Stunts and students!


Wouldn’t it be great to run away with the circus?

Imagine the adrenaline rush of swinging through the air on a flying trapeze or the thrill of suspending yourself from silks while spinning and twisting!

These are just two of the amazing circus arts alive and well in St. Paul thanks to one beloved couple — Betty and Dan Butler, the founders of Circus Juventas — who just happen to be this month’s fascinating Good Age Cover Stars.

These two physically fit 59-year-olds have made a life out of teaching circus arts to ages 3 and older for more than two decades as part of their 501(c)3 nonprofit school.

Though the Butlers consider their greatest accomplishment to be serving more than 2,000 enthusiastic students every year in a 20,000-square-foot Big Top in Highland Park, this month the couple is celebrating another huge honor: Circus Juventas, including a select group of 30 students, will perform on the National Mall at the 50th-annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C. (June 29–July 4 and July 6–9).

But you don’t have to be in D.C. to see them in action.

Just as soon as the festival ends, the Butlers will come back to Minnesota to produce their school’s highly regarded summer show (open to the public), featuring some of their most advanced students (July 28–Aug. 13).

Fans of the shows say it’s easy to forget you’re watching students in the productions because the narratives, music, lighting, costumes and stunts are so professional and impressive.

Indeed, Circus Juventas has been called a youth version of Cirque du Soleil.

What an accomplishment for a couple of kids who met in the 1970s and performed in Florida State University’s Flying High Circus. (Since then they’ve had five kids of their own.)

The Butlers’ trip to D.C. highlights Circus Juventas’s highly regarded place among circus schools across the country, said festival organizer Sabrina Lynn Motley, calling Circus Juventas “a national model of ongoing and evolving efforts to unite community life through values that lie at the very heart of circus arts — cooperation, trust and mutual respect.”

I’m inspired by and delighted for the Butlers, and I hope you will be, too!