Gravity is a bit of a dictator.

Humans are born under its unshakable rule, learning early how it hinders our high jumps, sags our skin and generally holds us back.

Because it isn’t known to compromise or accept bribes, we’re left little choice but to coexist with its restrictive force. And that kind of prolonged, unquestioned authority has a tendency to bloat a natural phenomenon’s head.

Some folks have temporarily escaped the gravitational tyranny via plane, hot air balloon or trampoline. Some have even fled beyond its reach, thanks to government-funded anti-gravity programs like NASA, but those programs aren’t really open to the public. Not the average-salary public, anyway.

Those of us without space-walking credentials or easy access to aircraft do have a welcome opportunity to break away from gravity’s unrelenting regime on Saturday — with a little help from a trapeze.

The trapeze is “freedom from gravity,” according to Janette Fertig, director of Apparatus Dance Theater.

Gravity holds us down, she said. “When we escape the power of our feet, of the constant demands of not falling, we are free to perceive everything from a new perspective.

“For one quick moment, at the apex of a swing, I can release all the weight and become a bird. Then I can carry that feeling with me every day.”

Fertig has been defying gravity with aerial work for almost 20 years — including through two pregnancies — and founded her company in January 2010 after moving to Maine from Philadelphia.

“I pulled together a great group of local clowns, actors, skiers, fire dancers and hula hoopers,” she said. “After training on the aerial equipment and with each other for this past year, we’ve been producing some interesting, sometimes provocative, sometimes funny work.”

In addition to their own performances, Apparatus also hosts classes and workshops for children and adults interested in a little anti-gravity action of their own.

On Saturday, Fertig and Sarah Huling, a Boston-based aerial skills instructor, will be teaching a series of circling trapeze workshops at Portland’s Breakwater School, 856 Brighton Ave. The adult workshop runs from 9 a.m. to noon, and workshops for kids and teens run at 1 and 2 p.m.

Single-point trapezes will be hung at 3 feet and 7 feet, which might sound a little daunting, but Fertig insists that anyone interested should give it a shot.

“The classes are definitely open to all skill levels,” she said. “I encourage anyone to come and enjoy the feeling of circling and flying. If all you do is sit and hold on, I’ll push you.”

Students will learn different moves on the trapeze, and will have a chance to “swing and fly.” They’ll also learn how one actually gets on a trapeze hanging 7 feet off the ground. (See aforementioned reference to trampoline.)

“Everyone gets a little sore in the hands, a bruise or two here and there from hanging on the steel trapezes,” she said. “But mostly I’ve figured out ways to accommodate all body types and get everyone I can to do it.”

Unlike the circus trapeze, which swings back and forth like a swing while trapeze artists somersault their way from one pair of ankles to another, Apparatus uses a single-point, or circling, trapeze.

The circling trapeze is connected at one point, said Fertig. “So it spins, circles and swings. A huge part of dance trapeze is your relationship to the ground and the points of contact that motivate the swings and circles.”

Dance trapeze also happens to be a great workout, Fertig said. “You get strong without realizing it.” The keen sense of accomplishment from trying something new isn’t so awful either.

But the true draw of the trapeze is the opportunity to sway through the air, several feet from the ground, and say, “Gravity, you have no power over me.”

For trapeze-intrigued folks who can’t make Saturday’s workshop, there are also regular classes offered by Apparatus Dance Theater at Acorn Productions in the Dana Warp Mill in Westbrook. More information about all the classes and workshops can be found on the theater company’s website,

Staff Writer Shannon Bryan can be contacted at 791-6333 or at:

[email protected]

Follow her on Twitter at:




filed under: