Glossary

In this section, you'll find definitions of common flying trapeze terms. This list is not exhaustive and, given the wide variation in terminology across the globe, there will certainly be some omissions. However, if you would like to suggest additions or corrections, please contact us.

A

Apron
The parts of the net at either end of the rig that curve upwards. The front apron is next to the catcher and stops you if you fall during a catch. The back apron is at the other end and catches you if you fall off the platform.

B

Backend
The part of a swing closest to the platform.
Bar
A metal rod suspended between two cables that together make the trapeze. Flyers hold onto this as they perform tricks.
Bar Hook
A metal hook used to hold the trapeze bar stationary and in reach of the platform when not in use.
Bar to bar
A variant of the standard flying trapeze layout. Instead of having one platform, bar to bar rigs have two facing platforms and two fly bars. Flyers pass from one fly bar to another and back (often multiple times) and start from and return to either platform. In this most simple setup, there is no catcher.
Belt
A simple harness worn by flyers and to which the safety lines are attached by carabiners.
Board
Horizontal platform on which flyers stand before starting their tricks.
Board Monkey
Slang for the person that runs the platform.
Break
A break is a powerful movement that the flyer makes during a swing (often to initiate a somersault). It involves the flyer sweeping their legs backwards from a closed or piked position.

C

Cables
Wire cables (or 'wire ropes') are used all over a trapeze structure to hold the parts together and in position.
Carabiner
A carabiner or karabiner is a metal loop with a spring loaded gate used to quickly and reversibly connect components on a flying trapeze rig.
Catch
A catch refers to the moment in flying trapeze when a flyer leaves the fly bar and is grabbed by another performer (the catcher) on a second piece of equipment.
Catch Trap
Short for 'Catch Trapeze'. Refers to the trapeze that the catcher hangs from when they are making a catch.
Catcher
There are two main roles in the flying trapeze: flyers and catchers. Catchers typically stay on one piece of equipment and catch flyers as the perform their tricks.
Catcher's Lock
The position that the catcher makes on the bar when they are catching
Chalk
White powder (usually magnesium carbonate) applied to the hands and wrists to remove perspiration and reduce slipping.
Chalk Bag
A bag containing chalk (one is usually found on the board).
Cradle
A cradle is a type of equipment which can be used by catchers instead of a trapeze. It typically consists of two parallel bars. The catcher hooks their knees over the first and under the second and is therefore able to pivot their body about the knee joint. Cradles can be fixed ('static’) or attached to a swinging frame ('swinging’).
Crane Bar
In an outdoor or free-standing rig, the crane bars are the horizontal poles at the top of the structure from which all the material is hung.

D

Departure
To leave the board and swing on the fly bar at the start of a trick.

F

Final Position
In tricks that involve several positions, the final position is the one just before the catch.
First Position
In tricks that involve several positions, the first position is adopted first. It is usually an intermediate step to getting into a more complex final position.
Flyer
There are two main roles in the flying trapeze: flyers and catchers. Flyers are typically the ones who perform the tricks and are caught by the catchers.
Frame
A free-standing rig is typically made up of four frames: metal structures that make up the rig and from which equipment is hung. Usually one holds the platform, one the fly bar, one the catch trapeze and the final supports the front apron.
Free-standing Rig
A rig that is built up from the floor using frames and support cables. It does not require a ceiling to hang equipment from.
Frontend
The end of the swing furthest from the board.
Full sized rig
Used to refer to the most common setup for flying trapeze equipment with a single platform, fly bar and catch trapeze, a net and 3.5m cables.
Full Time
Full time refers to the timing of a catch. The flyer swings out, back to the platform and then back out again to make the catch.

G

Gaffe
See: Noodle
Gloves
Gloves are used by the safety line operator to protect his hands from rope burns while pulling lines.
Goalpost
See: Frame
Grand Volant
See: Full sized rig
Grips
See: Hand Grips

H

Half Time
Half time refers to the timing of a catch. The flyer leaves the platform and makes the catch immediately at the frontend (without an extra swing).
Hand Grips
Hand grips are protectors for the palm and fingers used by flyers to increase grip and prevent rips. They are commonly made of tape or leather.
Hep
Signal used to mean 'go'.
Hook
See: Bar Hook

I

Indoor Rig
A rig that is inside and therefore usually hung from the ceiling rather than being built up from the ground.

K

Karabiner
See: Carabiner

L

Ladder
Ladders are used to climb up to the platform. They can be built into the structure, hung from a crane bar (in the case of a rope ladder) or they can be traditional ladders that are leaned up against the platform.
Leotard
Leotards have a special history as they were invented by Jules Leotard, who also invented the flying trapeze. They are tight one-piece suits often worn by trapeze artists.
Lines
See: Safety Lines
Lista
Feminine of 'Listo'. Some schools will make the distinction when the flyer is female.
Listo
Signal used to mean 'ready' (from the Spanish).
Lock
See: Catcher's Lock
Lunge
See: Lines

M

Maillon Rapide
See: Quick Link
Mini Volant
A Mini Volant is smaller than a full sized rig. The length of the cables on the fly bar are shorter (which makes a faster swing). Usually Mini Volant rigs are lower to the ground and have mats underneath them rather than a safety net. The catcher also uses a cradle rather than a swinging trapeze.

N

Net
The net is the one of two main safety tools used in trapeze to keep flyers safe from injury (the other being safety lines). Contrary to popular belief, flying trapeze is NEVER performed without a net (or a replacement like mats or an airbag).
Noodle
A long (and often flexible - hence the name) stick or pole with a hook on the end which is used to pull the fly bar up to the platform after it is too far to reach with the shorter Bar Hook (for example if it has stopped swinging).

P

Palito
See: Riser
Peak
The extreme left or right position of a swing. At this point the swing stops going up and starts coming down and there is a moment when it stops completely.
Pedestal
See: Board
Perch
See: Board
Perche
See: Noodle
Petit Volant
See: Mini Volant
Platform
See: Board
Poles
When a flying trapeze is built up from the ground the poles are the vertical metal sections that support the crane bars. The poles on the fly frame are used to mark the middle of the swing and therefore some movements are timed to happen in relation to swinging past the poles.

Q

Quick Link
A Quick Link is similar to a Carabiner. It looks like a link of a chain that can be opened and closed with a screw mechanism. They are used to connect cables on the structure.

R

Ratchet
A ratchet is a device used to tighten and secure straps (which are used to secure the structure of some rigs). There are typically a more temporary and easily adjusted solution compared to using turnbuckles.
Ready
A signal used to tell the flyer to prepare themselves to do something. Usually followed by 'hep'.
Remount
To return back to the platform after swinging on the fly bar.
Resin
See: Rosin
Return
To swing back to the fly bar again after having made a catch.
Rig
The word used for the whole flying trapeze structure. As in: 'I'm putting my rig up in the park.'
Rigger
Someone who puts up a rig
Rigging
The act of installing equipment on a rig.
Rip
A wound on your hand caused by friction with the fly bar. These usually consist of 'holes' in the skin where a blister has formed and has been ripped off. The flesh underneath is typically very red and the wound is painful to fly on.
Riser
Some tricks require a flyer to leave from a higher point than the platform (for example if more height is needed for a trick). This is usually achieved by standing on a riser. The riser is a board or pole which is usually kept on the platform and placed horizontally between the platform supports when needed.
Rosin
A product derived from pine tree resin. It comes in brittle blocks or as powder and when rubbed on the hands it is sticky and improves grip. It is commonly used in static circus disciplines (like single trapeze or silks) but is not usually used for flying.
Rotation
In the context of trapeze, rotation refers to a somersault (turning about an axis that runs through the hips). Having lots of rotation means you are turning fast and vice versa.

S

Safety Lines
Safety lines are the ropes used to keep flyers safe while flying. They consist of a system of ropes
Somersault
A forwards or backwards rotation about an axis running horizontally through your centre of mass (usually around the hips). Colloquially referred to as a 'flip'.
Spotter
A spotter is someone ensures the safety of a performer, usually by standing ready to grab/catch them in the event of a problem.
Spreaders
The spreaders are the ropes that pull the net out horizontally to tighten it.
Steak
See: Rip

T

Tape
Tape is used for many purposes on a flying trapeze. Athletic (or Zinc Oxide) tape is the most common and is used to add friction to metal parts of the trapeze for extra grip (in particular the fly bar).
Timing
The timing of a particular trick refers to the moment at which the flyer leaves the platform in order to arrive at the right time to make a catch. Many different factors impact the timing.
Tirfor
A machine which pulls on/tightens a wire rope or cable. It is usually used to pull the net tight.
Top
See: Peak
Trapeze
A horizontal bar hung between two cables.
Trapeze Artist
Someone who does flying trapeze. Could be the flyer or the catcher.
Travel
To move forwards or backwards while in the air.
Trick
A position or skill on the trapeze
Turnaround
A trick where the flyer turns around on the bar while holding onto it. They usually end up facing the other way.
Turnbuckle
A device for adjusting the tension or length of cables or wire ropes. Used to secure the cables supporting a flying trapeze rig.
Twist
Rotation about a vertical axis (running through the top of the head and down to the toes) while in the air.
Twisting Belt
A bulky variation of the standard safety belt that allows the user to spin while keeping the safety lines attached.

U

Uprights
See: Poles

W

Wrist Wrap
Usually fabric or tape wrapped around the wrists to provide extra grip between the catcher and the flyer.
Wristies
See: Wrist Wrap