What does a trapeze artist do?

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What is a Trapeze Artist?

A trapeze artist specializes in aerial acrobatics using a trapeze. The trapeze is a horizontal bar that is suspended from two ropes or cables, typically found in circus or aerial dance performances. Trapeze artists use the bar to execute a variety of maneuvers, flips, and tricks while in mid-air. They require extraordinary strength, flexibility, coordination, and balance to perform their routines, and must have an exceptional sense of timing and spatial awareness to execute their moves accurately and safely.

With their daring feats, graceful movements, and ability to defy gravity, trapeze artists combine athleticism and artistry to showcase the potential of the human body and push the boundaries of what is humanly possible.

What does a Trapeze Artist do?

A trapeze artist practicing her routine.

Day in the Life
Let’s take a look at a typical day in the life of a trapeze artist:

  • Morning Routine – Trapeze artists often begin their day with a warm-up routine to prepare their bodies for training or performances. This may include stretching, cardiovascular exercises, and strength conditioning exercises tailored to their specific needs.
  • Training and Practice – A significant portion of a trapeze artist's day is dedicated to training and practice. They may spend several hours honing their skills on a stationary or flying trapeze apparatus, working on specific maneuvers, transitions, and sequences. This training involves repetition, refining technique, and pushing boundaries to improve their performance.
  • Physical Conditioning – Trapeze artists focus on maintaining their physical fitness to meet the demands of their aerial acrobatics. This may involve strength training exercises, core workouts, flexibility exercises, and conditioning routines tailored to their needs. They may work with trainers or coaches to design a comprehensive fitness regimen.
  • Choreography and Creative Work – Trapeze artists often collaborate with choreographers, directors, and fellow performers to create cohesive and visually stunning shows. This includes selecting music, designing sequences, and incorporating artistic elements into their act. They may spend time brainstorming ideas, practising choreography, or rehearsing with other performers.
  • Costume and Prop Preparation – Trapeze artists may be involved in the design and preparation of their costumes and props. This can include fittings, adjustments, and ensuring that the attire and equipment are safe, comfortable, and visually appealing for performances.
  • Rest and Recovery – Trapeze artists also prioritize rest and recovery to avoid injuries and maintain their physical well-being. They may incorporate activities like stretching, foam rolling, massage therapy, or other recovery techniques into their daily routine.
  • Rehearsals and Performances – Depending on their performance schedule, trapeze artists may have rehearsals or performances during the day or evening. They may need to travel to performance venues, participate in dress rehearsals, technical rehearsals, or run-throughs to ensure smooth and flawless performances. During a performance, trapeze artists use their strength and agility to swing, spin, and release from the trapeze bar, often performing mid-air somersaults, twists, or catches. They may also incorporate elements of dance, contortion, or storytelling into their routines to enhance the visual appeal and emotional impact of their act.
  • Safety Focus – Safety is of utmost importance for trapeze artists. They adhere to strict protocols to ensure their well-being during performances and work closely with a team of spotters, riggers, and other support personnel to mitigate risks associated with aerial acrobatics.
  • Personal Time and Self-Care – Trapeze artists also need personal time to relax, unwind, and take care of themselves. This can include leisure activities, spending time with loved ones, pursuing hobbies, or engaging in activities that promote mental and emotional well-being.

Types of Trapeze Artsts
There are different types of trapeze acts, and therefore different types of trapeze artists. Here are a few notable categories:

  • Static Trapeze Artists – These artists primarily perform on a static or fixed trapeze, where the bar remains stationary and the artist performs various movements and poses while suspended in the air.
  • Flying Trapeze Artists – Flying trapeze artists engage in dynamic, high-flying performances. They swing back and forth on a trapeze bar suspended from ropes, performing thrilling tricks, flips, and mid-air releases. Flying trapeze acts often involve multiple artists, with catchers who catch the flying artist mid-air or acrobatic sequences that showcase teamwork and timing.
  • Duo or Group Trapeze Artists – These artists perform their acts as pairs or in groups, adding complexity and coordination to their routines. Duo trapeze acts involve two artists performing synchronized movements and supporting each other's weight during lifts and balances. Group trapeze acts include multiple artists performing together on multiple trapeze bars, creating aerial displays that are especially visually stunning.
  • Aerial Dance Trapeze Artists – Some trapeze artists merge the worlds of dance and aerial acrobatics, creating expressive and artistic performances. They blend fluid movements, choreography, and storytelling with trapeze techniques, showcasing a fusion of dance and aerial arts.

In addition to the various kinds of trapeze artists, there are various specializations within the art. Artists may choose to focus on one specialization or explore multiple disciplines to create unique performances that highlight their individual skills and artistry:

  • Aerial Straps – Aerial straps involve performing acrobatic movements on two long straps suspended from above. Artists specializing in aerial straps demonstrate incredible strength, control, and precision as they execute challenging poses, rolls, and dynamic movements using the straps.
  • Cloud Swing – Cloud swing, also known as rope or ‘corde lisse’ (French for ‘smooth rope’), is an aerial apparatus that involves performing on a thick vertical rope or a flexible bar. Artists specializing in cloud swing showcase fluid movements, spins, drops, and intricate wraps on the apparatus.
  • Aerial Hoop – Aerial hoop, also known as lyra, is a circular steel apparatus suspended from above. Artists specializing in aerial hoop display strength, flexibility, and grace as they maneuver inside and around the hoop, executing poses, transitions, and dynamic movements.
  • Spanish Web – Spanish web is an aerial apparatus consisting of a vertical rope with a hand loop. Artists specializing in Spanish web combine acrobatics, strength, and flexibility to perform breathtaking tricks and spins while ascending, descending, or spinning on the rope.
  • Bungee Trapeze – Bungee trapeze combines trapeze skills with the use of bungee cords for added elasticity and bounce. Artists specializing in bungee trapeze demonstrate high-flying acrobatics, flips, and dynamic movements with the assistance of the bungee cords.
  • Comedy Trapeze – Some trapeze artists specialize in comedic performances, infusing their acts with humor, clowning, or slapstick elements. These artists bring a playful and entertaining twist to their trapeze routines, engaging the audience through laughter and comedic timing.
  • Specialized Trapeze – Within the realm of trapeze artistry, there are artists who focus on very specific disciplines or techniques. For example, there are artists who focus on handstands or hand balancing on the trapeze and others who incorporate fire or pyrotechnics into their performances.

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What is the workplace of a Trapeze Artist like?

Trapeze artists can work for a variety of organizations and entertainment venues that feature aerial performances. Here are some of their most common employers:

  • Circus Companies – Traditional circuses often employ trapeze artists as part of their lineup of performers. These circuses may travel from place to place, setting up big tops or performance tents to showcase a variety of acts, including trapeze artists.
  • Aerial Performance Companies – There are specialized companies or performance groups that focus on aerial arts and acrobatics. These companies may have their own shows or collaborate with other entertainment organizations to provide aerial performances. Trapeze artists are often key members of such companies.
  • Theme Parks – Many theme parks around the world feature live entertainment shows that include aerial performances.
  • Theatres and Performing Arts Venues – Trapeze artists may be hired by theatres and performing arts venues for specific productions or events. They may be part of theatrical shows, dance performances, or other artistic productions that require aerial acrobatics.
  • Cruise Lines – Cruise lines often provide live entertainment onboard their ships, including aerial performances.
  • Event Companies and Festivals – Trapeze artists may be hired by event companies or organizers to perform at festivals, corporate events, or private parties.

It's worth noting that some trapeze artists may also work as freelancers or independent contractors, taking on performance opportunities on a project basis. They may collaborate with various organizations, production companies, or event planners to bring their aerial performances to different venues and events.

The workplaces of trapeze artists vary depending on the specific context in which they perform:

  • Circus Tents or Big Tops – Traditional circuses often set up large tents or big tops as their performance venues. Trapeze artists may perform under these iconic circus structures, which provide a unique and immersive atmosphere for both performers and audiences. Spaces within the circus tent generally include dressing rooms, training areas, rigging equipment, and backstage areas.
  • Theatres and Performing Arts Venues – Trapeze artists may perform in theatres or performing arts venues that have dedicated aerial performance spaces or equipment. These venues may have stages equipped with rigging points, safety equipment, and lighting systems specifically designed for aerial performances. The workplace may include backstage areas, dressing rooms, rehearsal studios, and other facilities within the theatre or venue.
  • Outdoor Performance Spaces – Trapeze artists may also perform in outdoor settings, such as parks, squares, or open-air stages. These performances often take place during festivals, special events, or street performances. In such cases, the workplace may include temporary rigging setups, portable stages, or designated performance areas in open spaces.
  • Theme Parks – Trapeze artists working in theme parks typically perform in designated performance venues within the park. These venues may be indoor theaters, outdoor stages, or specialized aerial performance areas. The workplace may include dressing rooms, training facilities, backstage areas, and other amenities provided by the theme park.
  • Cruise Ships – Trapeze artists employed by cruise lines perform on ships, often in designated entertainment areas such as theaters or open decks. These venues are equipped with rigging systems, lighting, and sound equipment to accommodate aerial performances. The workplace may include dedicated rehearsal spaces, storage areas for equipment, and shared crew facilities onboard the ship.

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