Cleo Schoeplein ’16 decided to start trapeze at the age of ten after seeing a friend perform in a holiday show in Santa Monica and feeling inspired to take this unexpected, unusual path. She now trains three hours a week at Le Studio in Culver City, which specializes in circus instruction, including clowning, trapeze and other aerial arts; while performing around Los Angeles, she has met such luminaries as Bianca Sipeto from Cirque Du Soleil and Doriana Sanchez , a cancer survivor, from So You Think You Can Dance.
After Cleo ‘16 saw her friend perform a few years ago, she said it was so beautiful, that she wanted to learn all the things that she was doing.
“I never was into team sports, and this was an alternative,” she said. At Le Studio, she practices with coaches such as Nathalie Yves Gaultheir, whom Cleo describes as the studio’s mastermind; Reyie Nall, who is funny and helped Schoeplein to improve a lot; and Shana Lord, who is very supportive.
Cleo participates in aerial arts, which is a type of trapeze that involves a bar, a hoop (a metal circle), a rope and silks to tie yourself up in.
“It definitely keeps you on the edge of your seat,” Cleo said. The equipment is usually about nine feet up, which she says is nerve-racking, but she always starts close to the ground then moves upward as she improves.
Cleo said one of her favorite moves is the Iron Cross Drop, a stunt her friend made up. Two people have to participate, one sitting on the bar and the other upside down with her legs locked around the other person’s stomach. The upside down person then swings back and puts her arm on the other person’s flexed feet, dropping her legs. This makes the swinging person only held up by her arms in the other person’s feet.
Cleo performs for causes such as an organization called PAWS (Performing Animals Welfare Society), which rescues and saves circus animals from poor conditions. At one performance, she acted out a story about a bunch of lions and gazelles that were trapped and then freed, and Julian Pavone, an 8-year-old drumming prodigy whom the Guiness Book of World Records certified as the “World’s Youngest Drummer,” also performed.
Cleo said she does find some aspects of trapeze challenging. For example, she cannot hold a handstand. She believes holding a handstand could help her strength a lot, and could open the door to new possibilities. “Handstands can make you feel very debilitated, but I know I have to keep working on it. It’s also very hard to practice something everyday that you can’t do yet, which makes you stay motivated,” she said.
Cleo’s mother, Toni Lewis, said she believes Cleo has grown a lot since she started this hobby.
“Cleo has become so strong from trapeze. Trapeze is a perfect fit for Cleo because she is eclectic, and always goes for the unexpected route,” Lewis said.
Shira Subar ’18 is a former trapezist who learned at a Club Med in Mexico.
“Trapeze is really fun because it’s like you are beating the odds,” Shira said. “People say, ‘You can’t fly, and you can’t go in the air,’ but with trapeze, you can. When you are up there, you don’t really think about anything else. It’s like the world goes away, and you just focus on yourself.”
Cleo said she feels that people who have the slightest fear of trying trapeze should go for it, no matter how scared they are. She said she wished more people knew about the sport, but she also said it is nice to do a sport that is not as popular.
Cleo said she hopes that one day she will live up to her goal to be able to get a rope routine, where you can do moves and drops on a rope. She is currently working on putting one together.
Cleo will next perform for the holidays at a new studio in Culver City.