As the old song goes, "He floats through the air with the greatest of ease / the daring young man on the flying trapeze."
A daring young man or woman who grips the bar for the first time may not float with the greatest of ease just yet. But that's where Nick Selvy comes in.
Since November, the owner of SwingIt Trapeze has offered lessons at the OC Fair & Event Center, where students can practice on a bar high above a very soft net. (Softness is important, as the school has taught at least one toddler.) The Newport Beach resident, who has performed with circuses and taught in the United States and abroad, also counts unicycle-riding, fire-juggling and surfing among his repertoire.
After a lesson last Wednesday, Selvy spoke with the Daily Pilot about his life floating through the air — and pulling some hair-raising stunts on the ground. The following are excerpts from the conversation:
I understand that you joined the circus for the first time when you were 11. What inspired you to do that?
Actually, I did the trapeze at Club Med. All the family villages have trapezes. And so, basically, the first time I saw a trapeze, I just sat there with my mouth open and loved it. And then I wanted to learn how to do it, so I went home to Colorado. I found a trapeze and started training, and then, by the time I was 14, I was catching, and I ended up joining Club Med and teaching for them when I was 18.
How old were you when you first saw a trapeze?
There's the old cliche about kids running away from home to join the circus. Did you have to run away from home, or did your parents support what you did?
No, they were pretty supportive. When I was 12, I had my own business manufacturing juggling sticks called Nix Stix.
What do Nix Stix do?
They're devil sticks, which are like two handles and one main stick in the middle, and you flip them back and forth and spin them. So I was always doing circus stuff. I started riding a unicycle when I was 11, and I could ride a 6-foot unicycle by the time I was 13.
I heard you juggle fire too.
I do. Yeah.
How did you learn how to do that?
I taught myself. I just played a lot by myself with fire. [laughs]
Your parents let you do that?
Yeah. We lived in the country, so as long as you stay in a generally not bushy area, you can juggle fire fairly safely.
What's the key to juggling fire so you don't get burned?