The video above was made for a 72 hour International Film Festival. This circus story goes behind the scenes with the aerialists and trapeze artists of a flying circus (a flying exhibition team) to ask famous trapeze artists and circus performers what their biggest fears are.
There are several different types of flying circuses emphasizing different aspects of the art. There are the “showy styles”, and the more self-expressive, story-telling circus styles.
So, are the aerialist afraid of flying in the air, way above the ground? What keeps them focused? For all circus trapeze artists, barophobia must be overcome.
Flying circus artists have words to live by
Aislinn Mulligan’s definition of fear is “All things you haven’t done yet. Not dying would be good. There are things that are dangerous but that’s how I like to live my life,” the trapeze artist stated.
“I like to do things that push me, challenge me, that scares me. So I don’t really experience fear as a negative thing, I experience it as a positive, thrilling thing.”
But, for Alisabeth Gifford, a trapeze artist, it is quite a different circus story. She is afraid frequently. She relays that she knows that it isn’t a good thing for a circus aerialist to say.
Alisabeth is afraid when she makes a mistake on the trapeze. Therefore, she doesn’t know exactly where she will be caught. As a result, the trapeze artist learns to trust her teammates.
To her though, her art form represents a quality of life. Her specific expertise is in telling a story and by using her strength and body to tell it.
Another trapeze artist, Sarah Scanlon’s, definition of fear is of the “committee that sits on your shoulders and tells you that you can’t do something and you tell that voice to be quiet and do some push-ups!!!!.”
All of the aerialists do not seem to feel they have limits so they push themselves and feel it is part of the fun.
Famous circus performers don’t let fear stand in their way
Some famous trapeze artists worry about breaking bones. On the other hand, another has an internal mechanism, a switch that turns on at certain heights and says you can do it. For Sarah Swanson fear is real. She admits that she is actually afraid of heights.
When they are high up in the air practicing trapeze art they must focus on what they are doing. Certainly, they can not think of anything else because their life depends on it.
Above all, these everyday heroes message is to follow your dream. To sum up, not give up or let fear stand in your way.
What is barophobia?
Barophobia is the irrational fear of gravity. Famous trapeze artists and circus performers suffering from barophobia can either have the fear that gravity might crush them, in the same vein, the fear of falling because of the gravity involved (distinct from the fear of heights), or even the fear that gravity might cease to exist and they will float away.
The fear of gravity. Further, this phobia can take two forms. It can be the fear of being crushed by the sheer weight of gravity, or just the opposite, falling off the face of the Earth if gravity were to ever stop existing.
In short, over 19 million people or about 9% of the population have a specific phobia. Teenagers and women are more likely to have specific phobias than adult men. Trapeze artists are able to overcome this fear.
Famous Trapeze Artists Face Death
Part of the thrill of flying circus’s is the element of danger that a trapeze artist faces on regular basis as they perform their day job.
As flying circus’s continue to push death defying boundaries to keep audiences in awe of the aerial feats they perform, unfortunate accidents happen, and have been known to occur throughout history.
One of the first recorded accidents happened in 1872, when trapeze artists Fred Lazelle and Billy Millson plummeted to the ground and landed on top of gymnast George North, when their equipment failed. All three men survived, but were never able to perform again.
In 1962, the Flying Wallendas, a family of stunt performers, were completing their “Seven-Person Chair Pyramid” on a tight rope, when one of the men faltered, causing three of them to fall. One man survived and was paralyzed, but the two others died in the accident.
Trapeze artist Eva Garcia had been a working as an aerial silks acrobat since she was just seven years old, but during an August 2003 performance at England’s Hippodrome Circus, she lost her grip and fell thirty feet to her death.
Aerial chiffon acrobat, Dessi Espana was working at the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus in May of 2004, when a technical failure with the equipment caused her to drop from a height of ten meters. She succumbed to her injuries on the ambulance ride to a local hospital.
The Most Famous Trapeze Artists Of All Time
Alfredo Codona was one of the most famous trapeze artists of all time. He was born on October 7, 1893, in Sonora, Mexico, to an Italian circus family.
Alfredo’s father used to be a trapeze artist and was once the owner of a circus in southern Mexico. Hortense Buislay, Alfredo’s mother, was also a flyer and came from a family of trapeze artists.
Their family became the “Flying Codonas,” which included Alfredo, his father, mother, brother Abelardo, and sister Victoria.
He famously had three wives who were all circus performers. After the the failure of his first marriage, Alfredo married Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey’s famous circus aerialist Lillian Leitzel in 1928.
Lillian was perhaps the love of Alfredo’s life, but died tragically in 1931.
While the pair were performing in neighboring countries Denmark and Germany, Lillian’s trapeze rigging failed and she plunged to the ground.
Alfredo rushed to her side, but she succumbed to her injuries two days later.
The next year, Cordona himself fell during a performance and was never able to fly on the trapeze again.
His life ended in a horrible self-inflicted tragedy in 1937, when his third wife, fellow famous trapeze artist Vera Bruce filed for divorce.
During a meeting at her lawyer’s office, Alfredo shot Vera and turned his weapon on himself. He died instantly and she lived through the next day before passing from her injuries.
The Tragic Death Of Famous Trapeze Artist Lillian Leitzel
Lillian Leitzel was one of the most famous trapeze artists of her era. She was born in Germany in 1892, and followed in the footsteps of her mother who was a well-known aerial circus performer.
She rose to fame at a young age when she was contracted by Ringling Brother’s Circus. She quickly became a headline act and was branded “Queen of the Air” for her impressive performances on the Roman Rings.
During her awe-inspiring act, Leitzel would hang high above the audience and perform her best known trick called “one armed Flanges,” where she propelled herself up with impressive strength and complete full rotations of her body often over 100 times.
Leitzel was tragically killed in an accident involving aerial rings in 1931 while she was performing on an improperly set up rig in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Video Production: Rocko Productions
Review Written By: M. Cardinal
Date Written: Mar 24th, 2020
Flying Circus FAQs
an organized group of acrobats or trapeze artists engaged in public exhibition flying.
Entry-level jobs in the circus might pay around $300 a week, while featured performers like acrobats, contortionists or trapeze artists can make between $40,000 to $70,000 a year. You also get free room and board while you’re traveling with the show, which is an added perk.
The trapeze artists are usually the focal point of each flying circus.