If today were a normal day at work, Lance Trappe would be painting a Cirque du Soleil mask on his face, slipping into his costume, and warming up under the stage with a series of bunny-hops, side hops, and, if he was feeling frisky, a nose-wheelie pirouette. He'd be listening to the live orchestra booming above while four Chinese girls flip those spinning yo-yo things into the rafters. He'd be track-standing on a hydraulic lift as it hoists him above the stage, and giving the audience heart palpitations by bunny-hopping off it.
But today he's sitting on the couch, getting over the flu, and wondering what kind of job comes after the best job in the world. La Nouba, a long-running Cirque du Soleil show at Walt Disney World in Orlando, has come to a close after nineteen years. Lance, a member of the cast for 14 years, is now looking for work.
"I'm trying to figure out what the heck I'm doing," he says, hanging out with his dog, Scout, and cats Bella and Simba. "That was a one-job-in-the-world deal."
Lance was one of the exotic toys coming to life in an attic--the theme of La Nouba. (The show's name is a twist on the French phrase that means “to party.”) His character, the "Dark Rider," was a mysterious foil to his playful counterpart, played by Marcos Paulo DeJesus, a Brazilian BMX champ. When he wasn't catapulting himself off props, Lance was bunny-hopping over terrified tourists plucked from the audience and laid down on stage, and tapping their noses with his front wheel.
Translate that to a resume bullet point.
It's not like he ever had a normal job. Before he joined the Cirque cast in 2003, Lance was a trials pro on Team Volvo Cannondale, another rare job--even rarer today. Now, at 40, he's in the best shape of his life (when pressed, he can zip a blazing-hot lap on the trails at Mt. Dora and Santos). That's what happens when you take three big drops from a 6-foot platform every show, two shows a day, 478 shows a year, for 14 years. (If our math is correct, that means he has plummeted over 40,000 feet in his career. That's around seven miles--greater than the cruising altitude of most commercial flights.)
The last show was held on New Year's Eve, the finale of a 12-show week. The show was sold out, and the audience was electric. "It was like being in the Superbowl," he says. "I've actually ridden at a half-time show for the Philadelphia Eagles, but it wasn't even close. The final Cirque audience was ten times louder."
So what ARE the options for a world-class circus performer when the show must no longer go on?
"A lot have already packed up and driven to Vegas," he says, but it would have to be a pretty impressive job to make him leave Orlando, which is already far enough from his home state of New Jersey. "I'd like to do more stuff riding, but it's all about social media now."
He's been building his @lancetrappe Instagram following with short videos of trials playgrounds from construction sites to bike parks. Who knows, it may progress to YouTube, where his good friend and fellow trials phenom Jeff Lenosky has created a following with his Trail Boss channel, which airs how-to videos for riding the most technical trails he can find.
So if you hear of any jobs requiring sick trials skills and mediocre face-painting talent (his assessment, not ours), let him know. In the mean time, he'll be riding outside for a change, wherever and whenever he wants--big piles of rocks, huge concrete pipes, an occasional crane or a stack of wood. And enjoying the advancements in bikes that have transpired over the past 14 years.
"Gears and a dropper post," he says. "That's a whole new world."
We're donating the proceeds of this story to the get-well fund for Ray Petro, founder of Ray's Mountain Bike Park (and a good friend of Lance's). Last year, Ray suffered a broken neck while out riding one of the trails he built (nothing crazy; just riding) and was paralyzed from the neck down. He has since regained speech and movement in his upper limbs, but he needs our support. Donate here.