In today’s blog, I will be interviewing Joe Summers, a visiting instructor at Extreme Circus and an aspiring trapeze artist to find out what life is like up in the sky!
Q: Joe, can you tell me a little bit about how long you have been involved in trapeze and how you got started?
A: I have been doing flying trapeze for a little over two years. I had recently moved to Seattle, WA from Minnesota and got involved with a circus school through my girlfriend at the time. I took a flying trapeze class and found it to be terrifying. I almost didn’t sign up for a second class, but I realized how accomplished I felt after my first class and I thought that trapeze might be a good way for me to meet more people in Seattle, and stay active. About six months later, I got an opportunity to learn how to teach flying trapeze and started training to become an instructor. Shortly thereafter, I left my job to teach flying trapeze full-time.
Q: What are your aspirations when it comes to flying trapeze?
A: I’ve always wanted to be more acrobatic/gymnastic and trapeze is allowing me to really shape those skills. I’m currently working on moving into higher-level trapeze skills like the double-layout and triple somersault. Someday I would like to try performing professionally, ideally for a company like Cirque du Soleil, but right now I’m just focused on sharpening my skills and gaining experience.
Q: Do you train or perform on any other apparatus than the flying trapeze?
A: Yes, currently I am working on a duo static trapeze act with my girlfriend Keira, who taught me everything I know. I also have a background in musical theater and clowning and have performed a bit of clowning in the past, which I enjoy. I’d like to get some experience with other circus acts such as aerial straps, juggling, and trampoline when I get back to Seattle and am able to train a bit more.
Q: What do you enjoy most about flying trapeze?
A: I enjoy the feeling of the adrenaline rush after successfully completing a trick. I’m getting to a level in my flying where many of the tricks I perform without safety lines could be very dangerous if I don’t do them correctly, so it’s always a good feeling to hit the net or get back to the platform after a catch and know I did everything correctly.
Q: What is the hardest thing about doing flying trapeze for a living?
A: I think the hardest thing is just trying to keep my body in working order. I am only 24 and have only been flying for two years, but sometimes I feel like I have the shoulders of a 55-year-old man! Trapeze is very hard on your body, especially your shoulders, so there is a lot of upkeep that has to be done between sessions like stretching, icing, using a foam roller, and conditioning.
Q: What do you enjoy most about teaching flying trapeze?
A: I like seeing my students succeed. When a student starts to understand something they have been working on for a long time and they get excited and start to believe they can do something, that makes me really happy. Flying trapeze can be very daunting, for beginners and more frequent fliers alike, so it is always rewarding to see students meet goals, make progress, or gain confidence in their own skills.
Q: What is the most difficult part of being a flying trapeze instructor?
A: The most difficult thing is knowing that people’s lives and safety are in my hands. I need to be always thinking about safety and reacting to what students are doing in the air, while still being conscious of my teaching and making sure I can balance both parts of being an instructor.
Q: What does your family think about your decision to pursue circus as a career?
A: My mom thinks it’s great! She actually wants to try trapeze but she hasn’t done it yet. My family has been very supportive and although it is not the most lucrative career, they are happy that I have found something that I enjoy!
Q: When you aren’t working or training on the flying trapeze rig, what else do you like to do?
A: When I am not training on circus activities, I enjoy playing guitar. I have been playing and making music since I was young, and it has always been something I enjoy. Here in Cabarete, I try to use my free time to explore town, sit on the beach and read or drink coffee, or go check out the surrounding towns.
Q: What advice would you give to others aspiring to make a career in the circus?
A: I would tell them to remember that it is a process and takes time to develop skills. Trapeze especially can be very frustrating at times, but you have to remember you are doing it because you like it. Trapeze should be fun, and if you aren’t having fun, maybe you shouldn’t do it as your career. Becoming a circus artist takes a lot of hard work and training, but if you enjoy it, the hard work is worth it!