The Heights Herald

Senior joins the circus

Pesantez+works+on+building+his+strength+and+coordination.+Learning+to+tumble+in+tandem+becomes+the+foundation+for+advanced+moves+the+performers+execute.
Pesantez works on building his strength and coordination. Learning to tumble in tandem becomes the foundation for advanced moves the performers execute.

Pesantez works on building his strength and coordination. Learning to tumble in tandem becomes the foundation for advanced moves the performers execute.

Kate Rockwell

Kate Rockwell

Pesantez works on building his strength and coordination. Learning to tumble in tandem becomes the foundation for advanced moves the performers execute.

Kate Rockwell, Photographer

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Swept up in the excitement of the circus watching acrobats fly, flip and twist in the air, you suddenly sit up straighter as you realize that one of those amazing performers is a peer. For senior Edwin Pesantez, his short time with Circus Juventas has been quite a ride.

Professional acrobats Dan and Betty Butler founded Circus of the Star in 1994. The program initially enrolled 30 students in an after school program where they trained on homemade equipment in a Minnesota neighborhood recreation center. After the first performance, the waiting list to participate was 300 names long. In 2001, a permanent space, the Big Top, was built at 1270 Montreal Avenue in St. Paul. Once finished, the name changed to Circus Juventas, after the Roman Goddess of Youth. Since then, Circus Juventas has grown to be the largest performing arts school in North America with 977 students.

Anyone is welcome to join Circus Juventas, but the majority of their classes are geared toward youth between the ages of 2 to 22. They also offer adult classes and specialty programs for those with disabilities. There are two types of classes, fixed fee and general. General classes meet once a week for 55 minutes and participants are eligible for a multi-class discount. Depending on the number of classes one takes, prices range anywhere from $210 to $2,390. Fixed Fee classes meet multiple times a week and need special equipment as well as more coaching. Prices range from $245 to $435. There is also a registration fee of $45 required once in an academic year.

Pesantez was inspired to join after he attended a Circus Juventas performance with Taylor Harper (11), Aiyana Stephens-Moore (11), Melissa Hosch (11), Penny Jackson (12), Ms. Amber Bromley, Superintendent Kathy Kelly and others. She encouraged Pesantez to join, insisting that he would be a natural. Classmates and teachers weren’t surprised about his involvement in the circus.

“Edwin’s flexibility and tenacity work to his advantage. In Addams Family, he played a jester and did an aerial flip as his entrance,” former director Ms. Jill Jungers said. “He’s always been a really active guy. I’ve always thought he would enter a field like this,” Luis Campoverde (12) said.

Initially, Pesantez joined simply to stay in shape. After attending a number of classes, he fell in love.

“My coaches always push me to be better. The skills that I learn are unique and very difficult. It demands a lot of discipline,” Pesantez said.

He participates in four Circus Juventas acts: acrobatics, teeterboard, Russian bar and trampoline.

“Training for four different acts definitely takes a toll on my body. I put in time practicing at Circus Juventas and at home. Flexibility is key, so I need to stretch and stay in shape,” Pesantez said.

As a new participant, the circus proved quite intimidating at first. With only two months of experience, he trains alongside people who have been there for their entire careers. Still, his love of the circus overrides any fears.

“Edwin is a very dedicated student. His focus is impeccable. There’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll go very far and become an astounding performer,” one of his coaches Mostapha Hassouni said.

A normal practice for Pesantez consists of two hours spilt between two events. The first hour focuses on acrobatics. During this time, he works with two different coaches, Tamir Bayarsaihan and Hassouni. For the second half of practice, he joins two other performers. The beginning of each hour dedicates 15-20 minutes to warming up and conditioning. For the remainder of practice, he works on his other three acts. His favorite acts are Russian bar and teeterboarding.

“I love the thrill of it. Being flung into the air with the possibility that I could fall adds an element of danger. The adrenaline rush I get when doing stunts is better than anything else I’ve ever experienced,” Pesantez said.

This young circus performer knows this is only the beginning. He hopes to perform for the first time in Circus Juventas’s summer show. His plan is to fly, flip and twist along with the rest of his circus family.

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Senior joins the circus