CSUN health center employee learns to fly

Alison Geller

Mercedes Gallup enjoys bungee trapezing at Richie’s Trapeze School. Gallup has been practicing bungee trapeze for the past seven years and in December 2009 the California based circus, Circus Vargas, asked her to choreograph and perform a bungee trapeze act for their Christmas show. Photo Credit: Alison Geller / Staff Reporter

Trapeze flying is not a hobby that immediately comes to most people’s minds but for Mercedes Gallup, the Klotz Student Health Center nursing and clinical support unit supervisor, it is more than just a hobby, it is a way of life.
Gallup, 43, manages the patient care areas and support staff and coordinates the health center’s immunization program Monday through Thursday.
From Friday through Sunday, Gallup is flying through the air at Richie Gaona’s Flying Trapeze School in Woodland Hills.
Gallup practices with and learns from trapeze artist and fourth generation circus performer Richie Gaona.
“(People) use trapeze in general as a metaphor for letting go and trusting and all these things that we talk about and try to overcome in life,” Gallup said.
When Gallup was five years old she went to a Ringling Brothers Circus and was fascinated by the trapeze artists.  It wasn’t until 20 years ago that the idea of trapeze flying came up again and she committed to giving it a try.
Gallup found Gaona’s workshop while researching trapeze flying online.
Gaona, who has performed in Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey and The Big Apple Circus, has been teaching Gallup the art of the bungee trapeze for over two years.
Gallup said Gaona is one of the most respected trapeze artists in the business. She said people from circuses all over the world come to him for help improving their tricks.
“Richie (Gaona) is kind of known as the trainer to the stars,” Gallup said.  “He did the show ‘Circus of the Stars’ for eight years in the 1990’s and he’s in the stunt community so a lot of stars will come and train and do trapeze.”
Gallup herself is no stranger to performing under the big top having performed in Sky Circus and Circus Vargas.
“If I’m not in a circus, I’m visiting a circus,” she said.  “All my friends are in circuses, it’s a pretty neat network of people.”
Gallup’s main passion is the bungee trapeze, which she has been practicing for over seven years.
“Bungee trapeze is where you are rigged with a harness at your hips and you fly from a hanging static trapeze,” Gallup said.
She began a new role as a bungee trapeze instructor for Circus Vargas’ 2009 season after members of the company saw Gallup’s skills in Gaona’s workshop.
Later that year, Gallup joined forces with two of her trainees and choreographed an act for the circus, a variation of which was used in Circus Vargas’ 2010 season.
Gallup said her current responsibilities and commitments prevent her from running away and joining the circus.
“If I were 20 and single with no kids, I’d do it in a heartbeat,” she said.