Belinda Hultgren - Flying Trapeze Artist, Circus Arts

Belinda Hultgren
'My fitness and know-how from doing gymnastics definitely made learning easier because I was flexible and had a lot of body awareness. But anyone can try trapeze and give it a go.'

You can find Belinda swinging around Sydney's concrete jungle or at the beaches of Byron Bay. Her breathtaking feats as a circus performer have wowed crowds throughout the world. Not many women have been so lucky as to have a group of Hollywood's hottest actors scream their name out loud.

Nowadays, flying through the air is an infrequent treat for Belinda. She spends a lot of time running two trapeze teaching centres to share the joy and adrenaline of zooming through the skies.

FYI Flying trapeze was invented in the 19th century and has become a regular component of modern day circuses. Flyers grab onto a bar, jump off a high platform and are caught by another performer known as the catcher.

How did you become a trapeze artist?

I wasn't sure what I wanted to do when I left high school. My mum sent me a newspaper clipping saying 'trapeze instructors wanted – no experience necessary'. I tried it, loved it and was lucky enough to be selected. The closest thing I'd done before this was gymnastics, which I did for 10 years until I was 15.

Have you done any other jobs?

Only a few stints at work experience and some gymnastics coaching. When I started working with trapeze I was studying Counselling and Psychology at Lismore Southern Cross University. I did one semester but six months later my boss offered me a job doing trapeze at New Caledonia for a year. After that I was touring full time with circuses throughout Australia and the United States for just over three years.

What is travelling in a circus like?

My whole journey has been so exciting. One of my favourite shows was in Australia at Port Douglas. They were filming The Thin Red Line while we were there and all the cast came to watch us one night.

FYI The cast of this Hollywood war flick includes silver fox George Clooney.

I met them all while I was serving Dagwood Dogs and they said they would cheer for me when I started the flying trapeze. Sure enough I came onstage and it felt like everyone in the tent started screaming 'BELINDA BELINDA!'.

When we did our finale the place erupted and the crowd went crazy.

Was there a lot of training for the job?

Definitely – the safety aspects are very important. Every little experience was so much fun. I remember my adrenaline pumping the first time the safety lines were taken off.

FYI Every flyer starts out wearing safety lines attached to a harness. A trainer can pull on lines to suspend the flyer in the air. Once a trick has been mastered, the safety harness can be taken off. But there is still a net underneath the rig to catch flyers in case they fall.

My fitness and know-how from doing gymnastics definitely made learning easier because I was flexible and had a lot of body awareness. But anyone can try trapeze and give it a go. It's a great rush!

What do you do these days?

I started my own business with a friend because we missed teaching. It started in our backyard with a flying trapeze rig that we designed and built. Our first gig was in Darling Harbour. The business grew quickly and we split the partnership up. Now I operate from Olympic Park in Sydney and the Byron Bay Entertainment Centre.

Do you spend all day in the air?

My passion is teaching and I try to do it as often as I can. But there's also a lot of administration work like coordinating staff, producing corporate events and organising circus shows.

What is it about extreme sport that appeals to you?

The fun, excitement and adrenaline of just letting go! I was quite shy when I was growing up so it's great to show off a different side of my personality. I love performing and I don't get as nervous with performances as I did 10 years ago. It's still a good rush and performing definitely hasn't gotten old.

How do people react to trapeze lessons?

We cater for everyone – children and adults from beginners through to advanced. I encourage everyone to get up there as quickly as possible but everyone learns at a different place. For some it's challenging just to climb up the ladder and have a swing. Others will hang upside down by their knees and do flips down to the safety net. At the end of the class they might even be flying across from one bar to another!

One five-year-old boy was so nervous he started crying and didn't want to go on the trapeze at all. He's been doing an entire term with us and now loves it. When he comes down to the safety net he flaps his arms around like a clown with a big smile on his face.

What's the best thing about your job?

Helping people through challenges especially during their first go. It's great to see the expressions on people's faces when they do something they never really expected they could do. It brings back a lot of memories. Putting our students in performances and getting them in the workforce feels fantastic. Doing such a physical job is a rare treat these days. There is nothing that I don't like about the job. I even love the administration side of running the business.

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