‘We are always trying to up the danger’: Salt Lake trapeze act to compete on ‘AGT: The Champions’
Salt Lake trapeze artists Mary Ellen Wolfe-Nielsen and Tyce Nielsen became the first trapeze act to reach the top 10 on ‘America’s Got Talent.’ Now, the husband and wife are competing on ‘AGT: The Champions.’
SALT LAKE CITY — They flew through the air, sometimes blindfolded, sometimes surrounded by fire.
A couple of times, Tyce Nielsen hung upside down on a trapeze bar — with his eyes covered — and waited for his wife, Mary Ellen Wolfe-Nielsen, to slip through his arms so he could catch her by the ankles.
One of those times he didn’t catch her. Mary Ellen Wolfe-Nielsen fell fast toward a flame-covered floor.
But in the end, the Nielsens got redemption. The couple became the first trapeze act to reach the top 10 on “America’s Got Talent” during the 13th season, which aired in 2018.
Now, the Salt Lake City-based act — better known by the name Duo Transcend — is returning to “AGT.”
Last October, the Nielsens were filmed for the second season of “AGT: The Champions” — an “AGT” spinoff that features top contenders throughout the show’s history. Their routine is in the season 2 premiere, which airs Jan. 6.
And be forewarned: They raised the stakes.
“We are always trying to up the danger,” Tyce Nielsen told the Deseret News. “We’re trying to up the skill level, and what comes with that is a lot of trial and error, and a lot of blood, sweat and tears.”
Over years of practice, Mary Ellen Wolfe-Nielsen has dislocated her shoulder and elbow. Tyce Nielsen has suffered a torn rotator cuff in his shoulder. But beyond a few other minor incidents, the couple has gone without serious injuries in a career that depends on being physically fit.
“It’s very painful,” Tyce Nielsen said. “The way I have to grab Mary, and the way I have to hook my knees on the bar, it’s extremely painful for a really long time. A lot of people will stop doing it within a couple of weeks because it just hurts so bad.”
But the Nielsens aren’t easily swayed. In fact, after Mary Ellen Wolfe-Nielsen suffered the big fall during the couple’s initial “AGT” run, she stood up, waved to the audience and then said to the judges: “We would like to try the blindfold trick one more time.”
The Nielsens were even more determined on “AGT: The Champions.”
“We wanted to show improvement. We wanted to make sure that we showed them that we were stronger, that we were better,” Tyce Nielsen said. “These are the top people that have either won their ‘Got Talent‘ shows in the past or they’ve been finalists, so we were very honored but very nervous at the same time.”
When the Nielsens first competed on “AGT,” they were doing it for stability. It isn’t easy to make a living as a trapeze artist, and the couple wanted to better provide for their 3-year-old son Jaxx.
That all changed with “AGT.” Since that exposure, the Nielsens have been to Europe a handful of times and performed a number of corporate events and NBA halftime shows throughout the country — Utah Jazz fans can catch them at the Lakers game on March 16.
They’ve also been able to spend more time with their son, as many companies have been willing to pay extra for Jaxx to fly out.
“Before ‘AGT,’ we would have to leave him for sometimes over a month,” Tyce Nielsen said. “It’s changed our dynamic, being able to have him with us constantly.”
Most recently the Nielsens, who just finished a monthlong Cirque du Soleil gig in Malta, were able to spend Christmas at their Salt Lake City home for the first time in seven years. They got to watch their “Star Wars”-obsessed son unwrap and happily play with his Millennium Falcon and Stormtroopers — not to mention a Stormtrooper waffle maker.
They’ve spent so much time with their son that Tyce Nielsen joked the trapeze act is no longer impressive to the 3-year-old.
“Mary and I, we both feel like he’s kind of bored of watching us,” he said with a laugh. “He comes to most all the shows that we do, and he really loves watching the acrobats … he loves watching people jumping on the trampoline, and it seems like whenever we come on stage, he just sort of yawns and loses interest.”
But they still have the interest of “AGT” judges, who reached out and asked the couple to compete on “AGT: The Champions.” The NBC spinoff series premiered last year to 9.9 million viewers, and this year, Duo Transcend will compete against 39 champions and finalists from “Got Talent” franchises worldwide.
“We just love being able to display our art form to people around the world, and there’s really no bigger way for us to show people what we do than being on the ‘AGT’ stage,” Tyce Nielsen said. “We hope that it’s not just scary, it’s not just dangerous, but we hope that it’s beautiful.”
Note: “AGT: The Champions” airs on NBC Monday, Jan. 6 at 7 p.m. MT.