Fly Like a Pro

“Why does every trapeze act have a girl doing a split? I’m so tired of seeing that. There are so many other tricks to do! Even I can do 14 tricks to the catcher out of lines!” And so our conversations often went way back in 2012 before real circus life schooled me.

She’s Probably Someone’s Mother

Chances are that splits girl you’re sick of seeing is someone’s mother/sister/girlfriend who is either past her prime or busy doing other acts in the show and really doesn’t give a shit about flying trapeze. She’s a place-holder; she might drop bars or be great at styling. Maybe she’s just gotten over surgery.

And there’s a reason she’s doing a splits as opposed to other simple tricks: Ass-in-the-air tricks like whips just don’t look good on a woman in a professional show. Uprise tricks take effort and can be missed. A cutaway or layout would be nice but, again, takes extra effort and could be missed. In general, a well-executed splits is a pretty, surefire catch.

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My splits of yesteryear.

Don’t Be Judgy

When I was told I would be doing 14 shows a week, I thought, “Hey, no problem!” We fly for hours every day at Imperial Flyers! What I didn’t realize was the challenge of clockwork athleticism. The circus is like a cuckoo clock: no matter what is going on around it, that clock is going to burst into life every hour, on the hour. And so are we. Each day is a battle against scorching heat and freezing cold, illness, fatigue, and more as we haul our asses up that user-unfriendly cable ladder with smiles plastered to our faces.

At POP, we only move every two months, so at least we have some downtime between shows. When I worked in America, that was not the case. I was either working, rigging, or driving (and not getting paid for the rigging and driving). For these reasons, many great flyers with stars in their eyes having lasted less than a month with this lifestyle.

Then again, there are people like me.

Even after wrist surgery, I couldn’t avoid the circus’ gravitational pull. Here I am, popping ibuprofen like candy, perhaps, but still happier than I’d be anywhere else!

Now, to the real purpose of this post: whether or not you find living in a third of a shipping container in a mall parking lot appealing, there’s no reason why you can’t aspire to fly like a pro! Here are some tips about the easy stuff–the flying–that you can try to incorporate into your daily routine to become the best-looking flyer you can be.

Tips to Fly Like a Pro

Showcase your strengths: Pick a few tricks you can do well and become the best at them. Most professionals only have a handful of tricks they can throw across, but they can throw them well! For aspiring stars:

Ladies: Although it’s possible you’ll be called upon to do a shoot or forward over for the passing leap, it is far more likely you’ll be doing legs, so be sure you know that one, too. If you’re flexible, work your way toward a 180-degree split. Other good tricks include forward over, layout, full, and tuck double. Of course, the bigger the better, and you should be working your way toward all kinds of doubles, but it’s much easier to start working professionally as a woman with a few pretty basic tricks than it is for a man. You don’t have to be a super advanced flyer…you just have to look good!

Guys: It’s good to have a nice plange, but you should also have at least a decent double layout, full twisting double, double-double, and/or triple. If you have a great personality, you can probably get your foot in the door with a consistent tuck double, but you should be working toward bigger and better things. Knowing a shoot or forward over for the passing leap is helpful, too.

Point your toes: Boys and girls alike look better with a great toe-point! Your toes should be pointed and your ankle turned out as opposed to sickling your feet (turning them in). Avoiding sickling your foot on a split can be especially challenging for those who don’t have a background in dance, so be aware! Other areas toes are often forgotten is right off the board, in the force-out, and during pike tricks. Pointing your toes not only looks great but it helps you to engage your entire body and stay tight.

Pay attention to your returns: Your return to the bar is the second-to-last thing people see of you (the last being your return to the board), so make it good. Returns are a topic unto themselves, which I posted about years ago. You can read it here.

Come into the board with straight legs and toes pointed: There are many different acceptable ways to come into the board after returning a trick. Some traditional troupes prefer the step-up method, which I have adopted when I’m coming in low. This entails simply stepping one foot up onto the board, pushing off, and hop-turning. When I started working here, Harmony taught me to tap and turn. If you’re coming in really high, a force-out turnaround is the way to go. I’ll write another post down the road detailing these different methods, but the key takeaway is to come in with straight legs and pointed toes!

Now, do as I say and not as I do! 😉  Good luck!

2 Comments


  1. The audience always responds to a split! It's something they easily recognize and most can't do one in the floor much less 40 ft in the air;) I truly love and appreciate days I do the split in our act! Lol…as usual, great post, Kyla@


  2. Thanks, April! I agree! Everyone loves a split. I wish mine was better. I’d definitely be doing it! My flexibility is shit, though. LOL

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