Four years after opening in south Gilbert, Trapeze U has carved out a niche in the Southeast Valley by teaching its students to “fly.”
The specialized institute of “higher learning” isn’t just for trained gymnasts and super-fit athletes, co-owner Dylan Phillips says.
Near the southeastern corner of Lindsay and Pecos roads, it teaches trapeze to inexperienced students as young as 4 and has taught students in their 70s. Most of the regular students, however, are between 30 and 45 years old, Phillips said.
“It doesn’t take a lot of strength,” Phillips said. “That’s the misconception. If you do trapeze correctly, you’re really letting the swing do the work.”
Trapeze U offers classes nearly every evening, with prices ranging from $32 to $65. New students first learn the basics on the ground before climbing a 23-foot ladder to a small platform. While tethered to safety lines, students lean forward, grab the trapeze bar and jump.
“These are people who sometimes are looking for something exciting to do for their workout routine,” Phillips said. “Some people just try it and get bit by the bug. It really makes them want to get better and see how far they can go.”
Tina Gaylord, a Chandler resident who started lessons at Trapeze U about three years ago, said overcoming her fear of heights was part of the draw.
“It probably took three months for me to climb the ladder without shaking,” Gaylord said. “You start with one trick and you build, so there’s always a next level to get to. It’s fairly addictive.”
Now, Gaylord swings on the trapeze without safety lines and has had professional offers to turn her skills into a career.
Not every student is as dedicated, and some customers come just once for the experience.
Vida Beric, who came from Leicester, England, to visit relatives in Gilbert, took one lesson last Friday as a birthday present.
Leaning nervously out from the platform, Beric needed some coaxing before taking the leap. Fellow students and family urged her on as she flipped upside-down in an attempt to swing her legs onto the trapeze bar.
“I was nervous, scared, shaking,” she said after successfully completing her first trick. “It’s a good workout. Really works your arms out.”
Phillips launched the trapeze school after his love of gymnastics landed him a career with the circus, where he performed on the trapeze, Chinese pole and Russian swing.
“I loved it,” Phillips said. “It had a tremendous impact on me personally in terms of doing something that’s different, something that’s exciting.”
Opening a business that most people have never heard about was “crazy,” but the school has since established itself, expanded class offerings and recently bought the 1-acre parcel it once leased, Phillips said.
“We’ve had a nice, steady growth in a tough economy,” Phillips said. “We’ve been able to create a core student base out here. We’ve gone from teaching people the basics to having people who now fly without safety lines and are getting offers to do things professionally.”
While there is some risk involved when performing on the trapeze, the school has a solid safety record with only one visit from the Gilbert Fire Department in four years, Phillips said.
Mesa resident Kara Jones, who has taken classes for about a year, said she can’t do a cartwheel but can do the trapeze.
“It’s a teachable sport if you can listen,” Jones said. “Some students can be really athletic, but if they don’t know trapeze and they don’t listen, they have a really hard time.”
Nine-year-old Cooper Ellis, who started lessons three years ago, said he first tried the trapeze as part of his uncle’s birthday present and ended up liking it.
“A lot of people think it’s really scary, but I think all the work is in the ladder, and the trapeze is just the fun way of coming down,” Cooper said.
Trapeze U is offering a weeklong “circus camp” for kids beginning July 30. The camp is open to students from ages 7 to 17 and will include lessons on flying trapeze, juggling, mini trampoline and circus bike. The camp costs $225 per student.
The school recommends students wear typical exercise clothing during classes, with the exception of flip-flops or sandals instead of shoes.
More about Trapeze U
Location: 14407 E. Pecos Road, Gilbert.
Contact: 888-872-7101, trapezeu.com.
What: Two-hour class for beginner- to intermediate-level students.
When: 7 p.m. Thursdays; 8 a.m. Saturdays; 6 p.m. Sundays.
Half-price flight night
What: Similar to Trapeze 101, but with larger class sizes.
When: 6 p.m. Mondays.
Fundamentals of Flight
What: Eight-week program including seven weeks of classes and a final trapeze show for friends and family.