Leaping into Adventure


She flies through the air like a weightless bird. She forms friendships in the sky. You may have spotted her, a frequent visitor, in the Hockaday gym, in the middle school hallways or even teaching your class as a substitute. For alumna Mackenzie Miller ‘03, her dream job as a trapeze artist and instructor has become her full-time occupation at the Skyline Trapeze, Dallas’ first trapeze rig.

Miller hasn’t always been a flying fanatic. Before her career as a trapeze artist, she was an engineer at Amec Foster Wheeler Engineering Firm and later, at NTE Energy. While at Hockaday, Miller was always interested in learning how her surroundings work and enjoyed her math and science classes.

“By the time I had graduated from Hockaday, I really knew I enjoyed engineering and felt that I should pursue it,” Miller said. However, in 2012, after working as an engineer for seven years, her trajectory turned towards the airy art, when a friend posted a video on Facebook of trapeze lessons. From then on, Miller was hooked.

“I didn’t know normal people could do something so cool,” Miller said. But in reality, this seemingly different interest of trapeze swinging also involves Miller’s rst interest: the sciences. Trapeze uses the basic components of physics, and how these laws apply to a body in mid-flight.

“You’re using pendulum physics and mechanics to generate a swing and do these tricks,” Miller said. “You have to be physically capable and also have that physics background to help understand how to do these things.”

She has been teaching at Skyline Trapeze for the past two years and has been captivated by the demanding sport since her first lesson. She teaches students young to old, from those who come once to cross it off their bucket list, to “frequent fliers” who do trapeze for a hobby.

Mackenzie may have been drawn to this daring sport due to its the recent growth in popularity. This exciting, but demanding sport has become a favorite for A-listers such as supermodel Gisele Bundchen and actor Hugh Jackman.

“Trapeze, with its creativity, grace and adrenaline boost, is the latest favourite among those seeking more than a buff body from exercise,” wrote Peta Bee in a recent story about the sport in The Guardian newspaper. “Recreational trapeze really started in Club Med 40 years ago and in the early 2000s it transitioned to the U.S in a couple very small operations, but since it has blown up into a whole tness, community craze,” Donovan Chandler, President and fellow flyer at Skyline Trapeze said.

Skyline Trapeze is a seasonal rig, since the program is held outdoors. But during her off-season in the winter, Miller ventures outwards to keep active in the sport nding new gigs everywhere, such as teaching trapeze on the beach with her friend in Costa Rica, instructing the art on cruise ships sailing across the world and joining a small circus, called a “mud-show.”

And if you are thinking trapeze artists belong in a circus, you are right. This past winter, she ran away with “The Valentine’s Mighty America Circus,” a small family circus run by trapeze child prodigy Ray Valentine. The crew and her travelled all over the U.S, but mostly around the south-west to Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico. As part of the group, she took on various tasks such as working behind the scenes, promoting the act, and on occasion, performing as well.

Trapeze is a team sport that relies on trust with partners in the sky, and thus she has formed many relationships with her fellow instructors. Miller has many coworkers who she flies with, but ies most often with the president and founder of Skyline Trapeze Donovan Chandler.

“Mackenzie, in a few words, is persistently willing to work. She has no problem putting in the repetitions and gets fairly irritated when she isn’t given the opportunity to put in that time,” Chandler said.

Miller has always been interested into outdoorsy and adventurous activities as her mother, Barbara Miller, a current Lower School teacher recalled, “She hikes, plays Ultimate Frisbee and did lots of sports, like softball at Hockaday and the college level. She has also tried balboa dancing, which is a form of ‘30s swing dancing.”

She stressed the coolest part of her job was that her family and friends were 100 percent supportive of everything she does. Her two sisters, also Hockaday alumnae, and Mrs. Miller wanted her to follow a career and interests that she loved, even if that meant taking time o from being an engineer to work as a trapeze artist.

“Every single person whose opinion I cared about who I told, knew how passionate I was about it and wanted me to follow my dream,” Miller said. “I was scared that [they] would be disappointed or thought I was giving up.”

And after two years on the trapeze, Miller has taken her career to the next level. She is currently working on tricks that will wow and amaze the crowd such as layouts, twisting and ipping. But she knows that even with all her hard work, she still has a long way to go – masters aren’t made in a day.

“I love that you can always be better and that there is always more challenge for you. You have never perfected something, because you can always do it quicker, higher or with more grace and style,” Miller said.

Outside of trapeze, Miller is still a part of the Hockaday community, and substitutes for seventh grade science often. She still lives in Dallas, even though she admitted she has only been in Dallas five days this year, since she travels all across the world for her job to countries such as China, New Zealand and Costa Rica.

“If you are trying to decide whether to follow the path to become a trapeze artist, give it a try, follow your heart, do something you are passionate about, and then train hard, figure out what your goals are, and find a supportive community who will help you with them,” Miller said.

Paige Halverson – Staff Writer