OUTER CAPE PORTRAIT / The Ride of Our Lives
ELEANOR GETZ & TEDDY MENT / CIRCUS ARTISTS / TRURO
It just clicked. Teddy Ment and Eleanor Getz met at The New England Center for Circus Arts. Teddy had grown up with youth circuses. Eleanor studied modern dance and choreography. They are duo-trapeze artists, performing every summer at Payomet in Truro. Have you wondered what it feels like to be high up on the bar above Payomet’s ball field? Here are Teddy and Eleanor, in their own words. Please listen!
(ELEANOR) Sometimes we are up really high. It’s not just 15 feet in the air. It could be 30 feet in the air, or 40 feet in the air. It’s dangerous. We’re responsible for each other’s safety. She can’t keep me safe, unless I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing.
(TEDDY) So, we’re grabbing onto each other’s wrists, and that’s a really secure grip. If I mess up a little bit, there’s still the security that she holds onto me. Or, if she doesn’t grab onto me right at the right moment, I can still hold on to her.
Duo trapeze is essentially both of us on a trapeze bar. Typically, there’s a base. Mainly, I’m the base. And it’s usually the bigger half of the duo. So, I’m throwing Eleanor around.
(ELEANOR) I have always been a flier. Obviously, your body type lends you to one or the other, right? So I'm a very small, petite woman. And Teddy is not a large woman, but she's extremely strong.
(TEDDY) I can definitely feel when Eleanor is scared of a trick, and sometimes I won't throw it. We just practice the same tricks over and over and over again. And we would never perform a trick that we don't have a hundred percent success rate on. Unless, you know you can do that trick a hundred times in a row and catch it every time, we would not perform it.
(ELEANOR) Sometimes, I feel like a bird perched up on my like little bar, totally like a bird on a wire. It's amazing. Sometimes you check back in and you're like, “Oh my God, I can't believe this is my job!”
We do some release moves where your hands or your body are totally coming apart from the (other) person. And there is a moment of suspension in the air where everything is open, and then everything is caught. And in those moments, you totally feel like the seconds slow down. You let go, and you're getting to the right position. And then you catch.
You have adrenaline pumping through you. You're in the moment so extremely that you don't have time to like zoom out and be like, “Oh, I'm floating, or flying, because you need to be so zoomed in on, I'm doing this exactly correctly. I'm holding my body exactly correctly, so that the trick goes perfectly, because we are a hundred percent dependent on each other following through with what we agreed on.
* * * *
(TEDDY) It's really a special trust that you can only build over a certain amount of time where, you know each other's exact timing, and you know when to catch and release. It's really special to be able to work with the same person for so long. You know, working so closely with Eleanor for the last seven years, we’ve done so much together. She feels like a sister to me, family, a business partner, best friend.
In 50 years, I still imagine that we'll be close friends, that will be creative collaborators. You know, maybe if our physical performing fades, there's still so many strong connections that will stay forever. I'm sure of it.
(ELEANOR) It’s a difficult lifestyle. The days are grueling. These are long days. Sometimes, we don't have a paycheck that's definitely coming. Our livelihood is based on our bodies and the health of our bodies, which can be extremely stressful if your body is hurt. Obviously, we're very practiced, and we feel very confident that we're never going to get hurt, but you do. Suddenly, your greatest tool is out of commission, and you're out of work.
(TEDDY) If one of us gets injured, it's almost like both of us gets injured. That can create high emotions. But with time, we've really learned how to take care of each other and talk about it. As circus artists, we can be really hard on ourselves. So, it's important to have our partners be supportive and remind ourselves to be gentle. I definitely notice that I'm nicer to Eleanor's injuries than to my own sometimes. And vice versa. Sometimes she'll say, “It's okay to rest.” Finding that balance of resting and pushing is really important.
(ELEANOR) Trapeze is pretty hard on your body. It's not something that your body naturally does. You have to take care of your shoulders, have to warm up really well. But if you take care of yourself and a little lucky, then you can do it for a long time, which I hope to. Teddy and I at 70 years old, we're still going to be at it, if we have our way.
Even if we're not doing circus together at 70, we're going to look back at this and be like, “Hey, this was the ride of our lives!” Like, Oh my gosh. Even when we look back at last year, we laugh so hard. We call all the bad stuff that happens, like all the really trying stuff, all the horrible weather, all the like terrible things that happen, we call that Type Two Fun, because next year we look at it, and we just laugh our heads off on how we got through that and how miserable it was.
I'm 30 years old, and it doesn't feel like young wistful thinking to say that we're going to be together and doing this for a long time. We have been doing it together for a long time. Six years is a long time, and we will be doing it for a long time still.