As soon as I returned to the board, I knew I was in trouble. We were running through the show with a band playing under us for some music video, and I had just royally screwed up my return on our signature trick, the passing leap. As I hung my head, my peers gave me the Nelson Muntz “ha-ha.” Murphy’s Law dictated there was no way in hell that clip wouldn’t be used in the video. And we were only a little wrong…they actually used it in the video twice.
Back in the day with our previous catcher, flailing my legs around on returns was status quo, but with Ryan, it rarely happened anymore, which was the real kicker for me. Almost all of my returns are clean these days, with my feet together and body in a nice, vertical position. But I guess you’re just gonna have to believe me.
What’s with the flailing?
Sometimes I feel like the catcher is holding on to me for too long, and I try to run away kicking and screaming, quite literally. At other times, I simply can’t pull myself into the proper position to return to the bar. Everyone I’ve worked with has seen this freakout. In Germany with The Cortes, I was in tears because I couldn’t seem to fix it, and it was getting worse show by show. Luckily, that was only a three-week gig. When it ended, I decided to throw in the towel.
We all know how long that lasted (not long).
I never had a problem with my returns off the catchers at Imperial Flyers, but my returns were a mess with both seasoned professional catchers I worked with. It wasn’t until I started working with Ryan, an up-and-coming professional catcher, that I actually understood what was happening and how to fix it. Why? Because he actually allowed us to have a conversation about it rather than just telling me, “Sweep later,” which clearly doesn’t work.
As it turned out, it took two to fix my problem. At 5′ 2″ish and 100 pounds, I’m shorter and lighter than most flyers. What that means is the technique that works for bigger flyers doesn’t necessarily work for me. I need to get myself up and out early in the apron and the catcher has to make sure to stay on top of me as we start back through our swing. If he starts dropping first, I get dragged behind him and cannot get into a good position to return. Finally, he’s gotta let me go at the right time because I get pulled out of position easily. It’s an ongoing evolution.
Who cares, anyway?
And that’s really the question. The editors had about 20 returns to choose from, and they chose the flailing one. Clearly they put it in the video–twice–for a reason. To me, this indicates perhaps the public’s standards for interesting flying trapeze and the industry’s standards are different. While watching videos of our peers, we critique their toe point, their straight legs, and their clean lines. But I remember a simpler time, when flying trapeze consumed as much of my thoughts as sex for a 15-year-old boy, yet “form” wasn’t even in my vocabulary. If someone caught a cool trick and returned it, it was awesome. If they had some strife during their 13 seconds of fame, even better! I can’t help but think this is the general sentiment of the uneducated public.
In that light, let’s just say I’m striving to be a crowd-pleaser. Occasional flailing keeps trapeze interesting!