Cirque du Soleil role a dream come true

It was on a trip to Las Vegas that she first saw O, the Cirque du Soleil show that would change her life.

Sitting in that Bellagio theatre in 2007, Cassidy Beaver-Nicol started to think about a career as a performer, using her athletic abilities to earn a living.

She's a synchronized swimmer, has been since scoliosis brought her career as a gymnast to a halt at eight years old. The next year, she joined the Kamloops Sunrays and stepped into the world of synchronized swimming that would surround the next 17 years of her life.

There came a time where she had to leave Kamloops - to progress as an athlete she moved to Calgary to train with a bigger club, the Calgary Aquabells. The move ended up being a fortunate one, it was her Aquabell teammates that first told her about O.

They later saw it together while in Nevada for a training camp.

Beaver-Nicol always thought the Olympics were her dream, but O opened her eyes to new possibilities.

"When I first saw the show, I was in shock, it was so beautiful for me," she said Thursday. "Right away I loved it and dreamed to be a part of it."

O is the longest running Cirque du Soleil show; it opened in October of 1998 and more than 10 million spectators have since taken it in.

The show's name, a play on the French word for water - eau - is fitting as the performances take place in and above a 1.5 million-gallon pool.

For Beaver-Nicol, it was the perfect fit and in April, she went to Vegas to begin performing in the show she'd dreamed of being a part of for more than six years.

"Oh gosh, I was so nervous, it was nerve racking, I was terrified," Beaver-Nicol said of her first performance. "But, I guess, quite excited at the same time because I was finally doing what I wanted to do, I reached my goal, my dream."

And while her dream's come true, being a Cirque du Soleil artist has serious risks. The Cirque community was devastated when Ka performer Sarah Guyard-Guillot fell to her death during a June 29 show. Beaver-Nicol was in Las Vegas when the accident happened and though it wasn't her show, it reverberated down the strip.

There was an investigation, safety equipment was examined and people were interviewed.

There was also the mental toll of worrying about herself and coworkers as O features suspended acrobatics as well. At one point in the show, she and her fellow swimmers are suspended above the pool by cables.

"It's spooky, it's scary, I guess it brings back the reality of what you're doing," she said. "I think it would be easy to sort of forget the danger you put yourself in sometimes, but at the same time, it's your job."

At 25, she's the youngest swimmer to make her living in the show and though she loves to perform every night, she already knows she won't be a Cirque lifer. For one, Vegas can be a tough place to live, what with the people, the partying, the booze and the relentless dry heat.

On top of that she has plans for a life after performing.

"In the end, I think I would like to be the head coach of a club, preferably back at the Kamloops Sunrays because that's where I started," she said.

A life spent coaching would certainly be less hectic - O runs five nights a week, two times a night, with each performance an hour and a half in length. Right now, the show is closed, facilitating Beaver-Nicol's visit with friends and family in her home community of Westwold.

It's also given her the opportunity to thank the community for its support over the years.

"It's cool. I came from Westwold, such a small community. To make it this far is, even for me, I kind of catch myself; it's pretty awesome."

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