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Dancer Teaches The Trapeze As Art Form
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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 heâ€™s been teaching others about its beauty.
Dancer, choreographer and aerial arts instructor Mikey Thomas starts every class with a thorough warm-up.
â€œTake your right leg. Lock it in, up near your sternum. Pull it up, pull it up, pull it upâ€¦â€
Itâ€™s physically challenging work but thatâ€™s 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.
â€œThe majority of them want a physical experience where theyâ€™re working out, theyâ€™re sweating, theyâ€™re 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. Heâ€™s 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. Itâ€™s a cousin to the circus arts, Thomas says. Itâ€™s a marriage, he says, between modern dance and the trapeze.
â€œThereâ€™s 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. Iâ€™m 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.
â€œThey will tell you, â€˜My shirts donâ€™t fit.â€™ And the reason their shirts donâ€™t 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, itâ€™s 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:
â€œAll 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. Thatâ€™s for safety and insurance purposes, Thomas says. Eventually he wants to do high-flying trapeze instruction, but that hasnâ€™t 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.
â€œIâ€™m finding that everyone has this urge inside them to perform. So thereâ€™s some bud of artistic urge in there in everyone and Iâ€™m trying to draw that out,â€ Thomas says.
No problem for professional dancer Cate Owens who says sheâ€™s found a new home on the trapeze.
â€œIâ€™ve just always wanted to be tall, get up high, do as much as I can dance- and performance-wise. And Iâ€™ve been doing it for about a year and Iâ€™m 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.
â€œPeople just really seem to take to it differently than if you were to go in and take a dance class where thereâ€™s so much preconceived ideas about body type and skill level and gender and things like that,â€ Thomas says.