Calling all swingers
Alumna opens flying trapeze school in Athens
Kara Dyckman is a busy woman. Seven months ago, she gave birth to her second son, Colby, who joined big brother Conor, 2. She has a house and a dog and a husband, Shain. She’s an assistant professor of psychology at UGA. And now Dyckman (MS ’05, PhD ’07) is co-owner of Leap Trapeze, a flying trapeze school that opened in Athens in August.
Her life is “kind of crazy,” she says, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Opening a business of their own was a goal of the Dyckmans, who met while working at Club Med in Florida. Shain was a trapeze instructor there and recruited Kara, who was working with children, to perform a doubles trapeze act. Five years later—and after getting married—they headed to Athens, where Kara earned graduate degrees and the two performed together at Canopy Studio, an aerial dance company. After graduation Kara was awarded a post-doctoral fellowship through Massachusetts General Hospital, and they moved to Boston. There they found a branch of the Trapeze School of New York (TSNY) and fell in love with flying again.
“It’s very addicting,” she says. “The TSNY slogan is ‘Forget fear. Worry about the addiction,’ which is really true because people think, ‘Oh, I’m going to be scared,’ but then once they do it they’re like, ‘I have to do it again.’”
At TSNY in Boston they met Kaz and Larissa Stouffer, fellow adrenaline junkies who’d also met while working at Club Med. Kaz Stouffer had been teaching and performing for 15 years and had dreamed of opening his own school, so it wasn’t difficult for the Dyckmans to persuade the Stouffers to join them when they moved back to Athens. The mild climate, student population and circus-friendly community provide the perfect backdrop for an outdoor flying experience. And since the nearest flying trapeze schools are located in Washington, D.C., and Venice, Fla., Leap can draw students from surrounding states.
The rig at Leap, located in a former parking lot, looks like a giant swing set. A long net is placed strategically beneath a platform 25 feet in the air. Standing on the platform—not to mention jumping off while holding on to a trapeze bar—can be intimidating, but students are secured in safety lines every step of the way. And they’re getting exercise while having fun, Kara Dyckman says.
“It really provides a huge adrenaline rush,” she says. “If you’re going to the gym you’re doing things that are good for your physical health, but you don’t get that same kind of feeling.”
During the fall Leap offered its first eight-week workshop, culminating in a student show, as well as one-time classes open to the public and special events like birthday parties for both kids and adults. It takes at least three of the four partners to run the rig, and right now Kara Dyckman has a lot on her plate.
“I don’t work most of the classes because I have a thousand other things going on, but I like to go and be a part of it and hear what people are saying and watch them progress or do it for the first time,” she says.
And when Colby is a little older she’ll spend more time at Leap, both working and flying.
“I think people get addicted because you can always do better. You can always do the trick that you’re working on better, there’s always more to learn and so you can always progress,” she says. “I think it really gives people a feeling of accomplishment.”