New-ish-ly graduated, jobless and disheartened, seven years ago, I read an article about running away with the circus. After many barely-paid placements in an industry that had to fire rather than hire during the recession, joining the circus didn't seem so far-fetched. So after a little research and the last of my savings, I found myself at an experience day, standing on a trapeze platform for the very first time. Ready to jump into the unknown, a little nervous, I reached for the bar and jumped before any sensible reflexes could stop me.
My soul giggled as I swung forward and back.
A significant lack of strength or skill meant my first experience of flying trapeze was short but it lasted long enough for me to know: a) I would probably never be a professional circus performer and I should stick with my original career choice, b) trapeze was something I definitely needed do again someday...
I've now been doing regular flying trapeze classes at the National Centre for Circus Arts for three years and still absolutely love each moment. Every week, I get to fly through the air and throw myself around in the attempt to perform tricks, whilst still scaring myself and gradually getting stronger than I ever could have imagined.
But trapeze is hard and I discovered pretty quickly that it involved far more than just swinging. Each movement can make or break a trick – if the tiniest core muscles aren’t doing their job, the way you move through the air will be affected. And even if you execute each move perfectly, if they're done at the wrong time, you risk hitting the platform or catcher or even the wall. I've spent hours just trying to master a tiny section of one trick!
When you've been doing something for so long, you're bound to encounter some kind of plateau where there seems to be absolutely no improvement. And in a class where almost everyone has been flying far longer than me, it's hard to track any progress when you always feel like you're trying to catch up. But finally, in the last week of circus school term, just before Christmas, everything seemed to fall into place. I moved in the right way, mostly at the right time and managed to land some good tricks. I even felt confident enough in my skills to try a few tricks with no safety lines for the first time.
There is, of course, always room for improvement. That's why I can't wait for the next time I get to throw myself off a platform and, in the words of Woody, "fall with style".