Roped in to hanging out
Whoever came up with the song lyrics, “He floats through the air with the greatest of ease” to describe a trapeze artist had obviously never tried the art themselves.
Because although the pros might make it look easy, it is anything but.
As I lie on my floor mat, deep breathing at the beginning of a low-flying trapeze class, I wonder what I’ve got myself into.
But the trapeze swings hanging from the ceiling above us look fairly harmless and at half a metre high, not exactly dangerous. Really, how hard can it be? Teacher Annie Minton explains we’ll be using muscles we never knew we had.
Within the first five minutes I can see what she means – the action of hanging by my hands strains my back muscles and shoulders, which probably haven’t been used since my days on the monkey bars in the school playground.
After all, how often do grown adults really hang from things these days?
We try out a couple of different exercises, coming to a seated, then standing position on the bar, then hanging upside down from our knees.
Annie’s gymnast-like physique makes it look easy but after attempting it a couple of times, I’m not sure my body is supposed to bend in that way.
It looks like that dream of joining Cirque du Soleil will have to wait.
Pretty soon though, we’ve all gained confidence and the class of women clamber up and down from the swings easily.
The trapezes are raised to just under two metres off the ground and we practise various movements, swinging around in circles and coming from an upside down to a standing position.
At the end of the class I can feel the strengthening and stretching in a gentle ache in my muscles.
But this is not about getting a hard-core workout. It’s about having fun and letting go of inhibitions – with an upper body and abdominal workout thrown in as an added bonus.
There’s no doubt that swinging is good for the soul.
The sensation of floating through the air is liberating and a great stress release.
Fellow trapezer Mary Anne Abplanalp says that’s what brought her here.
“I love playing on kids’ playgrounds,” she says.
“This, to me, is an adult’s playground. I love the sensation and the weightlessness.”
The classes, which run at the Arts Therapy Trust building in Mt Eden, are the only ones of their kind.
Teacher Annie says although the concept of trapeze as exercise is not new, nobody in New Zealand has been teaching it until now.
“I’d always wanted to do something to do with the flying trapeze,” she says.
Her chance came when her daughter Sarah saw school holiday classes several years ago.
Together, they still attend high-flying trapeze classes, or circus trapezing.
Advertised as “play for adults”, the low-flying trapeze classes promise increased aerial movement vocabulary, strength, flexibility, balance and creativity while emphasising grace, flow and awareness.
She says too often, as people get older, they stop doing any sort of movement and pushing their boundaries. Her classes are about getting in touch with that childhood fearlessness.
“It’s interesting how when we’re kids we do it without batting an eyelid,” says Annie.
A practitioner of the Feldenkrais Method, she says the idea of trapezing has always appealed as an alternative way of exercising both the body and the brain.
The Feldenkrais Method is an educational system that uses movement to teach selfawareness and practitioners believe it can have a profound effect on people’s quality of life.
Hanging from your arms and legs and spinning and turning is actually beneficial, she says.
“I feel that we were designed to move in all sorts of ways and the more we can do upside down, the better our quality of movement will be.
“It’s exactly like a normal vocal vocabulary.
“If you only have five words, you can get by, but the more ways you can learn to use and move yourself, the better your quality of life.”
The low-flying trapeze classes run every Thursday at the Arts Therapy Trust building on Edwin St in Mt Eden and cost $25 a class.
For more information visit www.annieminton.co.nz or call 021-815-113.
Balancing act: Reporter Jocelyn Rein tries out the new low-flying trapeze class with instructor Annie Minton.
In the swing: Trapezing is a full body, 360 degree workout.