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Grey Sparrow Journal and Press, as of January 31, 2018 will move to

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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Students Learn Acrobatic Skills and More


By Diane Smith




ST. PAUL — Day fades to night. Spotlights snap on. Silence fills the arena. Avery Young, suspended high above the floor, descends into a halo of light on ribbons of green silk, swirling and twirling through the air. Music from “Oz:” an aerial performance produced by Circus Juventus, pumps through the sound system. Young’s movements, synchronized with grace, become a ballet without a floor. Students from 3 to 21 clad in courage, artistry and skill, enter the arena. A teenager juggles balls. Another flips in the air. One stands inside a metal wheel like a human bicycle spoke circling the floor. They whizz by the audience. Circus Juventas presents another dazzling production to a sold-out house.


Thousands of students have honed their skills taking lessons in silk ropes, acrobatics, trapeze and theatre, Daniel W. Butler, founder and executive director said. When a student reaches level three, the top level, as Young has, they’re ready to perform in the summer production reserved for the most advanced students.


Circus Juventas, Butler explained, is the largest youth performing art circus in North America—perhaps the world. 


“Our school began from nothing in a town that's famous for hockey and soccer, and has grown every year of operation,” Butler said.


Young is 21 and started at Circus Juventas when she was 10. She said she’s met lifelong friends at the school and learned to trust another person with her life.


“When someone throws you high in the air, you need to know they’ll catch you,” Young said. 


When Young was a senior in high school, Circus Juventas applied to participate in a circus festival in Sweden. Her four-person triple trapeze act was chosen to represent the school.

“My three best friends traveled there together,” Young said. “We placed first in our age group for our triple trapeze act, an aerial performance, and won the gold! We were so excited—I will never forget. We sat up until 3 a.m. eating M & M’s out of this gorgeous trophy cup we brought home to Circus Juventas.”


Head Coach Erdenechimeg Haltarhuu, 49, said she emigrated from Mongolia in 1991 to work with the Ringling Brothers in Florida. The producers came to Mongolia and chose her team’s act. 


Haltarhuu said, “We were told to pack our bags, travel to America in two weeks and plan to stay for two years.  I was not just brave in the air. I was on the ground too. I decided to join.”


While working with the Ringling Brothers, Haltarhuu said she traveled to Sweden, Mongolia, Russia, Poland, Denmark, Austria, Canada, Holland and Mexico, performing to large crowds. This international experience, she said, brings strength to the teaching program. 


"Traditional and most elegant Mongolian skills are taught to students. In Mongolia the circus is an important affair. People dress in their finest outfits to come to a performance and the house is often sold out,” Haltarhuu said.


She tells students, she can do a hand stand and demonstrates.  Then, she tells them, they can too. 




Free Open House, Saturday, April 12

                                             Avery Young Performing, by Photographer Bill Raab



"I love to teach and watch children grow in their skills. Students have won awards and gone on to National Circus School and circuses throughout the world,” Haltarhuu said.


Marissa Dorchner, coach at Circus Juventas, is 26.  She said she came to the circus school in 1998 as a student when she was just 11.  Now, she teaches multiple trapeze, triple trapeze, silks, hoops, Spanish web, side-by-side trapeze, and star trapeze.

“The way I coach,” Dorchner said, “is by building relationships and establishing trust. The biggest challenge is getting students to trust themselves.” 


It is a unique program, Dorchner emphasized, and attracts students with nontraditional educations, different backgrounds, those enrolled for work study and on scholarship, and those with diverse socioeconomic status.


This year, Circus Juventas celebrates 20 years of teaching and performing in St. Paul. On April 12, the school is having a free open house in honor of the milestone. There will be stations hosted by teachers. Anyone can try the equipment if they sign a release. The school is anticipating 10,000 guests that day.  Every hour there will be demonstrations and a full performance presented in the evening.


“We chose April 12 because it’s World Circus Day,” Butler said. “Fifty countries will perform all over the world at the same time.” 


Photo of Avery Young reprinted with permission of Circus Juventas.