The Birthday List: Take a Circus Class.

static-trapeze-aircraft-circus2Of all my Birthday List missions so far, this one has stretched me the furthest out of my comfort zone. Which is great, because before I die, I want to be able to say, “Pffft. Comfort zone? This whole fracking world is my comfort zone!” Or something.

People keep asking me why I decided to take a circus class and I’m not entirely sure. It was a decision 25-year old Sarah made when she was on the verge of turning 26. The reasoning probably went something like this: 1) It seems bad ass. 2) I love reading about xoSarah’s aerial adventures. 3) I love watching circus performers at cabarets but have wondered what it would be like to actually DO that.

So I booked myself in for a 2-hour static trapeze taster class with AirCraft Circus. But as I pushed the “Confirm Payment” button, I was filled with fear and trepidation.

I began having flashbacks to crying as I walked down the steps of the Arc de Triomphe. I have a paralyzing fear of heights and I was having visions of melting into a full on panic attack in front of the class.

In truth, I didn’t even know what static trapeze entailed but it was recommended as the most suitable for absolute beginners. I was afraid that further research would just increase my fears, so instead my mind filled with visions of ladders, and vertigo, and getting stuck on a trapeze unable to move for the sheer terror of it all.

But on Sunday I put on my bravest face and made the trip down to Greenwich. The whole time I was giving myself a pep talk that went something like this: “You are definitely not going to die. They’re not going to let you die. Even if you got hurt, it probably wouldn’t be the worst injury you’ve ever sustained. It probably wouldn’t even hurt as much as being tattooed, which you pay people to do to you regularly. You just have to get through two hours and you’re going to feel like a total bad ass afterwards.”

static-trapeze-aircraft-circus1AirCraft Circus is tucked away in an industrial estate but once inside, it’s bustling with amateur and professional performers who have come to practice their moves.

Our class was full with 8 students and once we’d all arrived our instructor Matt led us upstairs into the rehearsal space. The floor was lined with crash pads and trapezes, silks, hoops, and ropes hung from the ceiling. Around us, students were practicing all manners of circus arts – slithering up and down silks, flipping onto their partner’s shoulders, and swinging daringly from trapezes.

Deep breaths.

Matt led us through a short but intense warmup and by the end I was already feeling the urge to drop out (ugh, burpees!)

After a short spiel on safety, it was time to learn how to get onto the trapeze – which involves holding yourself up and flipping your feet over your head so that you can hook your legs over the bar. This was the part I had the most trouble with and most of the time Matt had to help me get my legs high enough. From there he showed us how to pull ourselves up so that we were sitting on the bar. I’m not sure what I’d expected from the class but I hadn’t really anticipated going much further than this, but we instantly moved on to tricks!

The trapezes we were working on were only a few feet off the ground, so there were none of the daring heights that I’d been fearing. What I hadn’t been prepared for was the sheer amount of strength and body control it takes to perform each move.

Matt would demonstrate and then two of us would give it a go at a time.

From sitting we moved onto hanging upside down, standing on the bar, gazelle (my favourite!), and on and on to increasingly difficult positions.

static-trapeze-aircraft-circus3Some of the other students took to the trapeze instantly and could perform each trick with almost no difficulty. Others fumbled a lot more and I’d say I struggled the most, but I’m proud to say I gave everything a try.

There were moments, when hanging upside down with only one leg wrapped around a rope to support me, that I felt absolute terror. Panic rose up inside me and I was close to tears. But I was able to calm myself down and keep going.

By the end of the class my arms were so exhausted that they were shaking and it was a struggle to even pick up my bag to leave.

On the commute home I was filled with adrenaline and a sense utter elation – I had done it! – before settling into complete exhaustion.

The next day I woke up with dark, rope-shaped bruises along the backs of my knees and every muscle in my body hurt in a way I’ve never experienced before – it’s painful to get dressed, pick up a cup of tea, type at my computer, or even lie still in bed. But there’s something satisfying about pushing yourself to your physical limits and making it through.

I’m now completely in awe of performers who can not only perform these tricks but make them look effortless and graceful.

I loved the experience of taking the class, but I don’t have any dreams of running away with the circus. Understanding the time and dedication it takes to become a performer, I know there are too many other things I want to accomplish to commit to that lifestyle. But I certainly want to give it another go sometime. And I feel really good about facing my fears, trying something new, and having a really interesting experience.

Have you ever gone to a circus class? Would you want to?

Love, top hats, & twinkling fairy lights,


  1. GO GIRL! This makes me want to try, actually :)

    • You totally should! I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s some crossover in terms of climbing skills. xo

  2. wow! This is so impressive, but I can imagine how hard it must be. I would be terrified x

    • Thanks, Claire! I definitely was. But I felt really excited and proud for working through my fear. xo

  3. You are such a badass! I’ve never even heard of a circus class before. Super cool!

    <3 Kelsea | Kels Shark

  4. This is SO COOL! I definitely want to try trapeze someday! It looks like so much fun!

  5. Congrats! I would love to take a circus class, not sure which area I would do, but this looks fun!

  6. Tom says:

    You are wonderful. And gorgeous. Love that you did it.

  7. I’ve been wanting to do a class for ages now, mostly for the trapeze and mostly because I want to fall off and bounce about in the net that is supposed to break and catch you when you fall. I know that is not the purpose of the class (and probably a waste of money) but the heart wants what the heart wants, never mind the fool I’ll make of myself bouncing around on a net!


  8. Wow Sarah, it sounded like it was amazing! You must feel so proud of yourself particularly with your fear of heights in mind, it sounds like you did so well, and it’s one thing to tick off the bucket list! You’ve given me some inspiration to try and do something I’m not so used to!

  9. Oh Sarah, what a splendid thing you did – good for your for pushing through your fears and taking the class. Even if it’s not something you want to repeat, the fact that you did it means everything. Your description of the class and your feelings reminds me of how I felt when I tried rock-wall climbing. I’m not good with heights either, and at one point I was paralyzed with fear, and couldn’t move up or down, and I had to let go of the wall and let the harness bring me to the ground. I was embarrassed, but at least I tried it. Same with zip-lining! You are an extraordinary young woman, and I’m so pleased I was able to meet you before you moved to the UK.


  1. […] birthday list led to so many fun adventures last year, like taking a trapeze class and raving my way into the […]

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