Joining the Circus

A former Olympic gymnast finds the camaraderie she’s been seeking all along.

March 2023

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Shona Morgan dancing with a large metal hoop.

Photography by Bernard Letendre

When Shona Morgan was growing up in Melbourne, Australia, her mother “didn’t realize that it’s not super normal to have a 4-year-old just throwing cartwheels and climbing walls, and, you know, doing all this crazy stuff,” she says. 

Morgan, ’14, channeled that energy into an elite gymnastics career, representing Australia at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and three World Championships. Her transition away from the pressures of the world’s stage to collegiate gymnastics reminded her why she loved the sport to begin with: the challenge and teamwork needed to learn new skills. While at Stanford, Morgan also took aerial silks classes and danced in the campus troupe Swingtime. “It was like a switch flicked when I realized that performing is not the same as competing,” she says. 

Shona Morgan, lit by red light and wearing a headdress and patterned body suit, kneels in a pose.

Shona Morgan hangs in the air, supported by her legs wrapped around a pole.

After earning a degree in human biology, she joined Cirque du Soleil’s Amaluna, performing on the uneven bars. While touring Europe, South America, and North America over five years, she picked up techniques from other performers—including what is now her signature act, the Cyr wheel, a metal hoop that she spins and balances within, creating the effect of a gymnast inside a spinning top.

In 2022, Morgan embarked on her first tour of Australia, specializing in partner acrobatics in Highwire Events & Entertainment’s The Defiant, which won the “Best Circus” award at the Adelaide Fringe arts festival. She plans to continue to tour with local circus companies and is grateful to have found a welcoming, collaborative community of acrobats in her home country. “Being there onstage with other people and working together is what I’ve apparently always wanted,” she says. 

Jacqueline Munis, ’25, is a former editorial intern at Stanford. Email her at

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