Flying Trapeze Terms

If you are joining us at TLCC for your first flying trapeze classes you will notice you hear a lot of unfamiliar terms that are part of our “circus vocabulary.” Some circus schools use different flying trapeze terms, but here are some words you might hear at our school, and what they mean.

Apron: On the flying trapeze rig, the end parts of the net that extend upwards.

Ascender: A device that flyers clip onto their belt while they climb the ladder. This device moves upwards with the flyer but will lock-up if the flyer were to fall downward, keeping the flyer from falling off the ladder.

Catch: When two people (a flyer and a catcher) meet in midair and the catcher grabs the hands of the flyer as the flyer leaves his/her bar. The flyer then swings from the catcher’s arms.

Catch hands: A hand position all flyers will be asked to practice on each turn. The arms are extended straight overhead, shoulder-width apart, with the hands open and fingers extended forming a W shape with the two hands. This is good practice for making a catch.

Catch Trap: The bar that the catcher hangs from, on the opposite side of the rig from the fly bar. Sometimes the catch trap might not be put up until the end of class.

Chalk up: An instructor might ask you to chalk up your hands or wrists before your turn. Chalk helps to dry out your hands and makes them grip the bar better. Before catching you should chalk up your wrists too to help the catcher grab you better.

Early: In flying trapeze, timing is everything. If an instructor tells you that you were early that means you made the movement before you were supposed to. Sometimes the instructors may talk to each other about the timing of a catch and say the flyer “got there early” meaning that he/she got to the catch point before the catcher did. That means the catcher will adjust when he/she tells the flyer to take off the next time.

Final position: After mastering the knee hang and backflip (your first trapeze tricks) students will progress to two-position or “set” tricks. These tricks are done by moving through two different positions, each of which happens at the peak of the swing. The first position happens at the front peak, the final position happens at the back peak by the platform.

First position:  See above.

Flip: A flip is a rotation around a horizontal axis through the body. Flips can be forward or backward and there can be anywhere from a half a flip to four flips in a trapeze trick. Flips can be performed tucked in a ball, piked, or laid out.

Fly bar:  The bar that the flyer hangs from. This is the bar students will perform their tricks on during class.

Flyer: The person performing the trick.

Grips: Equipment used to cover the hands to protect them from ripping or abrasions. Some types of grips (called dowel grips) are used by advanced flyers to help grip the bar better when swinging high and doing bigger tricks. Most grips are designed for gymnasts and are made of leather, but grips can also be home-made from tape or gauze.

Ground school – your on-the-ground introduction to flying trapeze consisting of a warm up, equipment/rules overview and an introduction to the trick you will be preforming.

Hocks: The backs of the legs. In your first class if you have trouble getting your legs under the bar your might be taught a “hocks-style” knee hang where you put your hands together in the  center of the bar and bring your legs around the bar instead of under it.

Hup: Our circus word for “go.” When you are on the platform and the instructor says hup it means to jump off. If you are in the air and an instructor says hup it means let go of the bar.

Late:  See early above. This is when you do move after you were supposed to.

Lines: Safety lines are the ropes that are attached to a flyers belt. These ropes are connected to a single rope (python) which an instructor holds. Safety lines can help slow the flyers descent to the net to ensure he/she falls safely.

Lining up/Bar’s coming up: When a flyer is getting positioned on the platform before a catch the instructor on the platform will call “lining up or bar’s coming up” to alert that catcher that the flyer is almost ready.

Listo/Lista: The flyer (or instructor) calls this out to indicate the flyer is ready to go.

Out-of-lines: When an instructor or advanced student swings on the trapeze without safety lines.

Pedestal/Platform/Board: The rectangular platform from which a flyer jumps off to start their swing. Platforms range in size and what they are made from on different trapeze rigs. At TLCC we have a nice wide platform to help you feel comfortable when preparing for your turn.

Pike: A body position in which the flyer is folded in half at the waist with straight knees.

Remount: When a flyer returns to the board after taking a swing or making a catch. 

Return: After making a catch, a flyer can leave the catcher’s hands and re-grab the fly bar in an attempt to get back to the platform where he/she started.

Rig: The entire trapeze structure is usually referred to as the trapeze rig.

Rip: When skin tears off of the hand, usually on the palm from gripping tightly on the trapeze. Rips can happen when you are new to flying and have not yet built up callouses, or if you fly a lot in a day.

Rise/riser: A small piece of wood or metal that is placed at different heights over the platform between the rungs of the riser ladders to give a flyer additional height when they take off. A rise can be helpful to make the flyer’s swing higher, or tell assist with the flyer’s takeoff.

Straddle: A position in which the legs are straight and spread apart out to the sides.

Swing: A series of movements advanced flyers make to generate height while hanging from the flying trapeze.

Take-off: When a flyer jumps off the platform to initiate their swing on the flying trapeze.

Tight: A fundamental instruction in flying trapeze is to “stay tight” which means squeezing and engaging all of the muscles in the body so that the body becomes rigid and moves fluidly and powerfully through the air. 

Twist: When the flyers body rotates around a vertical axis. Twists can range from a half turn (180 degrees), to full turn (360 degrees) to a pirouette (one and a half turns).

Trapeze rigging being set up
TLCC Trapeze Rig

Keira Moore