The Dark Secret of The Trapeze World that No One Dares to Talk About

Posted by: on February 5, 2013
Double Trapeze

Double Trapeze

I’ve seen some great discussion lately about drops and aerial tricks that might be too dangerous to teach.  While these discussions are important, there is a danger out there that all professionals know about, but is rarely discussed or brought out in the open. You certainly can’t find any youtube videos showing the fails either.  You don’t believe until it happens to you. We are talking about the very real danger of one particular move on the trapeze which results in THE LOSS OF YOUR PANTS.

We aren’t just talking about your pants kind of sliding off your body quickly and fixed with a hike back up. Not a little accidental plumber butt. We are talking about exploding out of your pants in a violent and awkward fashion.  Trapeze artists, you know what tricks I’m referring to:  the infamous duo “roll around the bar” and solo “hip circles”.  The moves are similar to each other in that they require you to push your pelvis into the bar and circle many times quickly around it. The move done successfully is featured here.

  Why do you sickos keep doing this trick?

We don’t avoid this trick because, well, it brings the house down. Let’s face it, for us applause hounds, people thinking you can defy gravity is worth the possibility of little gluteal cleft exposure.

  Three walks down Memory Lane

I have been fortunate enough to experience this living nightmare on not one, but three occasions. My first initiation was when I just began trapeze

Not this move either!

Not this move either!

lessons. I had done the trick before but was still not entirely familiar with its unparalleled ability to make the world snicker. I was at Chelsea Piers in Manhattan, a large open space in which trapeze, rock climbing, and gymnastics are taught. I was taking my private lesson in the evening when it was at its busiest. I started my hip circles when I heard a large rip. I knew to hold on, but soon realized I was dangling from knees by my leggings with the elastic waist band still around my waist and nothing in between. I think someone catapulted off the rock climbing wall. My trapeze teacher came running over to me and tried to toss me her sweater to cover my bare ass hanging ten feet up. Add to the awkwardness my general lack of hand-eye coordination as I attempted to catch in a desperate and ineffective manner, the sleeve of the sweater she was repeatedly trying to throw me. What kept me sane was the absolute conviction that my alarm was going to go off soon. My trapeze career suffered a minor setback as I didn’t return to class for a solid month.

The second time was with my partner, Laura. We were practicing the duo roll around the bar trick at our rehearsal space (SLAM in Williamsburg). What happens with this move is that you both have to press your pelvises to the bar in order to get a clean, fast motion.   That fateful day, we might have been trying to make the move even tighter and cleaner, or it may have been a little humid, or my leggings may have just been a little too old. Whatever the magical combination, Laura and I ended up with our hoohaws entangled and one cheek exposed as a group of five-year olds marched in for their acrobatic class. Five-year-olds can’t even say the word “underpants” without giggling.

The worst part is that you don’t get to just flush red and run for cover. No, you get to dangle while begging someone to lower the truss down. Then another year and a half goes by while you are lowered down until you can take the trapeze off the truss. Next, you hobble together entwined with the trapeze like you’re on some weird japanese game show.  You finally make it to the safety of the bathroom, where you have to figure out how to extract yourselves from each other and argue over who is going to run back into the space in her underpants and get clothes for the two of you.

A good moment in Romania

A good moment in Romania

The last time this happened to me was in performance. What can I say, I’m a slow learner.  I was performing a duo trapeze act in Romania for a circus there with Kristin Young who was replacing Laura for that stint. It was approaching summer, we were high up in a real circus tent and it was very hot. By the second week our costumes had started to stretch a bit. We knew the danger, so we started to sew them in tighter and tighter. Well, we let a few days go by and sure enough, at the end of our act, BAM! We were dangling by our crotches. As soon as people caught on to the fact that we were stuck (and we were very very high up), nine circus guys in bright green neon shirts came shimmying up the rig wires to come rescue us. When they got there, I told them, “I hope someone remembered scissors!”  No one did, but luckily they managed to support us enough so we could unwind ourselves and get off without falling to our deaths (file that under the best way to receive a Darwin award).  It must have been a good five to seven minutes until we actually got to the floor. The clown afterward told us that he had covered and didn’t think anyone noticed…

  Tips to Prevent Early Pants Loss

1.Keep your junk tucked in (yet another reason for a dance belt if you are a boy, don’t even contemplate that sort of wrapping).

2.Do not wear low rise, old, thin, or loose leggings.  If you have a long run, sew up your costumes and chalk up the center of bar.

3.Lift and Separate! If you start to wrap, stop rolling or reverse it.

4.Have a signal if one of you notices what is happening so you can stop it before it gets bad.

5.Finally, If it does happen to you, think of it as a cheap way to get a Brazilian.

Share with us your most embarrassing moments in the air or youtube links of funny stuff other people have gotten themselves into.



  1. Erin says:

    Thanks for sharing this! I have been thinking of starting a blog specifically to share these kinds of funny stories.

    I once ripped a massive hole in the front part of my pants doing solo hip circles (in a gym full of people with no spare pants). Another time I had to slide out of my shirt because it was so tangled around the bar from doing back elbow circles. I also ripped the side of my pants off with my hand doing a cuddle and then rolling out to an elbow hang (I’m not even sure how that one happened).

    Loved this post 🙂

  2. ImaginAerial says:

    Ha – thanks Erin! Honestly – sometimes I think it’s a miracle our clothes stay on at all! 🙂

  3. Rebecca says:

    Wow! All these situation have happened to me and its great to know that I’m not alone! My best advice is high waisted, slippery material tight shorts and perfecting the art of doing both moves backwards.

  4. jana korb says:

    uhuh…!!! fortunately this never happened to me on stage – just while training or rehearsing…
    thank you for posting!
    my solution is:
    since I started working on bare steel trapeze bars (without grip tape) 6 years ago, it never happened again! not even closely! I chose the bare bar for other reasons (it’s not so rough on your hands, and foothang is so much less painful – and you need to practice a tighter grip, because you cannot rely on friction anymore – which you shouldn’t do anyway 😉 – but not getting stuck anymore is a really great side effect – i even perform the back elbow and the belly roll in a long and floating robe now!!!