Terry Cavaretta Trapeze Experience
1400 N. Rampart Blvd., Las Vegas
Beginner classes available at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Saturday through Thursday
Terry Cavaretta’s hands tell a story.
Covered in calluses and white resin and able to deploy a handshake that would make many men self-conscious, Cavaretta's battered palms and thick fingers are tokens from her lifelong journey as a trapeze performer.
Cavaretta is a founding member of the Flying Cavarettas, the first all-female trapeze troupe in North America. The five-member family act opened Circus Circus in 1968 and later garnered a world record for being the longest-running specialty act, performing for 23 years until they retired in 1991.
Now, after 21 years off, Cavaretta is returning to fly again. (In the meantime, she had a child with her husband, juggler Rejean St. Jules, and traveled Europe.) But this time, Cavaretta, 60, climbs the ladder as a teacher, not a performer.
Today, Cavaretta opens the Terry Cavaretta Trapeze Experience at the Las Vegas Sports Park, 1400 Rampart Blvd., near Vegas Drive.
“It’s really not about me anymore,” Cavaretta says, watching the wife of a "Mystere" trapeze performer practice on her rig.
The trapeze apparatus stands at the back of the Sports Park. It’s a towering platform anchored by pulleys, ropes and swinging bars.
Every morning, Cavaretta stands atop it, coaching Taelyr Lazaris, a 20-year-old who climbed the ladder for the first time eight months ago. Today, she can perform triple layouts and back flips, moving closer with each attempt to cleanly landing in the arms of her other coach: Pedro Farfan, a fourth-generation member of the Flying Farfan family.
Farfan is the lead trapeze performer and coach of Cirque Du Soleil’s "Mystere." He's also a teacher at the Trapeze Experience. Students say he’s militaristic in his instruction, but sweet, fun and a great instructor.
“Don’t flop like a fish out of water,” Farfan snaps from atop a swing, scolding Lazaris, who just bounced off the catch net, legs flailing. He wants her to get it right.
After less than a year of lessons, Lazaris has landed an audition for "Mystere." She hopes to turn pro in 2014.
Cavaretta and Farfan have been teaching students informally for the past several months; Cavaretta said teaching students and watching them succeed brings her joy.
When she came to Las Vegas in 1968, she got requests from locals who wanted to learn trapeze. She didn’t know what to tell them. Unless you were a pro, you were out of luck.
“There really wasn’t a place to learn,” she said.
The Trapeze Experience teaches performers of all ages and skill sets during 90-minute classes. Cavaretta has taught girls as young as 5. Her son, Sebastian, 12, trains after school when he doesn’t have tennis practice.
Cavaretta turned professional at 7. At 15, she became the youngest woman flier to land a triple somersault. The Guinness Book of World Records recognized her for catching more triple somersaults than any other flier in trapeze's 160-year history. By the time she retired in 1995, Cavaretta had caught more than 20,000.
In 1977, the Flying Cavarettas won the Circus World Championships in London for best trapeze act. A year later, the Queen of England invited them to perform during the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Show at the Royal Palace.
Being center stage in front of thousands of screaming fans encouraged Cavaretta to dedicate her life to performing.
“I loved the attention," she said. "I loved the applause. What other jobs do people applaud you for?”
But even more than the attention, Cavaretta said she loved landing complicated moves. It’s a feeling that “never got old,” she said.