Chronicling the pain, suffering and risks that Vegas acrobats endure to entertain you.
Last weekend, former Le Reve performer Yann Arnaud suffered a fatal fall while performing in Cirque du Soleil’s VOLTA in Tampa. Fellow Le Reve acrobat Ryan Lyons suffered a shockingly similar accident during a live performance at Wynn Las Vegas several years ago.
Since this article was published on another site in August of 2015, Lyons has gotten married and relocated to Australia. He now works, among other things, as an aerial choreographer for singer Pink. What follows is a reprint of how the article originally appeared.
Ryan Lyons is a “generalist” in Le Reve – The Dream. Five nights a week he flips, flies, dances and dives for thousands of people. He has done so ever since the show opened more than ten years ago. While he considers his experience at Wynn Las Vegas to be a dream come true, for a short while it became something much darker.
One evening during the finale, Lyons suffered a traumatic injury that echoes the one that occurred at MGM Grand/Cirque du Soleil’s KA. Performer Sarah Guyard-Guillot, who also fell during the final sequence, died as a result of her injuries. That production was shut down for nearly weeks as safety protocols were re-examined. It reopened with a greatly altered finale (which has since been restored).
Ryan Lyons was much luckier than Guyard-Guillot. After a hospital stay and physical rehabilitation, he returned to Le Reve for another five years. Complications, pain, and the occasional surgery became a way of life, and he still deals with the physical and psychological aftermath of that accident.
Now in his eleventh year with Le Reve, Lyons has reached the “What next?” phase of his career. It’s a question that all performers must face when their bodies are maxed out but the soul still yearns to perform. As he ponders his options, Lyons has begun sharing his journey in a personal blog, which he calls “The Anchors Project”. In it, he hopes to motivate, inspire creativity and ultimately help others to find what their personal anchors are.
Here are a few excerpts from “The Anchors Project”:
“The finale act comes around, and I jump onto my porters to set up my second trick of (the) act. As they are launching me into the air, my left foot slips and everything just crumbles from there. In mid-air, I only hope to have enough rotation that I don’t land head first upside down. I end up landing back on the dry stage, taking all the force to my face and chest…and slide unconscious into the water.
I wake up on a spinal board with several athletic trainers and rescue personnel around me. I learn that I have shattered my nose, fractured some ribs and have multiple contusions to my lungs.”
You might think the life of a Vegas performer is all glitz and glam. It’s not bad by any means. We get paid to do what we love, and it often doesn’t feel like a job. What people don’t realize is how short-lived our career is (I certainly didn’t). They don’t see the ugly side of the job, fighting for contracts, pushing through each show with an ache here and an ache there.
The “show must go on” mentality of the corporate setting, or the fear of losing your next contract. We dance and flip around on stage, but we often struggle to “play the game” as we try to find a balance that will keep our passion alive. It is often truly the passion to perform that keeps us going.
Plagued by injuries, overuse of our bodies and sometimes not feeling valued for the risk we take with each performance, you are challenged to make decisions on what is important to you.
What is important to me now, as I reflect on this journey, is my health and well being. I often joke to my friends and say “I want to be able to walk when I’m 40!”.
I’ve learned that even despite many setbacks, I was still able to live my dream. That my strength and courage helped me move past my injuries and the obstacles that were placed in front of me. That my tenacity to keep going, always gets me to where I want to go. I now find myself motivating others to share their passion and to reach beyond their wildest dreams.
You can read more about Ryan Lyons by visiting his website The Anchors Project.
Photos: Ryan Lyons, Sammasseur