Gainesville Circus Center is Flying High
The nonprofit Gainesville Circus Center (GCC), founded in 2018, is a performing arts school specializing in circus arts offering classes for kids and adults in aerial dance on trapeze, silks and lyra, acrobatics, juggling and much more. This “social circus” engages in performances throughout the year to support the physical, mental and emotional health of at-risk youth in the community. There are also kids camps and specialty workshops with scholarships and internships
Director Dr. Corey Cheval is certified in acrobatic dance and holds the Ph.D. cultural anthropology from the University of Florida; an MA in performance studies from the Federal University of Bahia; and a BA contemporary dance and choreography from Mills College. She states, “I have been teaching and performing dance and circus arts in the Gainesville area since 2008. I originally launched my company under the name S-Connection Aerial Arts.
GCC offers dance and live music entertainment and participates in community events such as the Gainesville Downtown Festival & Art Show, the 5th Avenue Arts Festival and TEDxUF, among others. “I co-produce Dusty’s Ragtime Circus with my brother and music director Dustin Cottrell,” says Cheval. Supported by grants from the state of Florida Division of Cultural Affairs and Alachua County, Dusty’s Ragtime Circus showcases pop music interpreted through ragtime with aerial acrobatic and dance elements. The show relies on the participation of full-time professional artists, as well as up-and-coming performers from the Gainesville Circus Center.
It toured in 2019, but a reprise in 2020 has been delayed due to COVID-19. They are planning a Dusty’s Ragtime Circus Drive-In to be held March 5 and 6 supported by a grant from Visit Gainesville that will allow people to maintain a safe social distance.
Cheval is an equestrian and has trained bareback riding (or vaulting) under eighth-generation circus artist Timi Loyal. “We sometimes contract other animal acts for our events,” notes Cheval. “We have worked with Loyal Vaulting & Equestrian Arts, Christine Zerbini, Carole Fletcher, Williston Renegade Drill Team, and CZ Mustangs, among others. Animal training offers a stimulating and fulfilling life experience for animals who may otherwise be euthanized or poached.”
Cheval opines, “A career in the arts involves a lot of sacrifice, mainly job security. You must accept the unknown. You also have to get used to other people assuming you are a ‘failed artist’ if they have never heard of you. Our culture does not recognize the millions of artists working as teachers and part-time performers because of our obsession with the idea that only rich and famous artists are successful. It takes about 10 years of dedicated training to build a professional performer in any discipline (music, dance or circus), so stay humble. It’s never too late to start.
Most performance opportunities events are determined through live or video audition. Each show or event requires specific skill sets, so they are always looking for the person that can best fulfill the needs of a particular performance. “We truly want to make the arts accessible to all. We encourage people to try our Intro to Aerial or Cirque Fitness classes to get a taste of our work,” advises Cheval. “If you love the circus, but don’t necessarily want to train in acrobatics, you may consider becoming a volunteer. We always appreciate extra helping hands at our events. Join our mailing list to stay up to date on performances and volunteer opportunities!”
Gainesville Circus Center is located at 1925 NW 2nd St., Ste. B, in Gainesville. For more information, call 352-316-0682 or visit GgainesvilleCircus.com.