Three Life Lessons From Trapeze Class at Fly School Circus Arts

Trapeze Lessons at Fly School Circus Arts in Philadelphia

Check me out: I’m flying!

Add trapeze lessons to the long list of adventures I never would have even dreamed I’d have the opportunity to try.

But last week, when Aversa PR invited me to take a two-hour trapeze class at Fly School Circus Arts to celebrate their grand opening in Philadelphia, I jumped at the chance to learn how to fly.

With the one year anniversary of my #GetGutsy blog just a few days later, the timing was perfect. What better way to recognize my commitment to get out of my comfort zone than by taking the ultimate leap off a platform hundreds of feet in the air and soaring through the sky?

My Story

After accepting the invitation to take trapeze lessons, I spent most of Friday and Saturday morning with nervous butterflies in my stomach, thinking about what I was about to do. My palms turned sweaty after watching Emily from Her Philly’s video from her lessons a couple of months ago. But even with all the nerves I felt, I knew I had to practice what I preach here on the blog and take a chance to get way out of my comfort zone.

I arrived at Fly School Circus Arts in Olde Kensington a little before 4 p.m. I was immediately greeted by Mary Kelly Rayel, the owner, and her friendly team of trapeze instructors.

Practicing on the ground. Much easier than hundreds of feet up on a platform.

The class started with lessons on the ground. We practiced the proper way to grab the bar, how to leave the platform and how to tuck our legs over the bar to hang upside down. After that, we were tightly fastened into our safety belts and were ready to fly!

I’m not afraid of heights, but climbing up the ladder freaked me out. It was very sturdy, but as I ascended higher and higher, the reality of what I was about to do set in. As I reached the top of the platform, I started to feel a little anxious.

At the top of the platform I was greeted by Matt, who turned out to be my knight in shining armor (or shall I say, my knight in skull print leggings) that day. He assured me that I was safe and that he wouldn’t let go until I was ready.

Matt brought the bar toward me and I grabbed it with one hand. I was shocked at how heavy it was and how weak and shaky I felt and dropped the bar. This is when my head started getting in the way of the task ahead of me and I started to feel more and more panicky.

Matt said to me, “You are strong. You can do this.”

He brought the bar back toward me and I gripped it with one hand. Still feeling shaky and starting to panic a little, Mary Kelly sent another instructor up the ladder to help me with the bar. No shame here! I’ll gladly accept help when I need it.

At this point, I was told to push my hips as far forward as I could while holding onto the bar with both hand, as Matt held onto the safety belt, giving me support. In that moment, I felt completely vulnerable, toes over the edge of the platform, half my body suspended in the air and half on the platform.

Finally Matt said “And HUP!” and off I flew! I honestly don’t even remember much about that first time because I was so terrified and stuck in my own head.

After getting back on solid ground, I was ready for my second chance at flying. The goal for this attempt was to hook my legs, hang upside down and do a backflip to dismount from the bar to the net.

Just your average Saturday…trapeze lessons in the middle of Philadelphia.

Up the ladder I climbed. This time, I definitely felt more confident, but still shaky and nervous. When I got to the top of the platform, Matt said to me, “You got this. The first time’s for fear, the second time’s for fun. Look to your left.”

I looked to my left and saw the most amazing view of Philadelphia’s beautiful skyline. I had been so nervous the first time around that I hadn’t even noticed the picturesque scene or taken in my amazing surroundings.

Once again, as the bar came toward me, I let my mind get the best of me and freaked out. Another instructor came up to help me and this time I made sure to enjoy the ride. As I flew in the air, I listened to Mary Kelly’s instructions to hook my legs over the bar and then to drop my upper body upside down. I did it! I was hanging upside down, truly flying!

Mary Kelly then told me to come back up, release my legs, so that I was back to a full hang. I swung my legs back and forth three times and then dismounted and did a backflip.

I was so proud of myself! Check out this video:

After that second time, I felt great and ready to end my trapeze career on a high note, but Mary Kelly wasn’t having any of that. At her insistence (and with her support, of course!) I gave it one more try and flew again, although I think my second attempt was my best and the most fun.

Some of the more skilled people in my class participated in a super secret bonus round that involved flying and then hooking onto one of the instructors and flying together! I was so impressed with the two girls who attempted and succeeded at doing that; at that point, I was happy to be back on solid ground and totally satisfied with my trapeze experience.

Mary Kelly ended the class by telling the group that she was proud of us. She reminded us that we did something that day that most people are too scared to ever even think about attempting in their lifetime.

From start to finish, my experience at Fly School Circus Arts was positive, encouraging and so much fun! The entire team couldn’t have been more supportive and motivating, especially in such a nervewracking and adventurous situation.

Me and the fabulous team at Fly School Circus Arts in Philadelphia

Me and the fabulous team at Fly School Circus Arts in Philadelphia.

*Big thanks to my cheer squad, my amazing little sister, Jamie, and one of my best friends, Melissa, for supporting me and taking photo and video throughout the adventure!

Want to see more pictures from my trapeze adventure? Click here to view my public Facebook album.

Lessons Learned

1. The first time’s for fear, the second time’s for fun. Things always get easier the more you do them. My first attempt on the platform was terrifying; my second attempt was exhilarating. Making gutsy decisions is not easy, but more you do them, the better you’ll get at it and the more fun you’ll have taking chances.

2. “You’re not at the dentist.” When I was up on the platform feeling completely anxious, Mary Kelly gave me a pep talk from the ground and reminded me, “You’re not at the dentist! You’re taking trapeze lessons; this is FUN!” Her words were such an important reminder that although taking risks and doing gutsy things can be scary, there’s usually a reward at the end of the experience. She also reminded me to enjoy the moment and fully soak in this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

3. Trust is key. Up on the platform, I had to put 100 percent trust in this (hunky and strong) man I had never met before. Matt constantly reminded me up there that he had me and was not going to let go. He asked me to trust him multiple times. He also reminded me that I had to trust myself and believe in my physical and mental strength to do this. How true is that, both in trapeze and in life? You need to trust yourself and trust the people around you.


Live in or near Philadelphia (or visiting in the near future!) and want to learn how to fly yourself? Here’s all the details you need:

Fly School Circus Arts
1650 N. 5th Street Philadelphia, PA
Two hour classes cost $60 per person
Classes are offered multiple times a day every day except Wednesday

What do you think? Would you ever attempt trapeze lessons?

*Disclosure: A huge thank you to Fly School Circus Arts and Aversa PR for hosting me! All (gutsy) opinions are my own.

  • erin – heart in ireland

    so awesome! one of my coworkers wants to do it before she turns 30 and it is something that sounds so fun to me! we are ttrying to do it later this month!

    • Jessica Lawlor

      YAY! I can’t wait to hear about your experience doing it- if you do, blog about it, for sure πŸ™‚

  • Gosh, this sounds like SO much fun. I actually looked into trapeze lessons around my area and found a fun little place that I may try out some time! Way to go on doing this!!

    • Jessica Lawlor

      OMG- I hope you do it! If you do, definitely blog about it because I’d love to hear about the experience from your perspective.

  • At age 52, I took my first trapeze lesson 2 weeks and had a similar experience. I was terrified once I got to the top and Mary Kelly literally had to talk me off of the ledge, but I DID IT! It was a lesson on how to overcome a fear, trust another person and give up control. I came away from the experience knowing that there is nothing in life that I can’t do and I can’t wait to go back…….It was so much fun and what an amazing group of people.

    • Jessica Lawlor

      Hi Stacey! WOW! That’s so awesome that you just took your first class too. Wasn’t Mary Kelly amazing?! She was so supportive throughout the entire thing and so patient with me (because I was taking up wayyyyy too much time freaking out up on the platform!).

      Also, very cool that you teach pilates! I have been wanting to try that after getting into yoga recently.

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  • This is awesome and looks like so much fun! I can’t help but remember on SATC when Carrie took trapeze lessons every time you mention them. I would love to do something similar myself someday!

    • Jessica Lawlor

      Everyone keeps referencing that episode of SATC but I can’t remember it! I’ll have to go back and rewatch that one πŸ™‚ Do it! You totally can.

  • I would totally do that in a heartbeat. Super cool! What’s next for you?!? haha

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  • Hi Jessica,
    Dana Sitar sent me through the link to this after I mentioned wanting to fly as my big pipe dream []. Thank you for a wonderful piece about this, it has given me more confidence in pursuing it.
    Thank you

    • Jessica Lawlor

      Thanks again for your comment, Kylie! Hope you got mine on your blog πŸ™‚ I’m rooting for you!

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