Defy Gravity at TrapezeSTL, St. Louis’ Only Flying Trapeze Center
Brave enough to swing from a trapeze? It’s possible to do so in Chesterfield from 25 feet in the air at TrapezeSTL.
Circus Harmony, a nonprofit organization that uses circus arts to motivate social change, opened St. Louis’ only Flying Trapeze Center this May for its second season at the Chesterfield Athletic Club, 16625 Swingley Ridge Road. Anyone who is 6 years old or older and weighs less than 250 pounds can participate.
The Trapeze Center first opened in 2014 in St. Louis Union Station; it moved to Chesterfield during 2016, next to the DoubleTree Hotel.
“We host families, individuals, summer camps, birthday parties and team-building events,” manager and lead coach Matt Viverito says.
“You don’t have to be a gymnast, cheerleader or athlete to fly. It’s big fun for everyone! It’s all about breaking out of the summer routine, and doing something different and exciting.”
As a Circus Harmony alumnus, Viverito performed with the St. Louis Arches, went to college and then joined the circus to tour with the Flying Pages, where he completed the legendary triple somersault. He returned to St. Louis to share the joy of “flying” with his hometown.
In addition to the trapeze center, Circus Harmony teams run on-site circus-related classes for all ages at the City Museum in St. Louis, as well as off-site classes in regional schools, clubs and community centers.
Individual trapeze classes last two hours, with a maximum of 10 students. No prior experience is required. Classes first cover safety and techniques. Then students progress to low-hanging trapeze bars to practice skills and body positions before doing them in the air. Each participant can learn how to swing, flip, dismount and do a trick. At the end of classes, students can execute a trick while being assisted by a catcher.
Viverito assures all coaching and instruction is tailored to each student. All one has to do is listen carefully to the “Up and Hup” instructions being provided throughout the experience. Call 314.504.4298 for details or book a “flight” online at TrapezeSTL.com. All students must sign a waiver/consent form before they can participate in a class.
He says people’s reactions to trapeze flying generally fall into three categories: energetic, fearless participants who want to learn harder skills; scared individuals who swing once and are exhilarated but stop at that because they happily can cross it off their bucket list; or those in the middle who started out a bit terrified but slowly get comfortable as the class progresses and who have several “aha” moments as they enjoy it more and more.
Legendary St. Louis circus star and aerialist Elizabeth “Bunny” Herring even graced the same TrapezeSTL when she was 87 years old, making her the oldest person to date to fly this equipment. Herring, at 18 years old, ran away to join Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus to be a showgirl but ended up in the air instead. She made headlines in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 1948 when she left the American School of Ballet in New York to join the circus. For her 90th birthday last October, she rightfully celebrated by taking her final aerial flight at the City Museum.
“What keeps us going as coaches is being able to coax students along and seeing them end up on cloud nine,” Viverito says. “We truly enjoy seeing what people accomplish.”
Due to the unique combination of muscles used, he says people often are surprised by what a good workout the trapeze provides.
The trapeze equipment was made possible through grants and funding from the Regional Arts Commission, Daughters of Charity Foundation of St. Louis, YouthBridge Social Enterprise and Innovation Competition.
There’s a nice future tie-in to the regional community as well. Portions of the proceeds from TrapezeSTL go toward Circus Harmony’s Wheels to Wings program, which funds transportation for needy and deserving circus students to take circus classes at the Circus Harmony Center, located on the third floor of City Museum in St. Louis.
TrapezeSTL will be open through mid-October, depending on temperatures. The setup is outdoors, so it can be affected by weather.