My love letter to static trapeze

October 26, 2021 | 2 Min Read

Written by Jarred Dewey

As a kid, I flittered from interest to interest. Trying my hand at different activities, from illustration classes to piano accordion, and even a stint of keeping tropical fish. Eventually I found myself in the acromat-blue clad space of Cirkidz, Adelaide’s premiere youth circus.  

Hungry to learn and terrible at everything except the splits, my first introduction to trapeze was pretty ubiquitous with most youth circus kids. Knee hangs, half angels, bird nests. Let’s just say, it didn’t manage to capture my imagination. 

At age 18, I was accepted into the National Institute of Circus Arts (NICA) to study contortion handstands. I honestly never had any desire to touch a trapeze – I was strictly ground-based and stubborn as a Taurus. I remember walking into the NICA training space and being totally (to my surprise) hypnotised by swinging trapeze. I became obsessed!  

I would regularly sneak into the space during my lunch hour and watch Helene Embling coach one of the third-year students as I skulked in the shadows. Helene affectionately christened me “The Stalker” and eventually grew to tolerate my being around. Though my understanding of modern circus history is pretty superficial, I believe that Shana Carroll’s fixed trapeze number from Les Sept Doigt de la Main’s show Loft created in 2002 was a catalyst for contemporary trapeze today. 

With the advent of YouTube in 2005, acrobats around the world got the chance to share and peek into what was happening in circus globally. I remember watching Shana’s routine religiously for inspiration. As a youth circus kid, trapeze seemed limited and painful, so to finally see an innovative piece of contemporary circus on such a traditional piece of equipment opened up a whole realm of possibilities. R.I.P generic drop to ankles and viva la revolution of the armpit hang!  

By the time I graduated NICA, I still never really considered myself an ‘aerialist’, despite having studied swinging trapeze. As I entered the industry, I was asked to prepare a static trapeze routine due to a cast members injury. I really hadn’t done much static trapeze, so I had to be inventive to fill the full piece of music. But from that routine, I began to develop my own repertoire and style and since then I have slid into the role of an aerialist and even fallen deeply madly in love with the humble static trapeze.  

I am continuously inspired by the innovation of the discipline including artists such as Cohdi Harrell, Arthur Morel Van Hyfte and Enni-Maria Lymi. The continual evolution of trapeze seems synonymous with the personality of the performer and it’s a joy to watch the art form expand. 

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