Former U diver with Cirque du Soleil

Mikey Ross takes part in the high dive in the show, “O,” in Las Vegas.

Former Minnesota diver Mikey Ross poses in partial stage makeup. Ross joined Cirque Du Soleil after graduation as an acrobat and performs in the show, O.

Photo courtesy of Mikey Ross

Former Minnesota diver Mikey Ross poses in partial stage makeup. Ross joined Cirque Du Soleil after graduation as an acrobat and performs in the show, “O.”

by Thomas Jaakola

Three years after his final season with the Gophers, former All-American diver Mikey Ross is performing as an acrobat for Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas.
 
 
Ross spent two seasons with Minnesota after transferring from Wisconsin and graduated with a degree in sociology.
 
 
The only class he said he ever dropped in college was on post-graduate career development. Ross said his professor didn’t appreciate it when he said he was running away to join the circus.
 
 
“Being an acrobat is natural to me. It has always defined me since I can remember,” Ross said. “Being an acrobat in Cirque encompasses everything I have worked towards all my life as an athlete and artist. In Cirque du Soleil, performers are called ‘artists.’ What we do encompasses much more than sport.”
 
 
Ross said a friend joined the circus and inspired him to do the same. He sent an audition tape to Cirque Du Soleil after his senior season, which is still on YouTube. He also attended an open audition in Las Vegas in August 2013 in hopes of being selected to join the group.
 
 
“I knew it was a small chance of getting into the prestigious company, but I knew there was a chance, and that’s all I needed,” Ross said.
 
 
It took him almost a year to be offered a part, but Ross joined Cirque Du Soleil in May 2014. Minnesota head swimming and diving coach Kelly Kremer said it’s good to see Ross and some of the other athletes he’s coached use their athletic talents in their professions.
 
 
It was a dream Ross mentioned to his coaches when he was still with the Gophers.
 
 
“When he dove with us, he always talked about that,” Minnesota diving coach Wenbo Chen said. “And he actually did it. I talked to him a few weeks ago, and [he said] he really enjoys [his] time there and is happy where he is right now.”
 
 
Ross is currently part of the company of Cirque Du Soleil’s show, “O,” in Las Vegas. The show has been running in the Bellagio, a hotel and casino, since October 1998 and was the group’s first aquatic show.
 
 
“Every night, I have the opportunity to hone my skills, have fun and, of course, make a living doing what I love,” Ross said. “I get to touch the hearts and minds of thousands of people every night, whether it’s making them laugh or scream.”
 
 
Ross’ main role in the show is as a high diver. He jumps from a 60-foot-high platform into a small pool of water.
 
 
He also dives from a Russian swing, a large swinging pendulum that catapults divers high in the air. From there, they can do multiple twists and somersaults for the crowd before landing in a pool below.
 
 
“Working for Cirque du Soleil is a lot of fun, but — like anything else — is a lot of hard work,” Ross said. “We do 10 shows a week plus training, workouts and workshops. Taking care of your body and mind is very important.”
 
 
The artistic director of “O,” Sandi Croft, said in an email Ross has brought wonderful energy to the show since joining as an acrobat.
 
 
“His talent is matched by his charmed personality,” Croft wrote. “He is a skilled diver and an enthusiastic performer. We will continue to use Mikey’s athleticism to our benefit, integrating more technical diving elements into the show to entertain Cirque du Soleil fans at ‘O.’ Also, Mikey will begin rehearsals soon to start covering one of the lead characters.”
 
 
As he prepares to learn an even bigger part in Las Vegas, it’s safe to say that, despite his professor’s misgivings, running away to the circus worked out well for Ross. 
 
 
“Realize your dream and spend every day trying to get a little bit closer,” Ross said. “Don’t listen to people who say you will never make it or take the safe route. You must forge your own path to happiness.”