Astounding Aerialist: Meet Zoey Henson

Soaring through the air in hopes of benefiting herself mentally, emotionally


Contorting her body in the air, sophomore Zoey Henson strikes several dance trapeze poses. Henson says it takes a ton of core and upper body strength to successfully execute a trick. “You don’t need outside practice, but it is good to have. I used to go twice a week for six hours total, so I built a lot of strength from that,” Henson said. (Photo Credits: Zoey Henson)

Shayna Migalang, Staff Writer

It’s not everyday you get introduced to a new hobby that will change the course of your life all thanks to a Groupon offer. For sophomore Zoey Henson, however? That’s exactly how she was introduced to the world of circus trapeze. 

“I did flying trapeze classes for my birthday when I turned seven,” Henson said. “It was a complete surprise. My mom found the classes on Groupon because she wanted me to do something different, fun, and exciting, but still safe. I remember [my mom] freaking the heck out when it was her turn [on the trapeze bar], meanwhile I was just going ‘Weeeeee!’ during mine.” 

With Las Vegas being home to Cirque Du Soleil, which is currently running four different productions, besides a variety of other circus-based shows on The Strip, reactions can vary when Henson discusses her hobby.

“It can range from ‘Oh my god, how are you not dead?’ to ‘Wow, that’s really cool, and I’d love to see you perform someday!’” Henson said. “There’s not really much confusion when I label myself as a circus performer as it’s pretty simple [to explain], thanks to Cirque Du Soleil.”

Having grown accustomed to her rigorous schedule over the years, Henson has learned to prioritize her time wisely. For her to be successful, she has to juggle a variety of tasks, such as school, a part-time job, and socializing with friends and family. 

“Sometimes, when I have three-hour classes on Thursday, I have to plan ahead to finish all of my homework,” Henson said. “My schedule changes a little everyday, but I usually come home from school, take care of my dog, eat a snack, do homework, get ready for circus, and then leave. It still needs work though, as sometimes I procrastinate on work until the last day.”

However, she still faces difficulties on a regular basis, especially physically. 

“One time I had to practice for four hours because we had a show coming,” Henson said. “I was over exhausted, and when I came to school the next day, I was incredibly sore. Another time, I stayed at a friend’s house who has a rig in her backyard, and I came off an apparatus incorrectly. I slammed my chin on the bar and [had to get] four stitches.” 

Even with the knowledge that she’ll have to endure pain and risk getting injured every week during practice, Henson has continued training.

“Sometimes, when I have stressful days in school or I’m dealing with stuff outside of circus, whenever I go [to practice] I feel a lot better because it distracts me for a while,” Henson said. “It helps me calm down and relax, focus on working on tricks and upcoming performances. I’ve learned over time that I’ll fall often when practicing new tricks, so I’ve developed a lot of dedication towards circus.” 

Not only have Henson’s experiences lifted herself up, but they have also inspired other people, such as fellow Aerial Angels performer Brennan Rylee Hogue.

“Zoey is literally there for me through everything I do in circus,” Hogue said. “She’s probably the person I’m closest to at circus out of everyone there. I definitely look up to her because she doesn’t really care about what other people think and she’s so passionate about the things she does. We’re both a lot more confident and we’ve helped each other grow more than I can explain.” 

Henson acknowledges that she won’t be a circus performer forever, but in the meantime, she’d rather focus on the present than on the future.

“I’m not sure when I’ll stop doing this since I really enjoy it,” Henson said. “It’s like second therapy. I was actually thinking of doing some sort of coaching as a side job if I ever got the chance. Teaching new students would be a lot of fun in my opinion. You get to know them and find tricks that they will enjoy and perfect. I’d like to stay [in circus] as long as I can, preferably into adulthood, but we’ll see about that.”