Local aerialist soars beneath the big top

This summer, childhood reigns under the big top when Circus Juventas presents “Neverland.”


Emily Hovan soars above the crowd gathered beneath the big top.
Emily Hovan soars above the crowd gathered beneath the big top.

During the circus act, imagination is swept over the rooftops of London as Pan, his naughty fairy friend, Tink, and the carefree Darling children fly away free to the magical island of Neverland.

Complete with contorting mermaids, high flying fairies, and somersaulting Lost Boys, Circus Juventas’ performance of “Neverland” is one for all ages.

For 13-year-old Emily Hovan of Andover, it marks her second consecutive appearance in Circus Juventas’ annual summer show, a performance featuring the Circus’ most advanced athletes.

Emily began training with Circus Juventas when she was seven years old – and she’s loved every twisting, stretching, somersaulting minute of it.

Her mom, Lisa, describes her limber daughter’s earliest athletic endeavors.

“When she was 5 she had so much energy we just had to do something so we got her into gymnastics. She was very good and I think she really liked it but didn’t like the competitive aspect,” Lisa said. “Well, she’s always loved performing and when we heard about Circus we thought that might suit her.”

Seems it suits her just fine. Emily’s been training and performing with Circus Juventas – the largest performing arts youth circus school in the country – for seven consecutive years.

Emily has been homeschooled since kindergarten, and since she joined Circus Juventas she’s spent about 24 hours each week learning, training, rehearsing and practicing at the St. Paul training facility.

“It’s very extensive training and she is so focused – always has been – that she can teach herself just by watching others. She’s pretty remarkable,” Lisa said, smiling proudly at her daughter.

While Circus Juventas is designed for young athletes up to age 21, Emily has her sights set on an extended career.

“When I’m older – past high school – I’d like to go to circus college or to Cirque du Soleil,” Emily said.

But for now she’s focused on performing four different roles in “Neverland.”

Connie Shaver, spokesperson for Circus Juventas, reports that during the production Emily will perform in three-girl hand balance, acrobatics and on the aerial apparatus known as the “cloud swing.”

“She has also trained in contortion, unicycle and aerial acts including silks, Spanish web, triple trapeze, flying trapeze, double trapeze, hoops and bungee trapeze,” Shaver said.

New acts to watch for during “Neverland” include a fire dance routine, a high flying cradle-to-cradle act, a lyrical duo straps act and Icarian games – otherwise known as “human juggling,” Shaver said.

“This is going to be a lot of fun. I like cloud swinging best … People in the audience get a little freaked out – probably because I’m freakishly flexible – and they think I’m going to fall on them,” Emily said. “I won’t fall on them.”

About Circus Juventas

Circus Juventas’ mission is to inspire artistry and self-confidence through a multi-cultural circus arts experience, as stated at the 501(c) 3 non-profit organization’s website.

With a focus on discipline, hard work, and respect for their peers and themselves, students learn acrobatics, balance, aerial techniques, juggling and theatrical skills in a safe and non-competitive environment.

Circus Juventas celebrates its 20th anniversary this year and co-founders Betty and Dan Butler report that the year-round program serves more than 2,000 children and youth.

To learn more about Circus Juventas, visit CircusJuventas.org.

‘Neverland’ at  Circus Juventas

“Neverland” takes to the air during 20 afternoon and evening performances Aug. 1-17.

All performances are presented under the Circus Juventas Big Top at 1270 Montreal Ave., St. Paul.

For performance schedule and tickets
(all reserved seating, $14-$35) call Ticketworks (612-343-3390) or Circus Juventas
(651-699-8229) or visit Ticketworks.com
or CircusJuventas.org.

Sue Austreng is at
[email protected]