Genevieve Gellerman caught her first glimpse of Circus Juventas at the tender age of 8. Watching a friend perform in a show, Gellerman found herself entranced by everything happening in front of her.
“I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this looks like so much fun,'” she said.
Not long after, Gellerman signed up for her first circus class. Almost a decade later, the Eden Prairie teenager is now performing in her first Circus Juventas summer show: “Excalibur.”
“Excalibur” tells the legendary tale of King Arthur through acrobatic and aerial acts. The show runs at the permanent big top on Montreal Avenue in St. Paul from Friday, July 28, to Tuesday, Aug. 15. Tickets range from $25 to $50.
“It’s a very big production,” said Gellerman. “Everyone works all year to prepare for the summer show.”
Though she took gymnastics as a preschooler, Gellerman had very little experience in acrobatics when she took her first Circus Juventas class. “You can start from anywhere,” she said.
One of the core tenets of Circus Juventas classes is “there is something for everyone, regardless of body type or skill set.”
“We want our students to become the best versions of themselves they can, not just in circus but in life,” the Circus Juventas website reads.
Circus Juventas offers classes in three levels: exploratory/recreational, intermediate/preparatory and advanced/premier. There are classes for beginners to dip their toe in and try a bunch of new circus skills, and then there are individual classes for every circus skill imaginable — unicycle, juggling, globes, trapeze, trampoline, wire, etc.
“There are so many classes,” said Gellerman.
Gellerman said she started with the contortion classes, but a side-by-side trapeze class was among her favorites.
“My advice to beginners is to find something you really enjoy and stick with it,” she said.
The stuff of legends
Circus Juventas’ “Excalibur” tells the story of the legend of King Arthur, complete with “chivalrous knights, secrets, romance, betrayal and an ancient lineage rediscovered.” Audiences will watch as the prophesied king comes to power among a cast of characters, including recognizable names like Lancelot, Gawain and Merlin the sorcerer.
Students who have reached the “show level classes” (advanced/premier) at Circus Juventas can apply to be part of the summer show. “Excalibur” features more than 60 such cast members. Gellerman performs with hoops as a court lady and serves as a priestess for her contortion act.
“Everyone in the cast is super, super nice,” she said. “I’m getting pretty excited.”
The production includes awe-inspiring acrobatics and aerial acts, such as fire foot archery and flying pole, along with a dragon-fitted Russian Cradle, duo Russian Swing, and stage combat. Gellerman said she is most looking forward to the straps and Spanish Web numbers. She said it’s dazzling to watch.
“The set is incredible and it just keeps getting better,” she said. “Everything looks so good, there’s so much detail and the storylines are great.”
Beyond circus life
While Gellerman is thrilled to perform in her first summer show for Circus Juventas, she doesn’t think she’ll ultimately pursue a career with the circus. Gellerman currently attends Blake School and is interested in studying either marine biology or psychology after graduation. She also enjoys painting and drawing in her free time.
Gellerman has acquired many skills through her years of circus training that should translate to life after the circus, though.
“Definitely communication and teamwork,” she said. “You have to be able to work with people so you don’t fall.”
That’s just what Circus Juventas classes are designed to do whether students pursue a related career or not. “Our students practice teamwork, trust, commitment and overcoming fear, and they learn to set, reach and surpass personal goals,” according to its website.
“It definitely helps build confidence,” said Gellerman.
She also takes with her the many relationships that she’s built over years of training.
“The circus community is super positive atmosphere,” she said. “It’s really cool to be a part of it.”
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