Circus Harmony Flying Trapeze Center manager Matt Viverito (D. Lancaster)
Matt Viverito, the manager of the Circus Harmony Flying Trapeze Center (where you can actually learn trapeze like a circus performer), toured as a professional trapeze artist for two years before returning home to St. Louis and Circus Harmony.
You have a college degree. How in the world did you end up on a trapeze?
When I was 9 years old, my mom signed me up for a summer circus class at COCA. From then on, I was hooked! I trained and performed at Circus Harmony (based out at the City Museum downtown) as one of the “St. Louis Arches” until I graduated from St. Louis University High School. Since I still loved the circus and I intended to continue my education, I enrolled at Florida State University – the only university with a circus program and a three-ring big top right in the heart of campus. It was at FSU that I learned flying trapeze and earned an honors degree in psychology.
You have performed on the trapeze professionally, right? Tell us about that.
After graduating from Florida State I traveled and performed for nearly two years with “The Flying Pages.” The Pages are a traveling flying trapeze family that has performed all over the world and has been featured several times in St. Louis’ own Circus Flora. During my time with the Pages I performed in circus shows and fairs across the U.S. and even did a few shows in Canada. My favorite memory from the road was definitely the day that I caught my first triple somersault. It was at a fair in New York and it started raining halfway through our performance. Despite the rain, we attempted the triple anyway and we caught it…wet equipment and all!
Tell us about the Circus Harmony Flying Trapeze Center. Can people really come here and fly on a real trapeze like a circus performer?
Absolutely! It’s the same kind of flying trapeze you would see when the circus comes to town! The Circus Harmony Flying Trapeze Center is St. Louis’ one and only flying trapeze school. It is for people of all ages and experience levels. We can take people who have never done trapeze before, teach them tricks and even send them across to a catcher. It’s a lot of fun!
How high is it?
The platform is over 20 feet above ground, but you’re never too far from the safety net below.
How safe is it?
Very! From the moment you step foot on the ladder, until the moment your feet are firmly on the ground again, you’re clipped into the safety lines and attended to by experienced trapeze instructors. The rig itself is brand new; we inspect and maintain all the hardware; and don’t forget, there is a safety net below you at all times.
How expensive is it?
A 90-minute class is $60, but we have 5 and 10 packs of classes that drop the price per class. We also have group rates for families and couples to help make it affordable for anyone who wants to try it!
Are there any age restrictions?
We have a minimum age of 6 years old, but more importantly, everyone who wants to fly must fit securely in the safety harness.
Do folks need to wear any special clothing?
We recommend that people wear comfortable, athletic clothing that is weather appropriate and easy to move around in. And don’t forget to bring a pair of socks!
What's the scariest part for most people?
Believe it or not, most people say the ladder is the scariest part! If not the ladder, some say reaching off the platform to grab the bar for the first time can be a bit scary. But after people do it once or twice, they’re usually pretty surprised at how comfortable they feel up on the platform and swinging through the air.
What kinds of things are most people able to do at the end of a 90-minute session? After a few sessions?
For someone’s first class, our goal is to teach them how to do a trick (usually a “knee-hang”), a dismount (usually a back flip), and then to send them across to a catcher by the end of class. Once someone has done that, we can teach people all kinds of tricks that range in difficulty. Usually after a few classes we have people catching multiple tricks and learning more advanced techniques. Trapeze is great because there is always something new to learn!
You grew up in St. Louis. What was your favorite St. Louis attraction as a kid?
Definitely the City Museum. Since Circus Harmony is located on the 3rd floor of the City Museum, I spent A LOT of time there growing up. I loved crawling around in the tunnels and caves when I wasn’t practicing at the circus. It’s such a unique place and it seems like there is always something new to explore every time you visit.
When relatives visited town, what did your family make sure they saw or did?
Sports have always been a big part of our family, so pretty much any local sporting event was on our radar. In addition to Rams, Blues, and Cardinals games, we’d make a point to go to other great events that would come to town like the Missouri Valley Conference and NCAA basketball tournaments or Olympic Trials for figure skating, diving, and gymnastics.
As a grownup, do you have any favorite late-night haunts?
Since I grew up in University City I love spending time in The Loop. It always has great energy and there are plenty of fun places to have dinner and grab a drink. Although if there is a sporting event to watch, I like to head downtown and watch the game with friends at Ballpark Village.
What are some of your favorite restaurants?
If my family is going out to dinner together, we love Yen Ching across from the Galleria. It’s the best Chinese food in town and I can honestly say they have the best potstickers I’ve ever eaten. I make a point to sample potstickers when I travel, but none are better than the ones Jay (the owner) makes at Yen Ching. If we’re not in the mood for Chinese, I always enjoy going to Pi for pizza, Pappy’s for BBQ, or Pastaria for Italian.
My Perfect Day
Rock Climbing at Upper Limits – I’d like to begin my perfect day in St. Louis with something physical, but I often get bored just riding my bike or going for a run. So I’d head to Upper Limits downtown for something different and do a few climbs to get the day started.
Lunch at Pappy’s Smokehouse – After my morning climbs I’d head over to Pappy’s for an early lunch. I’d spend all my time debating about how I could branch out and get something different, but I’d end up getting a half rack of ribs, sweet potato fries, and green beans.
City Museum – Then it’s over to City Museum to watch a show at Circus Harmony. After seeing the kids there flip and fly, I’d have to take a lap around the caves, tunnels, and paths outside for old time’s sake!
Day Game at Busch Stadium – The rest of the afternoon would be spent at Busch Stadium watching the Cardinals play baseball. Since it’s a perfect day, I’d like to see Michael Wacha pitch a shutout, Yadi throw out a few runners stealing second, and Matt Carpenter hit for the cycle… Is that asking for too much?
Dinner at Pastaria – After a Cards victory, time to head to Clayton for dinner at Pastaria. Risotto balls for an appetizer, Strozzapretti Bolognese with a side of Brussels Sprouts for the main course, and share a few scoops of gelato for dessert. Plus I’d pick up a bag of one of their pastas – made fresh right there in the store!
A show at The Pageant – Next stop is a show at The Pageant. I really enjoy shows at the Pageant because the venue is large enough to attract big names, but still small enough to provide an intimate live performance. I’d be happy to see music like Matt & Kim or Guster, or maybe a comedy show from Demetri Martin or Dave Chappelle.
Drinks at Three Kings in the Loop – Finally, I’d stay in the Loop for drinks at Three Kings Public House. I can always count on finding something new to try from their extensive beer menu. The rest of the night would be spent chatting with friends about everything from circus life and flying trapeze to theories about next week’s episode of Game of Thrones.
That’s a perfect day to me!