Trapeze Company downtown fosters young acrobats
At Plaza Vera Cruz downtown, a new outdoor company has caught the eyes of many walking past on Cota or Haley Streets.
Passersby can catch a glimpse of children and adults alike soaring through the air as if they’re in a circus, performing backflips or splits 30 feet above the ground.
At Santa Barbara Trapeze Company, the sky is truly the limit.
“You only live once,” Shane Weaver, an Australia native and a co-owner of the Trapeze Company, told the News-Press during Wednesday morning’s summer camp session. “So to be able to do something like this and have it offered to the Santa Barbara community is fantastic.”
The company — which was founded in fall 2019 and originally based at Earl Warren Showgrounds — moved at the end of May to Plaza Vera Cruz, a park that is more centrally located, to attract more visitors.
The circus-like setup consists of two 23-foot platforms, with safety nets at the bottom, ladders, mats and harnesses.
New this summer is a camp for kids, where they can fly on the trapeze, practice aerial hoop/lyra, rope work, juggling, tumbling, trampoline tricks and more.
Mr. Weaver said fliers can swing up to around 30 feet off the ground.
There are typically three to four staff members, who double as trapeze artists, at the facility. The company offers two-hour classes for both first time and experienced fliers, available to adults and children; intensive workshop classes for trapeze groups; and birthday/wedding parties. The business also produces professional shows for the community with staff and visiting artists and other special events.
The camp has a maximum of 30 kids per session, and each session is four hours long for five days.
On the final day, parents get to come and see their kids perform. Look, Mom and Dad, up in the sky!
“Most of these kids have never been exposed to something like this before,” L.J. Mintz, the camp director at the Trapeze Company, told the News-Press. “The kids wake up so excited. I’ve heard the parents even tell me that the kids can’t sleep the night before because they’re so excited.”
She said the summer camp came just in time for this specific summer, and as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, trapeze provides a safe, outdoor activity in Santa Barbara.
In addition, the Trapeze Company holds philanthropy events where it provides programming for at-risk youth, patients in addiction recovery, victims of abuse and more.
“It’s absolutely accessible to anybody,” Mr. Weaver said. “Anybody who would like to come out and give it a try should totally try it out … It’s a wonderful way to really challenge yourself and to do something that’s really out of the ordinary.”
Beginners start classes by stretching and getting the “low down” on safety. From there, depending on skill and comfort levels, fliers can learn straddle whips, splits, pike whips, layout backflips, double back tucks and more. Eventually, the new trapeze artists can even attempt being caught in mid-air and swinging from the hands of a catcher. If they’re good enough, they may not even need a catcher, and can simply fly from bar to bar.
Most of the kids Wednesday morning at the summer camp just practiced swinging back and forth from the handlebars, and some whipped their legs up onto the bar and swung upside down. When the kids need a break, the staff members — most of whom come from a circus background and have been flying trapeze since they were just young acrobats — show them a thing or two about flying trapeze professionally. They’re always met with hoots and hollers from their enthusiastic students.
The mood Wednesday was jubilant, with all attendees enjoying the Santa Barbara weather and brilliant mountain views one could only imagine from 30 feet above the ground.
“I really love doing trapeze for the excitement and the thrill of having the chance to do something that’s a controlled risk in a way, putting myself out of my comfort zone,” Mr. Weaver said. “Also, although it’s an individual experience, there’s a lot of camaraderie around learning new things and pushing each other to master a new skill or new talent.”
The Trapeze Company partnered with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department to utilize the park space, which Mr. Weaver referred to as “one of the most iconic parks in Santa Barbara.”
The co-owner said that the Trapeze Company provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for people to launch themselves safely into the air and push themselves to the limit.
“You find out where your limit is, or what you’re really afraid of,” Mr. Weaver said. “And then (you are) also able to step through that or push through that and overcome it.
“And, (you can) learn a new talent, a new skill, and you get to have a bunch of fun while you’re doing it.”