Like any Disney princess knows, sometimes, you just have to “Let it Go.”
That’s what I told myself, standing 25 feet above the ground, while holding onto a safety bar, waiting to grab a trapeze and swing across a section of the St. Louis Union Station parking lot.
Thankfully, there was a safety harness. And a net.
Oh, did that net look lovely.
You don’t have to be an adrenaline junkie to enjoy an outing at Circus Harmony Flying Trapeze Center, which opened in April 2014 at Union Station (in the Train Shed area), but the experience sure will get your heart pumping.
My adventure at the Flying Trapeze Center was a somewhat abbreviated version of their 90-minute sessions.
After a safety briefing and stretching exercises to loosen up your shoulders, which get quite a workout during this activity, you strap on a weightlifting-style belt, which connects to the safety rigs. The safety gear certainly takes a lot of fear out of the process – at least it did for me, and I’m no fan of heights.
When your name is called, you stroll over to the 25-foot step ladder, get harnessed in and begin the climb to the platform. For me, and others in the group, climbing the ladder was a little more frightening than flying on the trapeze. But again, you’re strapped into a harness, so there’s really nothing to fear.
On the platform, you work with another team member who swaps one safety harness for another.
Then, it’s go time.
“Put your feet on the edge so your toes dangle over,” the instructor says.
“Listen to the commands from below. Keep your legs straight,” he says.
“Do you want to flip out of the trapeze?” he asks.
“Okay, grab the bar with your right hand,” he says.
“Now let go of the (safety bar that’s in your left hand) and grab the trapeze,” he says.
That was really the difficult part – letting go – because now, you’re kind of dangling over the edge of a platform, and that once inviting net looks like it’s a long way down.
Okay, the bar is now firmly in both hands.
“Keep your arms straight, keep your back as straight as you can, and bend your knees,” the instructor says. “When I say, ‘hup,’ take a step off the platform.”
And then you swing.
It’s awesome. Really, really awesome. You feel so free, like a 6-year-old on the playground, and have a great view of the area around you. Plus onlookers provide nice applause, which is always fun.
Then, you let go again, free fall down the net, bounce up and ask if you can do it again. Even if you were terrified the first time, you want to do it again immediately. It’s that thrilling.
Since I took an abbreviated version of the class, I didn’t have the opportunity to have another team member “catch” me from a second trapeze, but some of the students who preceded us did, and it looked really cool.
In fact, a 13-year-old kid picked it up right away and was flying like a pro in no time.
The Flying Trapeze Center is operated by Circus Harmony, which is St. Louis’ only social circus school (who knew?). Circus Harmony’s mission is to, in part, “help people defy gravity, soar with confidence and leap over social barriers, all at the same time.” As part of that mission, proceeds from flying trapeze school go toward supporting a shuttle bus to help under-served youth attend circus classes.