The circus is in town! Forever!

Circus Juventas is teaching children to defy gravity, fly and ... entertain.

The kids at work. PHOTO COURTESY CIRCUS JUVENTAS.

Ashley Goetz

The kids at work. PHOTO COURTESY CIRCUS JUVENTAS.

Circus Juventas is one of those places that seems almost too cool to be real. The large year-round tented facility is literally a circus school, a performing arts center geared towards children learning circus-style acrobatics. Every week after school, approximately 800 children pile into Juventas for Unicycle 101, the Art of Trapeze and Advanced Juggling. Currently celebrating its 15-year anniversary, Circus Juventas is still growing, proving the ludicrously magical idea that kids can, in fact, run away to the circus. The schoolâÄôs March 14 open house will serve as an introduction for the public about the school and its programs. A&E caught up with Dan Butler, the co-Founder/CEO of Circus Juventas to ask him just whatâÄôs going on under the big top. Do you recruit circus performers or acrobats from around the world to teach in your school, or do they find you? Well, itâÄôs a little of both. WeâÄôve been very blessed and fortunate because we are the only school of our kind in America. We get at least one inquiry from someone in another country a week looking to come to work for us. ThereâÄôs a Chinese gentleman now who has worked for âÄúCirque du Soleil âÄù for the past six years and was looking to take a break from performing. He is, I think, 29 and so he wanted to come and train with us. We have two coaches, in fact, from China, two from Mongolia, one from Morocco, one from Chile and one from Russia. And we have quite a few coaches from America, too. What are the different types of classes? There are 28 different classes or acts, and there are five levels in every one of them. We have basically two schools within our school. There is the youth enrichment program which is basically levels 1, 1-2, 2 and 2 -3, where no kid gets cut from the team and then they do their big show in the middle of May and then the other students are our advanced students. These students are 3 or 3-plus. TheyâÄôre there every day after school and some of them are there from 3 p.m. until 9 p.m. They perform not only in the big summer show, but they are also eligible to be invited for international circus competitions and our one national road tour that we do each year. They also have the opportunity to go to Europe. It canâÄôt ever actually replace regular school right? [Hoping]. ThatâÄôs right. ItâÄôs a circus school not an academic school. Do you think that Circus Juventas exists more along the same wavelength as, say, something like âÄúCirque du SoleilâÄù or more along the âÄúBarnum and BaileyâÄôs âÄù kind of vaudeville American experience? Definitely âÄúCirque du Soleil.âÄù WeâÄôre not a red-nosed clown vaudeville American circus. Our focus is really on the artistic expression, the artistic integrity, the costuming, the lighting, the dance and choreography. There are storylines and sets and scenes. ItâÄôs much more like âÄúCirque du Soleil,âÄù but the acts are all circus acts like flying trapeze or high-wire. The schoolâÄôs been going on for 15 years now; are there students who have now gone on to work in other circuses or performing arts groups? There are, not nearly as many as you would think, but thatâÄôs because it has just been in the last five years that weâÄôve been able to train the way that we are now training. We have had as many as a half a dozen students receive private auditions for âÄúCirque du Soleil,âÄù which is really unheard of for any American circus. None of them have been hired, but itâÄôs still pretty amazing. The mission of the school has never really changed. We are a youth development program building self esteem and self-confidence in young people through circus arts. WeâÄôre not trying to train individuals to be circus professionals, but because of the high levels of training theyâÄôre receiving and the one-of-a-kind experience they get with our international staff, we are turning out kids that are good enough and could go professional.