There are graduates who fall into a cushy job after earning their degree, but Colby Balch hangs from a high bar—as a trapeze artist.
An economics major who had been recruited by the consulting firm Bain & Company, Balch was living in San Francisco in his first months after graduation. He met a teacher at a trapeze school near Golden Gate Park and, “not really thrilled to enter the world of corporate bureaucracy,” he took his advice to apply for a trapeze-teaching position with Club Med. With no experience other than the rock climbing, wrestling and Ultimate Frisbee he enjoyed, Balch was accepted to the Club Med program.
“They placed more importance on my having a lot of positive energy and enthusiasm, and given my athletic background they were willing to train me,” Balch says. In Huatulco, Mexico, he quickly learned trapeze work “was as thrilling as it was demanding.” He went on to jobs at the Club Meds in Cancun, Mexico, and Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, and taught at a trapeze school in New York. (Before and between trapeze jobs, he caddied professional golf, drove a bus for tours in Australia and coordinated activities at a hotel on the coast of Turkey.)
Now Balch is touring Europe professionally with the Flying Caceres. The Sarasota, Fla.-based troupe of five women and two men uses four bars in its set-up, and sometimes puts four flyers in the air at once.
Whether performing three tricks in a row without a reset or catching other flyers, Balch likes living his circus dream, even if it means enduring sore muscles and injuries and living in trailers. “Flying trapeze, like many art forms, is a skill that is never quite mastered, but in the pursuit lies the exhilaration,” he says. “I’m always looking forward to the next time I get up on the trapeze, which is an incredible feeling to have about one’s work.”
Balch grew up in Atlanta aspiring to become “a professional baseball player, a Navy fighter pilot . . . or a billionaire stock broker,” but he does remember seeing a circus performance that included Miguel Caceres, the father of the Flying Caceres’s founder. “Pretty crazy that twentysomething years later I would end up living in his house and training with his family,” Balch says. As for his own family, “my dad loves to joke about how he put me through Stanford only to have me run away and join the circus.”
—CHRISTIAN TORRES, ’09