For ten years, a small group of professional and amateur trapeze artists has been setting up shop in the middle of an idyllic meadow at the base of the Shawangunks, where they train enthusiasts of all levels of competency to climb atop a precariously perched board (that's all it is) and jump off. The rig is quite strong and impressive - actually not at all precarious - and numerous safety measures are constantly and consistently implemented. Flyers are kept safe by a double-belay safety line system, which is managed by an experienced spotter on the ground.
The instructors are adept at coaching flyers literally every step of the way in how to stand, grab the bar, bend the shaking knees and swing out to be suspended over a giant net. Falling into the net after an exercise is likewise a coached process. This precision in working with people of all ages allows flyers to enjoy the challenge and push their own limits. Class sizes are kept to a maximum of ten people, so that everyone gets the full attention of a whole team of instructors, beginning with a bevy of vital directions for first-timers and a trial knee-hang on a low bar.
Three of us were trapeze virgins that day. James Gibson, a/k/a J-Bird, cinched our belts and reviewed how to stand and lean in preparation for the leap: a feat "intimidating, but overcome-able." He suggested that we try swinging up to hook our knees on the bar and let go with our hands. One of us managed that trick. The other two of us did well to climb the narrow ladder to the launching platform.
Hoisting oneself onto that foot-wide board to stand up and get hooked to a safety belt can be tricky for anyone with an ounce of vertigo in them. I happen to pack around a few pounds of vertigo, so when it was my turn, I didn't look down. At the top, Megan Loggia and Cindy Sweeney spoke in calm and encouraging voices as they shifted me around and had me poise for takeoff. The view was spectacular; but the time was nigh to "just do it," scared as I was. I expected that my hands and arms and shoulders would simply give up, and I'd drop to the net. Instead, the strength to hold on for dear life surprised me. And swooshing back and forth in the sparkling sunshine was truly enjoyable. I might have even come away with a few ounces of confidence.
Owner and program coordinator Carisa Borrello has gathered a fun-loving staff with years of flying experience under their safety belts. They offer two-hour-long classes designed to meet the needs of individual participants, from first-time flyers to well-practiced enthusiasts. Each individual is fully supported in the journey toward reaching his or her greatest potential. Experienced flyers can stretch the limits of their abilities, while beginners can discover levels of courage and physical prowess of which they didn't know they were capable!
Trapeze classes are $45 for one class, $390 for ten classes. Special kids' and teens' spring and summer sessions are now available, as are private classes for groups like birthday parties, corporate team-building sessions, schools and camps. The Trapeze Club is located at the Center for Symbolic Studies at Stone Mountain Farm at 475 River Road Extension in Tillson, near New Paltz. It's a glorious place to fly. Call (845) 255-4375 or see http://trapezeclub.org/index.html for inspiring photos and further information.