That makes sense since the rooftop acrobatics can be both inspiring and incredibly daunting to would-be trapeze artists. Would I be strong enough, and would I trust the harness, net, and baby-faced (but ripped) instructors?
I was glad to discover that the learning curve isn’t that steep. After a safety briefing and watching a demo with my nine fellow students, we tried each trick one by one.
In your first class, you get about five chances on the rig (or trapeze), during which you typically learn to swing your legs over the bar to hang by your knees, execute a backflip dismount, and, if you’re successful at that, complete a catch.
It’s easier than it sounds. (Check out my first flight on video, below.)
You should be strong enough to hang from a bar, but beyond that, the routine comes together via momentum and timing. The crucial factors are being patient and listening to and trusting the teacher, according to instructor Sarah Callan, who says about 95 percent of first-timers are able to make a catch.
As for fear of heights, it’s real but not insurmountable. I found jumping off the platform to be the hardest part. But once you’re airborne, things happen quickly and you just follow instructions. You may glimpse the new World Trade Center on your upswing, but time moves too fast to freak out.
“If people tell us they’re afraid,” says Callan. “We tell them we’ll help them.” And they really do. Plus, you wear safety harnesses from the moment you step onto the ladder until you roll off the net.
Although my class felt like two hours of play, my shoulders, triceps, and especially my lats cried out for the next couple of days. (And I’m no weakling; years of Pilates and Ashtanga yoga have given me arms that are generally considered strong.)
Callan says that as students progress, they learn tricks that require core and leg strength, making this a full-body workout. Albeit one that gives you a bigger adrenaline rush—and bigger bragging rights—than your most recent boot camp or barre class. —Ann Abel
Trapeze School New York has locations at Pier 40, Governors Island, and 518 West 30th Street (year-round). Classes are $47 to $70. www.newyork.trapezeschool.com