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June 2018

Portrait of a Cirque Star: Pro Diver Shares High-Flying Story

by Marlene Goldman

Tara Hyer-Tira, High Diver, Cirque du Soleil

Tara Hyer-Tira, High Diver, Cirque du Soleil

For years my Instagram feed was filled with vertigo-inducing posts from my friend Tara Hyer-Tira taking flight off the precipice of a staggeringly towering cliff during a high-dive competition. Locations varied, from Russia to Northern Italy, as she traveled the world as a Red Bull cliff diver.

In 2014 Tara placed fourth in Kragero, Norway in the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series and in 2017 fourth in Budapest, Hungary.

Fast forward to the present, and my former co-worker (yoga teachers, not divers—I’m terrified of heights!) now posts photos of herself in full makeup and regalia for the Cirque du Soleil show O, her new gig as one of the high divers in the water-themed Vegas extravaganza, also popular with groups.

“I’ve been diving my whole life,” Tara said after I caught up with her on a recent visit to Vegas. “I started around age 6, and continued in college. I’ve seen the world with my individual high diving.”

Tara’s resume includes diver on ABC’s television show Splash, as well as Russian swing acrobat and diver at SeaWorld San Antonio. Most recently she was a dive instructor at Stanford University.

With the Red Bull Cliff Diving circuit, she competed diving from 20 meters (65+ feet) in various locations.

“Different places provided different challenges—a fluctuating tide, timing a dive with waves, weather and air temperature, wind gusts,” Tara said. “With Red Bull dives, there were a lot of factors: location—everywhere we went was different—freezing cold water in Ireland, rain and wind.

“Diving into 50-degree water feels like concrete when you hit it,” she added.

Tara Hyer-Tira Cliff Diving

Then, out of the blue, the team at Cirque contacted Tara to perform as a high diver in O.

“It was my all-time favorite Cirque show,” she said. “I saw O four times before I was in it. During my bachelorette party I took all my girlfriends to see it. We were planning a family trip to Vegas to see O, but instead I called my parents and said, are you interested in seeing the show if I might be in it?”

In Cirque, Tara’s character is a maries—the French word for bride. She is one of four divers who jump together simultaneously from 60 feet high, though some nights Tara does the opening dive solo. She also is one of the performers on a Russian swing as part of what in the context of O is a wedding party.

“As a flyer on the Russian swing, I stand on the front of the swing. There are two to three pushers who build the swing’s momentum and I fly off the swing at the apex, flipping and twisting into the air,” she said.

Tara Hyer-Tira Backstage at Cirque Performance

What seemed death defying to the audience is actually a respite from the hazards of Red Bull diving for Tara. Though the height is about the same, in O the water is flat and warm, as she dives into a 1.5 million-gallon pool.

“Working with a group is fun,” she said.  “With Red Bull I’m on my own with solo dives. It’s good to be with others who have the same desire, passion and love for the art.”

Performing two shows a night is a different experience, as well.

“For me the most important thing is to be zoned in 100 percent each performance,” she said.

“To listen to each other. Listen for cues," Tara added.

I was lucky enough to have time to catch one of Tara’s performances in O, as dazzling for its costumes and artistry as for the sheer spectacle of the dives and acrobatics.

Tara’s perception of the show is an adventure into a mystical, beautiful world.

“You see the normal emotions of humans come together—excitement, happiness, fear, doubt, worries,” she said. “Everyone has dreams, and these dreams come alive.”

As for the future?

“Right now as a performer in O, it’s a new adventure, a new ride and I’m meeting so many amazing people,” she said. “The crew, behind-the-scenes people—the entire group of us that make the show come to life.”

Cirque du Soleil Group Experiences, Photo Credit: Cirque du Soleil

Cirque du Soleil La Grande Experience, Photo Credit: Cirque du Soleil​

Performances of O happen twice nightly, 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., from Wednesday-Sunday at the O Theatre at Bellagio.

Groups can meet some of the people that bring the show to life with the program La Grande Experience at “O” by Cirque du Soleil. Attendees can experience premium views of the stage from a private VIP Suite and partake in a pre-show reception in a special VIP area, with a guided video tour including never-before-seen video footage, followed by an exclusive meet-and-greet with O artists along with a commemorative photo taken by a professional photographer.

Before the show begins, attendees in the VIP Suite are treated to a selection of gourmet treats as well as private cocktail service, enjoying their choice of wine or champagne throughout the performance.

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