The warm weather is here, and what better way to enjoy the summer season than by flying through it?
At the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts, Philadelphians will be able to experience first-hand just what it feels like to be a trapeze performer with the return of their outdoor flying trapeze classes and workshops. This program is the only one of its kind in the city, and those who try it out will be able to partake in the unique class for the first time since 2019—for obvious reasons the classes were halted in 2020 an 2021.
The experience is led by Flying Trapeze Director Al Firstenberg, and already, some visitors have been sailing through the air during the first round of classes, which kicked off earlier this month. Everything is held on the Philadelphia School of Circus Art’s campus, located in West Mt. Airy, and it’s also open for most ages, with children as young as six years old being allowed to partake.
As a release states, during the lesson, students will learn all the techniques of the circus act, including taking off from the platform, swinging, transferring to the catcher and dropping to the net. The classes cost $65, are two hours long and are offered multiple times a day.
“We are ecstatic to restart one of our most popular family programs with Al Firstenberg at the helm. We couldn’t think of a better way to return to normal than to take the leap and fly 25 feet above the ground — and right into the arms of the giant net,” said Philadelphia School of Circus Arts Executive Director Kitsie O’Neill in a statement. “This is one of the most spectacular and recognizable circus disciplines in the world, and involves a lot of specialty rigging and staffing. We have ample outdoor space at Philadelphia’s Circus Campus. Anyone in the region can have the experience of flying through the air — kids included.”
It’s also in Philadelphia’s history to try your hand at some of these colorful feats. The City of Brotherly Love is actually the birthplace of the American circus, and for many years was the singular home of circus arts in the country. The city is currently still home to the first and only school in the country that offers a three-year education program and diploma in circus arts through the Circadium School of Contemporary Circus.
Those who head to the campus for a class via SEPTA are also in for a treat, as riders already are getting an unexpected birds-eye view of the action as trains are arriving just feet from the trapeze rig at Upsal Station.
“Flying trapeze is perhaps the most popular circus discipline for new students,” O’Neill said. “It is exhilarating. And it’s one of the most fun and adventurous experiences you’ll ever have. And what’s more, it’s extremely safe. Beginner students are always harnessed in with safety belts and working over a net. It is the easiest way to experience the joy and challenge of circus arts on your very first day.”
According to a release, Firstenberg has been teaching flying trapeze for seven years at seven different rigs on the East Coast. They have worked with flyers of all backgrounds including Alex Wong of ‘So You Think You Can Dance’, Ella Emhoff, Kamala Harris’s daughter, and Gigi Hadid, where Firstenberg can be seen catching her in ‘V Magazine’s’ 134th edition. Firstenberg began their training at the Espana-Streb Trapeze Academy in Brooklyn, New York.
After four years, they moved from that small rig to a full-sized rig in Pennsylvania. From there they have changed locations each season to coach at various schools, and recently in 2018, Firstenberg helped with the installation of the brand new flying trapeze rig at the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts.
Firstenberg’s goal is to create a warm and welcoming environment for all people and to integrate the flying trapeze program with the aerial programming already present at the school.
Lessons are held every Thursday and Friday from 4 to 6 p.m. and 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to noon, 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. and 3 to 5 p.m. Advanced registration is required, and other times for private and group lessons are also available upon special request.
There are no weight limits for flying trapeze, but the largest harness size they have fits a circumference of 46″ at the narrowest part of the torso. All participants ages 18+ must provide proof of vaccination by sending a photo of their vaccination card to [email protected] or showing their card when checking in for class. Participants under 18 are not required to be vaccinated.
For information about the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts, and to sign up for a class, visit phillycircus.com