Summer Guide 2013: No need to run away to the Circus: Emerald City Trapeze Arts is right here on Maui

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“What do you like best about trapeze?” instructor Dorian McRae asks me as I climb 25 feet in the air at Emerald City Trapeze Arts in Lahaina to fly once more.

“The rush!” I quickly say, as there’s nothing quite like the feeling of jumping off a tiny platform while grasping a moving swing, then flipping upside down and hanging by your knees dozens of feet off the ground.

McRae laughs. “Ah, yes–the adrenaline,” he says. “That goes away after the first swing, but returns every time you learn a new trick.”

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As McRae guided me through the process of jumping and landing, then clipped me into my safely belt, I thought about what he said. And he was right: the next swing wasn’t as much of a shock as a thrill when I leaped again.

The amazing team of trapeze and aerial artists kept the whole experience fun and professional. It was a great workout and all around super fun adventure. I’m totally hooked. The views alone from their spot in Lahaina’s Emerald Plaza are breathtaking.

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McRae came over from Seattle–home of the original Emerald City Trapeze Arts (ECTA), which Gary Kirkland opened in Washington five years ago. McRae says the best part about teaching trapeze is meeting and helping people. He seems right at home when perched on the platform high in the air, and can’t help but make trapeze seem easy peasy.

“We had a rig set up outside for the summer,” says Kirkland’s daughter Hoku, who runs Maui’s Emerald City Trapeze Arts. “But the season is so short in the Northwest. We decided to look for a location that would have great weather all year. So we thought Hawaii.”

The Washington location has gained a following as a spot for birthday parties, date nights and frequent flyers. Kirkland says this has given way to a unique community of enthusiasts who started swinging from the trapeze as a recreational sport, but have now developed into a pro team and can perform.

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Seattle trapeze expat Jesse Lenihan decided to come to Maui and is now one of the flying trapeze instructors and performers at Emerald City Trapeze. He says he drove by the Seattle facility one day during his construction job and decided to try it. You could say that first experience spurred him to literally run away with the circus.

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Anthony Delaney, an amazing flyer with Cirque du Solei creds, a recent Asia tour and a brother who runs a circus school in Australia, grew up in the business. He told me he’s been teaching for a decade, and it shows. He had my daughter flying through the air in no time. He says kids are a natural for this, and any kids over the age of six are invited to try. In fact, Emerald City will host a summer kids camp starting June 12. (See below for summer camp info)

Maui is already getting its own following. I met interim Maui resident Trish Luna at ECTA who says one try at Emerald City Trapeze is all it took before she started training to work there. She says she’s the black sheep with the least experience, but still loves it. Easy going and fun, she put me right at ease as I signed my waiver forms and headed up the ladder.

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The talented team at Emerald City Trapeze Arts also hosts a free show and festive Cirque du Sunday on the second Sunday of each month. Next one coming up takes place on June 9. It’s a great intro for the fly-curious, costing just $10 for your first fly, $5 for the next and $2 after that. There will also be face-painting, a DJ, food truck and snacks before the show.

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After the most recent show, everyone settled down for an outdoor movie on the lawn. Kirkland dazzled in her solo on the hoop, and the death defying flying trapeze acts got my heart pumping.

If you’re looking for another kind of thrill, ECTA hosts a monthly full moon fly at 9pm every month on the night of the full moon. Full moon is this Friday so call them up to make your reservation. Kirkland also teaches aerial hoop, rope, silks, doubles trapeze and doubles hoop.

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To join a class call 808-268-9597. They have classes Wednesday through Saturday, with kamaaina rates available. For more info, go to

Summer Camp details:

Class for 6-12 year olds
Wed 10am / Fri 10am / Sun 1:00
Starting June 12th thru July 14th
5 weeks/ 15 classes
Show July 14th 2pm -7pm (exact performance time tba)

Class for 13-18 year olds
Wed 1:00 / Fri 1:00 / Sat 10am
Starting June 12th thru July 13th
5 weeks/ 15 classes
Show July 14th 2pm -7pm (exact performance time tba)

all photos by Sean Hower,