That daring young man: Matthew Wareing, 17, flying trapeze artist
My first flying trapeze swing was when I was five. It was nerve-racking but, once I started swinging, all the fear disappeared. My five-year-old self would be amazed to look at the coaches and know: “That’s going to be you.”
I started regular classes when I was 13. I was playing soccer but it started getting more competitive than fun. Circus is more inclusive; there’s a lot of helping each other to become better artists.
About two years later, I started catching. That involves being up on another trapeze bar and catching the flyer after their trick. You need to be able to do a lock – hanging upside down by your knees – while maintaining your height in a swing. You need to know the timing for each catch, which is different for each trick and each individual flyer.
My mum does flying trapeze and I coach her class so I generally catch her once a week, which is cool. She started flying trapeze recently, in her 50s. My older brother, Nathaniel, started catching before me so I have been caught by my brother, then I returned the favour and caught him.
I started coaching by working the board, which is the platform that people take off from. A lot of people are scared or nervous. Kids sometimes freak out and it’s funny when adults get up there and swear. I calm them down and talk about how fun it is. The youngest person I’ve sent off board is five and the oldest is 82.
As the lines person, it is my responsibility for making sure the flyer is safe. I stand on the floor holding the safety lines and, if anything happens, I slow their descent into the net. The person pulling the lines also maximises the chances of the flyer getting the trick and the catch.
A lot of people are surprised to find out my age. They usually find out after their lesson, so it’s more, “Oh!”, rather than, “Ohhhh?” I act differently to other teenagers, especially when I’m coaching.
I plan to do Year 12 then have a gap year. While I’m travelling, I’ll look for circuses and, if I’m in need of money, I’ll busk. There are a lot of Club Meds with a flying trapeze. I then plan to go to university and get a degree in something – I’m thinking software design – that isn’t physically taxing so I have a back-up. After that, if the opportunity arises, I would definitely perform professionally.
Circus Arts in Byron Bay, where I do circus, has an indoor fly rig. The two who have mainly helped me are the head fly coach, Scot “Ted” Tornaros, and the founder of Circus Arts, Belinda Hultgren. We’ve had other advanced fly coaches come through and I respect it when other coaches at circus give me their bit of feedback because I know they’ve been coaching longer than me.
I’ve performed flying trapeze at Circus Arts shows, the Tasmanian Circus Festival and when we had an outdoor rig on the beachfront last summer in Byron. I’ve also performed at festivals like Splendour in the Grass and Bluesfest – not flying trapeze but roving stilting and a solo handstand chair act, my other specialty.
I have never been injured badly. I’ve had a few “diggers”, where a fall to the net looks bad and should have hurt but doesn’t. I’ve made a few trips to the apron – the part of the net behind the catcher – but it hasn’t been more than a skin scrape.
At school in physics, we did a depth study on projectile motion, which is about parabolas and where an object will land if it’s going at a certain speed. You could probably work out the formula of the trapeze swing pendulums and the exact timing of a catch. The art is to feel and see when that would be.
In a traditional tent, the flying trapeze would be the final act. Safety lines were invented so the general public were able to have a go after the show and they are now used as a training tool. Anyone can get into circus; it’s not an exclusive sport that you need to have done since you were four. The majority of people make a catch in their first lesson.
Trapeze is both an art and a sport. You can train it as a sport and it can be expressed as an art. I find circus and flying trapeze a very cool thing to do and my friends and teachers are quite impressed by it, too.
This week’s highlights…
• Horseracing: Caulfield Guineas Day
Saturday, 1st race 12.10pm (AEDT), Caulfield Racecourse, Melbourne
Saturday, 1st race 12.30pm (AEDT), Royal Randwick, Sydney
• Netball: Constellation Cup – Australian Diamonds v New Zealand Silver Ferns
Sunday, 2pm (AEDT), Claudelands Arena, Hamilton, New Zealand;
Thursday, 5.30pm (AEDT), TSB Bank Arena, Wellington, New Zealand
• Cricket: Pakistan v Australia – Second Test, Day 1
Tuesday, 5pm (AEDT), Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi
• Soccer: A-League – Adelaide United v Sydney FC
Friday, 7.20pm (ACDT), Coopers Stadium, Adelaide
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Oct 13, 2018 as "That daring young man". Subscribe here.