“ Coronet Street / London / N1 6HD / Tel: +44 (0)20 7613 4141 / Fax: +44 (0)20 7729 9422 / Web: www.thecircusspace.co.uk / „
Have you ever wanted to have a go on the Flying Trapeze, do a bit of acrobatics and juggle? (preferably not all at the same time) - Well believe it or not you can. As I was approaching my 50th birthday my two colleagues were trying to figure out what to buy me for a present and, knowing that I was probably daft enough for anything, decide to give me a Circus Skills afternoon.
If I am honest I was absolutely delighted, I knew it was just the sort of thing I would secretly enjoy (provided I could summon up the courage) and the fact that I had been given it as a present meant it would have been churlish for me to turn it down wouldn't it? If you haven't yet reached 50 you might not understand the mentality, but for me my increasing age left me in no doubt that there were some things on my list of 'must do' items where time was just starting to run out (together with all the other things that demanded and element of physical fitness) and that it was time to start crossing a few off the list.
I'll admit that it was with some trepidation that I arrived at Circus Space in London, as it wasn't far from Liverpool Street and it was a nice day I had opted to walk there rather than take the tube and it struck me as something of an unusual building from the outside. They are located in a long disused power station that offers the lofty heights they need to train their students.
It soon became clear that this was a serious training establishment and I found I was assembled with a number of very fit and healthy looking people in their teens and twenties who were very enthusiastic about being there. I got into discussion with one or two of them and discovered they had been waiting for months to get into this 'taster session' as a prelude to starting some serious circus training. My knees started to quiver but I felt a bit more reassured following a further glance around the waiting area when I spotted one or two rather more 'mature' people wearing an expression somewhat similar to my own.
I due course we were welcomed into the main hall. It is a large hall and in various places there were ropes and trapezes suspended from the ceiling. They explained that before we could do any of the exciting things on the programme we had to throughly warm up so we formed a circle and went through a series of exercises to make sure our muscles(?) were warm and ready for action and then we were split into four groups to sample the various skills.
I was lucky - our group was first for the flying trapeze so we were led to one end of the hall where there were a couple of platforms at either side, a huge foam mat in between and a couple of trapezes suspended above it. The instructor gave us our instructions - two people were to climb up to the platforms and wait so that she could give us our instructions. The first person was to stand on the platform, one hand on the support, the other hand free. The second person would also stand on the platform, one hand on the other support and use a hooked pole to catch the trapeze and pass it to the first person for them to hold it in their free hand. She said she would count to three and on three the first person was to let go of the support, grab the trapeze and step off the platform all in one movement. It sounds complicated but it wasn't and she exuded such confidence that I think we all felt reassured. The first couple of people went and then it was my turn - I realised as soon as I stepped on to the platform that it was shaking rather a lot. I suspected that the cause was that my legs had turned to jelly and my knees were knocking so I apologised to the chap in front of me - he understood exactly and we realised that it was the combined nerves of both of us that was causing the problem.
When it came my turn to go I quite surprised myself by doing a very smooth launch on the trapeze and I found myself swinging through the air 'with the greatest of ease'. The adrenaline rush was amazing, I loved it because it was such a great feeling! The dismount involved waiting for the instructor to tell us when and then letting go of the trapeze and dropping down into the foam below. We were each on a safety harness and the instructor was ready to let that support us if we got into difficulty but none of us did. We got to repeat the exercise and it was just as great all over again. You don't get to do catching, somersaults and swinging upside down - that is a much more advanced course than the one we were on but believe me what we did was quite enough for a first session!
Next we did the static trapeze - I hadn't climbed a rope since I was at school so you can imagine just what a challenge that was! However with a bit of encouragement I managed it and then hung upside down from the trapeze. Little did I realise that was the easy part - the hard part is getting back upright when your stomach muscles haven't done that kind of thing for many years! I paid for that for days afterwards as my stomach muscles were rather stiff to say the least.
On to juggling ......... if you think you can't juggle you will probably be wrong. They started us off juggling lightweight scarves and I was amazed to discover they worked at the same speed that my hands did - easy peasy! Well it was - until we graduated to bean bags and I found out my limitations.
The final discipline was acrobatics and I was having great fun as we did the 'human pyramid' which was easier than I expected so I was a very happy smiley person at that point. Then we moved on to tumbling - now I was in my element - I used to love tumbling at primary school. I would do 'cockle tails' over and over again as a child and the thought of being able to do it as a adult (somewhere where I wouldn't be considered a complete idiot ) was too good to miss. I set off down the mat rolling over about four or five times - I got to the end and tried to stand up - suddenly I wasn't altogether sure which way was up as my head was having trouble getting its bearings. I opted not to go again and mentioned to the instructor that I felt a little dizzy - that was when she burst my balloon - "don't worry dear" she said "we often get that problem with older people". All goes to show that even if you feel young at heart there is always someone, somewhere, who will bring you right back down to earth with a bump.
It was the most fabulous day so far as I am concerned - I have dined out on it ever since. It is imprinted on my memory and I can throughly recommend it. The instructors are kind and encouraging and it is all done very professionally. The cost is under £50 for an afternoon of great enjoyment which is, in my opinion, pretty good value. Why not give it a try - http://www.thecircusspace.co.uk
© Laramax 2007
The Circus Space aims to enable the creation of a breadth of excellent and innovative circus in Britain. It is a registered charity and a centre of excellence in the circus arts, working in partnership with the public and private sectors at local, regional and international levels to redefine perceptions of circus and broaden its appeal. The Circus Space is one of the top three circus schools in Europe and a member of the European Federation of Circus Schools and the UK's Circus Arts Forum.