She'll teach you the flying trapeze

MICHAEL HINKELMAN / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Mary Kelly Rayel stands by her North Philadelphia rigging.
MICHAEL HINKELMAN / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Mary Kelly Rayel stands by her North Philadelphia rigging.
Posted: September 10, 2013

 M ARY KELLY RAYEL, 46, of Upper Black Eddy, Bucks County, is founder and chief executive of Fly School Circus Arts. For 20 years, she has been an aerial acrobatic performer and circus instructor, including three years with Club Med. She also toured for two years with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, performing on the flying trapeze.

Q: When did you start the biz?

A: I started in 2008 and have been operating at summer camps. For a while, I was set up in Bucks County during spring and fall, offering classes near my home. In 2011, I did the first [Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts] and did it again this spring. I realized there's great support for flying trapeze here.

Q: You've been teaching trapeze at 5th Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue since August?

A: I was invited by the property owners. They had done some flying trapeze and felt it would be neat, and contacted me about setting up trapeze rigging here.

Q: Is this a seasonal gig?

A: Yes, we're here until Nov. 3 and then returning next April.

Q: Who are your clients?

A: One of my regular students is a Ph.D. in neuropharmacology. I have young students who take classes at the Philadelphia Circus School, and they're adding flying [trapeze] to their repertoire. Mostly grown-ups, but some kids. Male and female, ages 25 to 55.

Q: Tell me about the classes.

A: They're group classes, but everybody learns individually. My classes are 10 people max and are held daily except Wednesday.

Q: How much do classes cost?

A: $60. I have a discount card that offers six classes for $295.

Q: How many clients?

A: I sold more than 1,200 spots just for the two PIFA events. I have 20 to 25 regular students who come twice a week, and each class is two hours. Then I have another tier of students who come regularly but not as often as twice a week.

Q: What's the biggest challenge you've faced growing it?

A: Moving this business from a rural setting to the inner city is a different ballgame. I had to invest in security fencing, two layers of fencing, because people could get hurt if they came in and tried to fly. It's dangerous if you're using [rigging] without supervision.

Q: How many employees?

A: I operate with independent contractors. I probably have four or five who are around all the time and maybe five guest instructors who come on weekends occasionally.

Q: How big a business is this?

A: Up to now, it's been between $40,000 and $60,000 a year, but we won't do that much this year.

Q: Where do you see the business in the next couple of years?

A: I would like an indoor location so I can operate year round. You need high ceilings, 40-foot ceilings . . . so I'm looking for a 10,000-square-foot building with 40-foot-high ceilings.

On Twitter: @MHinkelman


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