Dancer Teaches The Trapeze As Art Form
Trapeze. The word conjures up images of high-flying acrobats doing daring feats of skill at the circus. But a Columbus man is exploring the art of the trapeze. And for the past two years heâs been teaching others about its beauty. [caption id="attachment_67957" align="alignright" width="280"] Columbus Trapeze instructor Mikey Thomas. Photo: Sam Hendren/WOSU [/caption] Dancer, choreographer and aerial arts instructor Mikey Thomas starts every class with a thorough warm-up. âTake your right leg. Lock it in, up near your sternum. Pull it up, pull it up, pull it upâ¦â? Itâs physically challenging work but thatâs because using the trapeze is physically demanding. Thomas says most of the people who enroll in classes at Movement Activities want the rigors that trapeze work requires. âThe majority of them want a physical experience where theyâre working out, theyâre sweating, theyâre getting into shape. The smaller percentage are actual professional performers here locally and they come in to maintain their body, maintain their artistic skills,â? Thomas says. After earning a Master of Fine Arts Degree in Dance and Choreography from Ohio State University, Thomas became a professional dancer in New York. Heâs held various positions with Ballet Met in Columbus, and worked overseas in London and Taipei. A few years ago, he returned to Columbus and started teaching aerial dance. Itâs a cousin to the circus arts, Thomas says. Itâs a marriage, he says, between modern dance and the trapeze. âThereâs just been a real explosion of interest in it. You see it in major Las Vegas shows, Broadway shows, you see it in music videos, you see it in rock shows. Iâm even beginning to see these circus arts in high school programs,â? Thomas says. Classes are held at 400 West Rich Street in the old warehouse that is now an artistsâ colony. As students progress the training becomes more intense and participantsâ bodies begin to change. âThey will tell you, âMy shirts donât fit.â And the reason their shirts donât fit is their back has gotten wider. Their shoulders have gotten larger, their biceps have gotten larger. This is difficult work but if you stick with it, itâs going to change something about you,â? Thomas says. Columbus dancer Cate Owens has been studying with Thomas for about a year. She says in the beginning the physical demands were almost overwhelming. But, Owens says: âAll of a sudden it just snapped. I was able to pull myself up on the bar, there was a definite climb to the mountain and then there was a plateau then you climb some moreâ¦you just keep getting stronger and stronger,â? Owens says. The half dozen trapezes here hang about six feet from the floor. Thatâs for safety and insurance purposes, Thomas says. Eventually he wants to do high-flying trapeze instruction, but that hasnât stunted community interest. Thomas and several advanced students perform at various events when their schedules permit. Most, he says, want the opportunity to perform publicly. [caption id="attachment_67959" align="aligncenter" width="592"]
Trapeze students at Movement Activities practice six feet above the ground. Photo: Sam Hendren/WOSU[/caption] âIâm finding that everyone has this urge inside them to perform. So thereâs some bud of artistic urge in there in everyone and Iâm trying to draw that out,â? Thomas says. No problem for professional dancer Cate Owens who says sheâs found a new home on the trapeze. âIâve just always wanted to be tall, get up high, do as much as I can dance- and performance-wise. And Iâve been doing it for about a year and Iâm so at home up there. I love it,â? Owens says. Mikey Thomas hopes that at some point, Movement Activities will be involved in the certification of aerial artists. But the focus will remain on expanding the bounds of artistic dance. âPeople just really seem to take to it differently than if you were to go in and take a dance class where thereâs so much preconceived ideas about body type and skill level and gender and things like that,â? Thomas says.