Channeling Cirque de Soleil
As it turns out, flying through the air with the greatest of ease isn’t so easy. But you’re bound to have fun trying.
Up above the crowds of Manhattan’s busy streets, the Trapeze School of New York is open all summer on the rooftop of Pier 20 alongside the Hudson River. (If you’re in town during the chillier seasons, don’t worry; there’s also a year-round tented location in Chelsea.) When you arrive and meet your instructors, you’ll go through a brief safety briefing and demonstration. Then it’s time to strap on your belt, hook your carabineers onto two ropes, and begin climbing—up an extremely narrow metal ladder for 7m (23 ft.). These steps are where the panic starts to set in, and your heart starts pumping faster. When you finally reach the top, take a look at the priceless views. You’ll see the city’s magnificent skyline on one side, and the famous Lady Liberty standing tall in the New York harbor on the other.
Standing on the thin wooden platform getting ready to fly, remember to douse your sweaty palms in chalk and keep breathing as your instructor holds onto the back of your belt and you lean forward to grab hold of the trapeze bar. It’s heavier than it looks. Once you’re in position, with both hands steady and knees slightly bent, the instructor yells “Hep,” and that’s your cue to jump. Legs together, toes pointed, stomach in, arms strong. Suddenly, you’re swinging forward in a giant arch, high above the crowded city streets, away from the noise and chaos below. People are cheering, but for a split second, all you hear is the wind and perhaps your own voice—unsure at this point if you’re screaming with fear or delight (or, most likely, both). Before you know it, another instructor who’s on the ground, holding your safety rope, calls “knees up.” You immediately use the momentum to bring your legs up to your chest and then over the bar in one smooth move.
As your crawl over to the dismount area, and flip yourself off the net onto solid ground, your hands feel raw and adrenaline is rushing through your body. As your classmates take their turns, stretch out and revel in what you’ve accomplished for a couple of minutes. Before you know it, you’re climbing up again to attempt another skill, maybe even a split.
If you get the hang of things, your finale performance will be to try a catch with the professional trapeze artist swinging on a bar opposite you. The real trick here is to just relax and let go. Like the school’s tagline says, “Forget fear, worry about the addiction.” Even if you don’t master any fancy moves during your first class, the euphoria of simply soaring through the air, high above New York City, is enough to keep your head in the clouds for at least a few days.
The trapeze school also offers lessons in Boston, Baltimore, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C.
Trapeze School of New York ( 917/797-1872; www.newyork.trapezeschool.com).
When to Go: Year-round at the indoor location; May–Sept for the outdoor classes.
JFK, LaGuardia, or Newark airports.
$$ Excelsior Hotel, 45 W. 81st St. ( 800/368-4575 or 212/362-9200; www.excelsiorhotelny.com). $$$ Le Parker Meridien, 118 W. 57th St. ( 800/543-4300 or 212/245-5000; www.parkermeridien.com).