Sophomore Kris Jensen takes flight with aerial silks

For sophomore Kris Jensen, the dream of running away to join the circus is still very much alive, albeit with a twist. Jensen began doing circus during the pandemic, with a variety of art forms, but now focuses on aerial silks.

provided by Kris Jensen

For sophomore Kris Jensen, the dream of running away to join the circus is still very much alive, albeit with a twist. Jensen began doing circus during the pandemic, with a variety of art forms, but now focuses on aerial silks.

By Hannah Beeler, Liberty High School - TX

From acrobats to tight rope walkers. 

Juggling to the flying trapeze.

One hundred years ago, the traveling circus was at its peak with millions of Americans eager to see the show whenever the circus came to town.

But for sophomore Kris Jensen, the dream of running away to join the circus is still very much alive, albeit with a twist.

Kris actually has a fear of heights, so it’s actually kind of neat to see Kris climbing like 20 feet into the air,”

— Kris' mother, Kelly Jensen

“I started doing circus during the pandemic,” Kris said. “A lot of things were shut down and I wasn’t able to do things that I used to like theater and dance so I decided that this was a good time to try something new. I attended a circus class and when I got on the aerial silk, it was actually really hard to do anything and I think that’s a large part of why I got so interested. It was new and challenging and it felt like a really good way to use my time.”

Circus includes many different art forms, but for Kris, aerial silks are the choice. But taking flight wasn’t an easy launch. 

”So definitely that initial hurdle of getting off the ground was a big challenge for me. In addition to that, just being scared of heights,” Kris said. “From my experience, the only way to really overcome this is just practice and keeping at it. It’s not really like there’s some magical trick you learn and it makes all your problems go away. It’s more of slowly working at it and so and I realize that you’re not as scared anymore.”

Kris believes their journey learning circus has been one of hard work and perseverance.

“Circus has taught me to be aware of my own body because there’s a huge emphasis on paying attention to what every part of your body is doing,” Kris said. “As my coach says, ‘it’s not a back exercise, it’s a full body exercise’. Because in everything that you do in circus, all of your body is involved.”

But Kris may never have been able to fully take flight with their aerial skills, unless mom Kelly Jensen, was there for support.

“I was all for it because I knew that they have been interested in it since they were very little and have a dance background,” Kelly said. “I knew that it was going to be very time consuming, especially with Kris also doing theater and dance, but I knew that Kris would not mind the hours that they would have to put in so I was all for it.”

One of Kelly’s favorite parts of watching Kris do circus is watching them conquer their fears.

Kris is one of the hardest workers that we have. They have a lot of heart,”

— coach Olga Spikes

“Kris actually has a fear of heights,” Kelly said. “So it’s actually kind of neat to see Kris climbing like 20 feet into the air. So that’s been really, really neat to say that even though they do have a fear of heights that they are still willing and wanting to do it.”

Kris’ coach, Olga Spikes, believes Kris not only performs with technical skill but with heart.

“Kris is one of the hardest workers that we have,” Spikes said “They have a lot of heart. When they perform you can see the heart and soul they put into it”

Circus has been a place of not only new found skills but also new found friendships for Kris.

“When you spend multiple hours a week stretching and training with the same people over and over again, watching them trying tricks and sometimes failing, and you get to help each other, you really form a bond,” Kris said.

Although it has meant overcoming fears and putting themselves out there, the payoff makes the effort worth it. 

“It’s a lot of work, especially if you put in a lot of time into it every week,” Kris said. “But it’s really rewarding and it’s a great experience.”

This story was originally published on Wingspan on November 17, 2022.