the fliers describe it. "It's not like anything you get to do in your regular life," said Jessica Sun, 27, a government worker who started flying two years ago after her sister gave her a gift certificate to a class. Now she flies about twice a month.
The Trapeze School New York opened in Washington last summer, but last month it moved to a new location in Southeast, near Nationals Park.
The classes are a mix of new fliers and experienced ones, but the newbies get about 20 minutes in the beginning of class for rules and instruction. It takes no time at all before you're flying through the air with the greatest of ease, sort of.
One student flies at a time, and class size is limited to 10, giving you about eight times on the trapeze during the two-hour session.
"Often we find that the main thing that limits people is what they think they can do," Keithan said. And the first thing you have to think you can do is climb up a ladder to about 23 feet off the ground.
The entire time, starting from the bottom of the ladder, you are hooked to safety belts. An instructor meets you on the platform in the air, hooks you up to another safety belt and instructs you: "Ready." And then "Hep" which means jump. Another instructor from the bottom calls out commands as you swing. "Legs up," and "Hands off" means you hang by your knees. "Tuck" and "let go" means flip backward and land in the net. It all goes very quickly.
After you do that about six times, you get a couple of times to do a "catch," meaning you grab a flying instructor's hands as you fly. It's then that you'll really feel like you're in the circus.
Amateur trapeze flying has become more and more popular recently, said Meghan Bourke, 29, another instructor at the school. (TSNY has schools in four cities.) Most fliers are women.
Jennifer Kane, 48, a psychotherapist has flown about a dozen times, working on something new every time she comes. "You won't need therapy," she said. "Just come here."
Everyone at the recent class was fairly fit and physically active in other ways. Some did yoga and rock climbing. A couple of people had a background in dance and gymnastics. Many of the instructors have a background in the circus.
Chances are, whoever you are, you'll feel a little sore the next day. But the school has no physical or age restrictions. (But if you want to bring your child who is younger than 6 to a class, the school recommends calling ahead for a consultation.)
The idea, Keithan said, is to get people a little outside their comfort zones but not so far out that it's not fun. "You don't have to be afraid of anything. If you are willing to jump off the platform, you have faced a demon," she said.
-- Moira E. McLaughlin
Where is it? Fourth and Tingey streets SE, the unmarked, white tent on your left as you drive toward the Anacostia River. Metered credit card parking weekdays until 6:30 p.m. is $1 an hour, or a parking lot across from the school is $9 for two to three hours. Street parking is free on the weekends. The closest Metro is Navy Yard.
When is it? Saturday 8:15 a.m., 6 and 8:30 p.m.; Sunday 8:15 a.m. and 8:30 p.m.; Monday 10:45 a.m., 3:30, 6, and 8:30 p.m.; Tuesday: 10:45 a.m., 1:15, 3:30 p.m.; Wednesday, 10:45 a.m., 1:15 and 3:30 and 6 p.m., Thursday, 10:45 a.m. and 1:15 p.m.
The two-hour classes fill up quickly. A signed waiver is required.
How much is it? Weekend classes are $55. Weekday classes are $45 or $51. There are cancellation fees.
What do I wear? Yoga pants, tights or tight sweat pants, a fairly snug shirt so that a tight belt will fit around your waist and socks.