Hanging by a Thread

Circus classes build persistence


Amanda Henroid

Henroid dangles on aerial silks. “Every winter and spring there are student showcases when you get to choreograph your own piece and show it off in front of friends and family,” Henroid said. “Just a few months ago, I did a piece with my sister and that was really fun. I was really proud of that.” Photo by Amanda Henroid.

Emma Li, Features Editor

Soccer and track may be the standard sports that a run-of-the-mill teenager has experienced, but circus is a vault that has been largely untapped by the general public. Lily Henroid (10) has done all three. Henroid takes circus classes twice a week at DaySpring Academy in Manchester, which offers a variety of classes from juggling to groundwork to aerial silks. 

“I went to Circus Flora with my family, a small circus that takes place downtown once every year,” Henroid said. “We were looking through the brochure they gave out and we saw an ad for circus camp. That’s how I started, and I’ve been taking classes ever since.”

The camp itself was weeklong and experimental. Students were able to sample different skills, and by the end, Henroid was hooked. Henroid has now been taking classes for five years. 

The classes themselves are structured similarly to standard sports. Students in classes of as little as three to as many as ten people begin with group warm ups. Then, people separate to warm up with their own apparatuses such as silks, trapeze, unicycle, and juggling before moving on to their individualized exercises. Those exercises are created based on skill level and experience, and follows a curriculum that lasts several weeks. By the end of the lesson, students group back together to stretch once more. 

“Well one of the classes I do is aerial silks, and the other class is a ground class,” Henroid said. “I think I’ve just found a community, it’s super welcoming, super accepting. The classes are really fun, the teachers are really nice, they do whatever they can to help you understand, and there’s people on every skill level.”

Since classes are structured for all age groups and skill levels, there are multiple teachers. At the forefront are Jamie Zayas and Vanessa Waggoner-Zayas who lead the circus program at DaySpring. 

“Mr. Jamie does a lot of ground and balancing classes,” Henroid said. “He’s a professional clown, and he actually went to school to do clowning. Mrs. Vanessa teaches a lot of aerial classes.”

Beyond opportunities to learn new skills, there is a St. Louis based youth performing troupe called Barnstormers that performs for charity. Although Henroid isn’t involved due to time commitments, there are endless amounts of opportunities for new experiences with new people as well.

“A lot of the friends I have now I have made through circus classes,” Henroid said. “They’re people I’ve known for several years. A lot of them are homeschooled, which is interesting to me.”

Although the variety of skills covered in classes may seem intimidating, the process is simple in theory.

“A lot of it’s muscle memory. Really, all the classes,” Henroid said. “It’s working at something over and over and over until one day it just clicks. The basics of learning how to juggle took me several months to learn, but building off that is easier. You just start. A lot of the stuff you learn in circus is about persistence. It’s about continuing to struggle until you finally figure it out and do something right. I think persistence is definitely useful in real life; you’ve just got to keep working at something until it finally works.”