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Waters sisters explore passion for trapeze

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Sacha and Thalie Waters practice their trapeze tricks.

Sacha and Thalie Waters practice their trapeze tricks.

Gerry Waters

Gerry Waters

Sacha and Thalie Waters practice their trapeze tricks.

By Indrani Maitra, St. John's School

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Thalie grips the trapeze bar tightly, focusing on executing the next trick. She positions herself correctly, bending her knees and flexing her toes. Unfazed by the height, she takes a deep breath, makes eye contact with her sister Sacha across the rig, and jumps.

The Waters sisters have been practicing trapeze ever since their mother discovered the unique activity during one of their annual trips to England. Both freshman Thalie and junior Sacha grew to adore trapeze. Every summer, the Waters sisters practice for hours on the massive trapeze rigs of Regents Park—whether mastering a complex trick or performing a routine in front of a crowd.

“There aren’t any accessible trapeze rigs in Houston,” Sacha said. “To keep in shape while we’re in America, we have a stationary bar that’s just a few feet off the ground in our backyard. If we aren’t in shape by our lessons in England, it’s a lot of work and pain to get our strength back.”

Many people harbor misconceptions about trapeze. It is often perceived as a glamorous circus act when, in reality, it is an intense sport that requires rigorous training and work, engaging all parts of a person’s body.

“It’s especially hard on your core in order to execute the trick well,” Thalie said. “You have to be quite athletically capable if you want to be good. It’s a lot more than just swinging on a bar.”  

Sacha likened trapeze to dance.

“It takes a lot of practice, discipline, exercise and strength, but it is fundamentally about being aesthetically pleasing,” Sacha said. “It’s sort of a cross between an art and a sport and a circus act.”

This summer, Thalie had the opportunity to participate in the prestigious French Woods Festival in upstate New York, a performing arts camp nestled in the western Catskills. She participated in the flying trapeze program, as well as other activities such as stagecraft and visual arts.

Used with permission from French Woods Festival

“The trapeze instructors there were amazing, and it was a really fulfilling experience,” she said. “I learned this great new trick called the ‘shooting star,’ and mastered a really complex one called the ‘cutaway!’”

Thalie also had the opportunity to participate in her first circus, the aptly named Firefly Show. In contrast to the traditional circus consisting of juggling, stationary trapeze and cloud swings, the Firefly Show was far more daring.

“They have two massive trapeze rigs, and on the ground there are people juggling fire and twirling staffs with fire and doing poi (fireballs),” Thalie said. “There are also people performing on aerial silks. The theme was super unusual—original punk rock—and it was a great match with all the crazy stuff happening on stage. It was a gorgeous production!”

Thanks to her arduous trapeze training, Thalie excels in other sports. She is a Houston Junior Preparatory Conference champion in the 200-meter hurdles and will be one of the only freshmen on the diving team this coming winter. She attributes her success in hurdling and diving to several skills she requires for trapeze.

“Trapeze requires a lot of coordination, and that helps me in a lot of other sports,” Thalie said. “You have to be very spatially aware in both trapeze and hurdles. The ab part and control part of trapeze helps me a lot in diving because you need to be super in control for both those sports.”

Although they consider trapeze to be very hard work, both the Waters sisters relish the experience and anticipate the summer lessons every year.

“It’s really fun to be up on a trapeze bar, and to go through all the tricks in the air,” Sacha said. “It’s just an absolutely exhilarating experience.”

This story was originally published on The Review on September 18, 2018.

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