Circus Juventas has a rich history with the Twin Cities community.
Creating Magic Since 1994
Contemporary Circus The circus arts have experienced a global renaissance in recent years. Rooted in many diverse cultures and eras, from ancient Chinese acrobats and the Roman Circus Maximus to Italian commedia dell’arte and Ringling Brothers Circus, today’s circus arts include captivating professional performances that combine elements of music, theater, strategy and dance. Fueled by such ground-breaking companies as Canada’s Cirque du Soleil, contemporary circus arts burst with an artistry and vibrancy drawn purely from our modern world. Cirque du Soleil began as a small group of young street performers in 1984, but quickly became an international sensation. Eschewing the three rings and animal acts typical of circuses, the group excelled with stunning theatricality and athletic artistry with a global flair. It is against that backdrop that Circus Juventas was founded in 1994. Our Founders CJ Founders Dan and Betty Butler met as teenagers in Sarasota, Fla., where they trained at Sailor Circus, one of the oldest circus schools in the country. Training with legendary, retired performers from Ringling Bros, including Tom Edelson (Guinness Book World Record holder on flying trapeze) and Gunther Wallenda of the Walking Wallendas (internationally renowned high wire walkers), the Butlers experienced the best of an era past. They continued training as young adults at the Florida State University Flying High Circus, and, upon graduation, moved into careers outside of the big top. As they have moved through their professional lives, they were drawn back to their roots, back to the big top, and back to when they were the most happy. Circus of the Star In 1994, the Butlers started an after-school program then known as Circus of the Star in a neighborhood recreation center in Highland Park. Initial offerings were limited, accommodating only 30 students training on hand-made equipment, but from the start, classes were filled to capacity. After enthralling audiences at their first performance during St. Paul’s Highland Fest in 1995, interest in the program only increased. Before long, the waiting list was over 300 names long.
After enthralling audiences at their first performance during St. Paul’s Highland Fest in 1995, interest in the program only increased. Before long, the waiting list was over 300 names long.
The Big Leap Recognizing the widespread appeal and the local needs a youth circus arts program could fill, the organization began a capital campaign in 1997 to build a permanent home. By that time, Circus of the Star was serving 120 students, with more than 400 on a waiting list. A board of directors was established, a long-term lease was secured from the City of St. Paul, and initial designs for the 21,000-square-foot Big Top were commissioned and completed. Thanks to the generosity of hundreds of contributors of all sizes, from middle class families to charitable foundations, the campaign goal of $2.1 million was reached, and the Big Top was built in 2001 and the organization re-named, Circus Juventas, for the Roman Goddess of Youth. Circus Juventas opened its big top doors on July 9, 2001 with a greatly-expanded curricula accommodating toddlers, youth and adults and an emphasis on performing. Present and Future CJ has now grown into the largest performing arts circus school in North America, serving over 2,500 students through year-round classes and summer camp programs and 50,000 spectators annually. The response to Circus Juventas’ programming and performances has been gratifying and invigorating, and allows students to realize their optimal potential. The showcase performances for beginning and intermediate students each spring have proven to be as popular as the summer shows featuring our cast of advanced performers. Circus Juventas has captivated hundreds of thousands of audience members in venues throughout the Twin Cities in performances in partnership with other arts and civic organizations, including the prestigious Ordway Center.