Tightrope master Philippe Petit offers New Yorkers the chance to follow in his footsteps

Sarah Hughes
Friday 06 August 2010 00:00
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His gravity-defying feats caused audiences to gasp in the documentary Man on Wire and inspired at least one novel (Colum McCann's Let the Great World Spin). Now Philippe Petit is offering a select band of New Yorkers the chance to follow in his footsteps, literally. The tightrope master is holding three two-day workshops, the first starting on Monday, at the Streb Lab For Action Mechanics (Slam) in Brooklyn's Williamsburg, during which he will teach participants not only how to walk on wires but how to best perform while doing so.

Dilettantes need not apply. "I want people who are curious about venturing in places they haven't been and those who want to get a glimpse into an art that is totally unknown," Petit has said, adding he was looking for the "young at heart" and not "people who want to boast or talk about the class in cocktail parties". All hopefuls were asked to complete a written application which Petit personally reviewed before hand-picking those whom he felt had the right attitude.

Each of the three sessions will hold six students who will pay $1,200 (£750) for the privilege. Those lucky enough to attend should be aware this is not a class for the faint-hearted. In addition to learning about the history of tightrope walking, Petit's students will also practise walking on ropes and cables of different diameters placed at different (and ultimately dizzying) heights and lengths, before building up to perform on the type of wire ropes that Petit himself uses in his performances – although, luckily for them, they will do so with a harness attached, unlike the master, who famously performs without any sort of safety net.

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