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Taking to the air on the highest trapeze in Chicago


♦ 5917 N. Broadway, Chicago, IL 60660

♦ $47-$65 per class (reservations recommended)

♦ (773) 728-0922


♦ Outdoor classes at Belmont Harbor in Lincoln Park started May 4

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Updated: May 22, 2013 6:46PM

Steve Hammes, 45, spends his days looking up. As the head instructor for Trapeze School New York in Chicago, Hammes coaches his students the ways of the catch — and the fall:

For a lot of people in their first class — like those who go skydiving or bungee jumping — they’re expecting it to be a one-time challenge and experience. I don’t think most of them are expecting it to become a full-time hobby, but for a lot of them it turns into that.

It’s way cheaper than skydiving,

but it’s still way more expensive than taking a yoga class.

Students wear safety lines

even climbing the ladder. When they reach the platform they get switched over to the safety lines I hold from the ground. Even if that were to fail, there’s a safety net underneath.

The platform is about 23 feet in the air. The net is eight feet in the air. So you’re talking about 15 feet from the platform to the net.

Some people come just to have an experience. Some treat it more like a sport, where their intentions are to become very good at it. They train. They exercise when they’re at home so they can be better prepared for it. For others, it’s a mystical yoga-type of experience.

The first position everyone learns

is called a knee-hang, where you hang by your knees just like you did on the monkey bars when you were a kid. And as you swing out the second time, there’s another “catcher” hanging on another trapeze upside down who reaches out and grabs onto your wrists. At that time, you release the first bar so that you’re hanging from the other person.

Most people don’t even expect to make a catch in their first class, and I’d say 80 percent do.

You’re not going to come in on the first day and throw a triple-somersault to the catcher.

We have a weight limit of 205 [pounds], but if people are in shape and over that weight, it’s OK.

As long as you can hang from a bar for at least 30 seconds — that’s a prerequisite.

The ideal way of landing in the net is flat on your back.

We’ve never had a serious incident here, and very few in the 10 years of trapeze school in general.

The biggest challenge is being nervous but still being able to listen.

Flying trapeze really isn’t about strength or power; it’s mostly about timing.

— As told to Mike Thomas

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