By Don Carson
MEET THE MAKER:
For over twenty-five years I have designed and engineered trapezes and rigs for my wife and partner, Susan Murphy, founder of Canopy Studio in Athens, GA in 2002. I built Canopy, remodeling an old 4,000 sq. ft. cotton warehouse, adding a 28 ft. high barrel truss roof. I developed and set up the rigging system with over two dozen 21 ft. high adjustable attachment points.
I have been selling dance trapezes internationally for several years. Since Susan and I retired to the Georgia coast, I designed and built our home and studio, The Marsh Studio, with 27 ft. ceilings and nine attachment points.
Susan teaches aerial dance retreats and community classes for people of all ages and abilities. We also hold performances at our home studio. Visit www.themarshstudio.com for more information on Susan and her workshops. She also has a facebook page, "the marsh studio".
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
First, what is the difference between a dance trapeze and a circus trapeze?
There are two main differences. One is that the circus trapeze is hung from two points, making the ropes roughly parallel, while the dance trapeze is hung from one point, forming a triangle with the bar. The other is that the bar of the circus trapeze is usually a solid steel or metal bar.
Why carbon fiber?
Carbon fiber is incredibly strong yet light weight. I have destructively tested many materials over the years by breaking them. My carbon fiber bars, from 1 to 1 1/4 in. outer diameter (OD), are made so that they break at over 2000 lbs. The very best wood I have come up with, which is laminated hickory, breaks consistently around 900 to 1000 lbs. It is safer than most. The lamination nullifies some of the irregularities that might occur from a solid piece. (Some other hardwoods break at 400 lbs.!) But if your trapeze work has any sudden shock force, i.e., drops with sudden stops or dynamic changes, carbon fiber is a much better choice than wood.
To put it into perspective, if a 120 lb. person performs a dead fall of 2 feet and takes 1/2 ft. to come to a complete stop, that person creates a force of around 700 lbs. If in the same scenario, that person comes to a complete stop in 1/4 ft., i.e., a more sudden stop, the force is roughly 1080 lbs. This is greatly over simplified, but you get the idea. If you have any dynamic moves or do doubles work, you need to get beyond wood. Remember, too, that wood can eventually fatigue and break.
Why not steel or aluminum?
While this is really personal preference, there are several points to consider. The grip with bare metal is slick and becomes slippery with sweat. The carbon fiber, while smooth, has a nice texture which gives it a good grip. You can tape the metal bars, but then they don’t slide against the body as well. Also dance trapezes are usually hung about head height, making them much safer to bump into than the heavier metal bars. The weight of steel is very functional with dynamic circus trapezes, helping them track well. A carbon fiber dance trapeze, hung from two points, could be used as a circus trapeze theoretically, though its lighter weight would offer different choices to the trapeze dancer.
What does the lighter weight do to the dance?
The dance can change because the vocabulary can be different. A lighter bar allows the dancer to go up on the ropes with less effort and without concern for the momentum of a metal bar, were it to swing against him or her. The lighter weight allows the dancer to manipulate the trapeze more easily.
What kind of rope do you use?
I usually use white one inch cotton, three strand twisted rope which has a tensile strength of 3500 lbs. or better. So far, cotton is the most preferred because of its grip and feel, but I am open to trying any other ropes.
Tell me how the bar is connected to the rope.
The rope is terminated with an eye-splice with the bar going through the eye. It is protected by plastic and held in position with a band clamp (attached with a designated tool) rated at just under 2000 lbs. The band clamp actually goes through the small slits in the bar, cut with another designated tool.
How are the ropes terminated?
Normally I do not terminate my ropes with thimbles. The thimbles with the one inch cotton ropes are quite large, requiring a large carabiner on each rope, which then connects to the attachment point. If the rope ever needs to be readjusted, it’s not easy. Readjusting is inevitable with the cotton ropes, especially when the dancers discover all the rope moves possible with the light weight carbon bars. The ropes get twisted up and don’t always get untwisted equally.
If an adjustable knot is used as the termination point, adjustment is easy and the security is still good. For that knot, I use a midshipman’s hitch -- with a reverse finish because it resists twisting. You can also use a midshipman's hitch without the reverse ending. It stays more snug but is slightly harder to adjust. If your trapeze is attached by means of a lead rope, you don’t have to use a carabiner. You can use a knot such as a bowline or a figure eight follow through which is quite secure. (For added security, always finish each knot with a half-hitch or an overhand knot.) By using knots, the ropes will wear in different places as they are retied, giving them longer life.
What is your standard trapeze size?
My standard trapeze has a 32 in. by 1 1/4 in. carbon fiber bar with the ropes about 26 in. apart, rope to rope, 25 in. inside elbow to inside elbow. If you want longer or shorter or a different diameter or handles on the end it can all be arranged. The ropes are whatever length is required.
Tell me about the elbows.
The elbows are slightly padded and covered with synthetic suede material that can come on and off with Velcro. This allows you to take the covers off for cleaning. It also allows you to merely reposition when the cover, through repeated use, gets forced down on the elbow. If they were the sew-on variety, when the threads rip (and they always do), you would have to fix them with needle and thread. Standard color is black, but other colors are available. Integral to each elbow is a small webbing loop, made with 2000# nylon webbing, for attaching an add-on -- a belt or trapeze bar or whatever else you might have that can attach with a carabiner.
How long does it take, from the time of order until delivery?
Assuming I have all the materials in stock, about two to three weeks. If you have a deadline, I will work with you on a case by case basis.
How much does it cost?
The standard trapeze costs $395, plus $22 to $35 for shipping and handling to the lower 48 states. This includes the 32 x 1 1/4 in. carbon bar, the Velcro-on elbows and enough rope for a 21 ft. attachment height. Each trapeze can be customized. Prices will vary according to additional costs and labor.
For example, adding four inch handles beyond the elbows, is an extra $20. Terminating the rope ends with thimbles is an extra $35.
Shipping outside the lower 48 states is determined by the actual shipping costs. Contact Don for more information.
How do I order?
You can fill out the contact page or email or call Don directly. If you call, do so before 9:00 pm eastern time. Checks and credit cards are accepted, not including AMEX and PayPal.