Flying Trapeze Retreat with Kaiceitos Circus

Lovely Readers, it’s been too long! How has it been 3 months since my last post? What adventures have you been getting up to so far in 2015?

I mostly trudged about in the Swamp of Regression in December and January, not much to report there. By February, I thought, enough is enough. I dug into my savings and booked a much yearned for week-long flying trapeze retreat at Kaiceitos Circus in the Dominican Republic. Sudhir and his partner Matthew had already booked, Hortense booked soon after, and I tagged along for the company.

BEST. DECISION. EVER.

Did you know that there is such a thing as a flying trapeze retreat? A magical place where you can fly until exhaustion six days a week in gorgeous weather among palm trees right by the beach? Where the rig is only a stone-throw away from dozens of affordable hotels and eateries serving delicious healthy food? And the head coach is probably the most skilled, experienced and hilarious coach that you will encounter in your life?

I was told about this paradise on earth over a year ago by fellow flyers at Gorilla Circus, and it took me that long to wrap my mind around the concept. It sounded too good to be true, there must be a catch!

There is no catch. Except, you know. If you want to, towards the end of the fly class (forgive me, forgive me…).

Kaiceitos Circus is run by Paul Roberts, whom I understand got into flying trapeze as an adult, performed professionally for years, and has been teaching it for decades. I’ve heard so much about him from other Gorillas, and we’d chatted a little bit over Facebook, so he felt like a friend before we even met.

ME: Paul! I am under orders to give you lots of hugs from the Gorilla crew!
PAUL: Jen! *hug* Are we going to work on your pullover shoot? I’m not hanging for it.
ME: *grumble grumble* It’s been TWO YEARS since I kicked the catcher in that trick.

We eased into the first class by doing a few warm up swings and throwing our OOL tricks to the net.

PAUL: The main issues with your swing are your take off and back sweep.
ME: How do you know this already??
PAUL: I’ve studied you. I’ve looked at your videos. It makes my job easier. I know what feedback to give you before you’re even on the platform.
ME: *eyes full of stars and heart all a-flutter*

Paul is ultra technical and precise in his feedback. I was worried that the flying technique he teaches might differ from what I’m taught at Gorilla and I’d get all confused, but I worried unnecessarily, most of his feedback built on what I already know. He is aware of different techniques, e.g. different ways to do a half turn, was able to explain the pros and cons of each, and he gave me the freedom to choose. He was super generous with his time, sitting with us to review the videos taken during class and pausing them to describe the shape we were in, the shape we should be in, and most importantly, what muscles/body part to engage to get into those shapes.

I understand that Paul doesn’t really fly or catch much anymore, but he made an exception with us! He demo’d a gorgeous swing on the first day – see how he gets his entire body behind the cables in the back sweep?

I was in trapeze geek heaven. Although sometimes he would say incomprehensible things.

PAUL: Jen, you need to relax. Flying trapeze is supposed to be fun. You don’t have to take notes when I’m giving you feedback.
ME: But I’m having SO MUCH FUN. *scribbles furiously*

He has this rare knack for explaining his feedback using different metaphors, so that if one way doesn’t click with me, he has a whole arsenal of other ways to explain it. Some of his metaphors can be a bit graphic.

PAUL (to Sudhir): When you break, you should think of EXPLODING your nipples into the net.
ME: Uh.
PAUL: Oh, sorry Jen. If I knew you were listening, I wouldn’t have used the word ‘nipples’.
ME: What.

I loosened up a little bit on the third day.

ME: I’m going to throw my fucking double.
PAUL: Say “fucking double” like you mean it!
ME: LIKE I MEAN IT.
PAUL: Oh Jen.

By day four, I was swearing freely and with gusto.

ME: I’m gonna throw my FUCKING DOUBLE.
SUDHIR: Paul, you know how Jen won’t let you catch her fucking double, right? She’s saving herself for Gorilla. How does that make you feel?
PAUL: I know. I’m just pretending to help her with the double. Why would I bother if she won’t let me hang for it?
ME: Sudhir, STOP SHIT-STIRRING. Paul, grab the MOTHERFUCKING LINES.

I improved so much in a week! I don’t have any comparable ‘before’ videos, but here is a video where I try to do the back sweep as Paul explained it; not a kick back with the legs at all, but a release/opening of the shoulders so that the body describes a shovel shape beneath the platform. Look how much height I gain just by doing it that, despite my lazy take off and force out.

There was a class when my hands hurt too much to do a decent swing and I was all, “This is INTOLERABLE, I’m going to be behind on my training plan!”. Paul was like, “We can’t have that!” and he taught me the Hop On. It involves swinging the bar to myself as per a normal take off, but instead of jumping into a seven, I do a small hop and place the bar on my hips and hold my chest up and forwards, legs tight behind me, and swoop off. It didn’t seem possible – the bar was miles away from my hips! But the more I did it, the more I loved it. More than any other trick I’ve thrown, this feels like a bird taking off and launching into the air. Now I want to add Hop On + Shoot or Forward Over to my 2015 Goals list.

I threw some layouts and 540s, but with only one week, I decided to focus on the double. Paul went through the double in painstaking detail, deconstructing it and reconstructing it to give my double more power, height, and consistency. On my last day, I threw 4 doubles that all looked about the same and were probably the best ones I’ve ever thrown. Need to open up sooner and, and as Paul says, “expose” myself to the catcher. So I know now that I have it in me, which is a massive confidence booster.

Catching-wise, I threw some splits and half turns to work on my return. Paul noted that I was doing everything too quickly, that I was swinging on the catcher like I’d swing on the trapeze bar. “When you’re swinging off the catcher, he’s swinging off the bar, so you end up swinging on a much longer pendulum compared to when you’re swinging on the bar. So your movements have to be slower and bigger to adapt.” Something for my mind to chew on!

On the last class of the last day, Sudhir The Brave popped The Question.

SUDHIR: Paul, we were wondering, most respectfully, if you might be willing to catch us out of lines.
PAUL: It’s not the done thing, but with you guys, sure.
HORTENSE, SUDHIR & I: *high fives and internal screaming*

And guess what? We all caught and returned to the platform! Aaaahhhh!

PERFECT END TO A PERFECT HOLIDAY.

In summary…

Highly recommended! Kaiceitos seems to be something of a hidden gem – most of the time, it was just a handful of us flying – Sudhir, Hortense, me, and we made friends with two awesome American ladies, Catherine and Danielle. In the afternoon we’d have some kids join in, but even so, we got lots and lots of goes. So much so that we’d sometimes loiter and sip our ice cold pineapple juices and Paul would kick us and go, “Are you gonna fuck around, or are you gonna fly?”. Love it!

While I selfishly want it kept a hidden gem, Paul is too amazing of a coach, and Kaiceitos deserves to be swarmed by flying trapeze enthusiasts all year round.

Flying Trapeze School

Kaiceitos Circus is run by the inimitable Paul Roberts. A week of flying costs $200. They also teach trampolining, bungy, silks, and hoop.

Paul’s team is made up of Marcus and Anyelou, nicknamed Chino and Chiqui, and Jodie was getting trained up as a board monkey when we were there. The boys are really sweet! Marcus is the most experienced, a great catcher and line puller, relaxed, charming, and speaks great English. Anyelou is less experienced but learns fast – he’s a reliable catcher, throws a mean double, and knows way more English than he lets on, he’s just a bit shy ???? We gave Paul and the boys a tip at the end because it was super well-deserved.

Accommodation

Kaiceitos is located on the grounds of eXtreme hotel; a spacious room to yourself costs $350/week, less if you share a room with a friend (beware that the info re: the Circus Package is outdated, email them for more info). They’re separate businesses, so you don’t have to stay there – Kite Beach Inn, only a couple of minutes walk on the beach away and in similar price range, has better WIFI and showers. eXtreme has drinking water provided in the room and a fridge with an ice compartment for my hot hands.

Transport

The nearest airport is Puerto Plata (POP). If you live in London, Thomson Airways flies there directly from Gatwick airport. My return flights were just under £400 (£75 extra if you want check-in luggage, I managed with 5kg hand luggage just fine). If you’re based elsewhere, check eXtreme hotel’s Getting Here and Getting Around guides.

Food & Drink

There’s yummy, healthy, and cheap food and drink everywhere. My favourite is hands down Kite Club Cafe, right next to Kite Beach Inn and two minutes’ walk from the rig. The Head Chef is a sassy bombshell blonde called Tania, her BBQ and veggie dishes are divine!

Currency

Bring US dollars and Dominican Pesos. For one week, I brought $750 and DOP 13,000 and spent most of it.

Health

I got Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccines and took malaria tablets as recommended by travel clinics, but my travel companions didn’t bother. None of us had any health issues besides a few mosquito bites.

I didn’t rip my hands once! I taped up any bits of my hand that got ouchy before and during class, and after class I’d ice my hands by wrapping them around ice cold drinks and sticking my palms onto the ice compartment in the hotel room fridge. I also diligently applied the Joshua Tree Gymnast Salve, which I credit for my tough calluses.

Travel insurance

InsureandGo has an off-the-shelf package that includes flying trapeze, it cost me £54 for a week and I think £62 for an annual multi-trip. I went for the annual multi-trip package as I hope to go back in winter ????

Family-friendly?

Yes! Paul runs kids classes in the afternoon; he has a lot of energy and knows how to talk to them and keep them engaged.

For example, there was this 4-year old boy learning the knee hang, and he was SO CUTE and SO EARNEST, but he’d keep pulling his hips over the bar instead of hooking his knees on the bar. We all clapped and cheered him on – he’s only 4, and having the best time of his life, who were we to tell him to do otherwise? But Paul sat this little boy down and said, “Now that you’re a seasoned flying trapeze artist, I want to give you a challenge,” and he went on to explain hooking the knees on the bar. The kid did it perfectly the next time. It was pretty astounding to witness.

Got questions? Throw them at me!