Dr. Corey Cheval, Executive Director
Founder & Director Dr. Corey Cheval has studied classical dance and music from an early age, and later took a specialized interest in the dance and music of Brazil. It was during her research on the dances of the African diaspora in Bahia, Brazil that show first began her study of aerial arts (2005). Cheval holds a Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Florida (2015) and an M.A. in Performance Studies from the Federal University of Bahia (2008).
With a research focus on performance and identity, Cheval taught courses at the college level in both technical and theoretical aspects of performing arts. Cheval has published her research on performance studies in peer-reviewed academic journals, and has been a guest speaker at TEDxUF, Frank Conference, Harn Museum of Art & Appleton Museum of Art.
Cheval has travelled and performed across the United States and Brazil as an acrobat, singer and dancer since the early 2000s. Cheval produces Dusty’s Ragtime Circus, an award winning live music circus show. As director of the Gainesville Circus Center, she shares her passion for performing arts with the next generation of young artists. Cheval has also written several successful grants for the production of shows and general program support at the Gainesville Circus Center. Cheval has also provided Visa document services, tour planning, PR and travel logistics for international artists working in the U.S. She has worked with artists such as Ulisses Rocha (Brazil), Hermogenes Araujo (Brazil) and Dong Xin (China).
Lynn Polke, Assistant Director
Lynn Polke is a professional Director and Producer with multicultural worldwide experience, known for family friendly fun, whose credits include the Ringling Brothers Circus, Disneyland, film and television. After graduating from UW-Milwaukee with an inter-arts BFA and Dean Honors, Lynn mimed and danced her way through Europe then landed in San Francisco.
As a clown, acrobat and choreographer for Make-A-Circus she sang punk rock on the side until she passed the Ringling Brothers Circus audition to be an aerial dancer showgirl. Always trying something new Lynn developed a single trapeze act, a hula hoop act, and worked an adagio elephant act the likes of which will never be seen again. Several commercials and the film Big Top Pee Wee in Hollywood led her back into the circus with husband and child in tow criss-crossing the U.S. more times than she can remember with performing jaunts to the Philippines, Japan, Mexico, Canada and Thailand in between.
Ever the student of life and art her adventures include touring with T-Pain, Justin Bieber and developing and presenting her act, Madame Flambeau's Flea Circus at the Coney Island Sideshow Museum in Brooklyn NY. A gypsy yogini, Lynn drops in on yoga classes wherever she travels always learning something new. Lynn encourages and mentors those pursuing a career in the arts.
"I am grateful for the opportunity to motivate others, help them find their muse and shine their light on the world leaving beauty in their wake and light on the path to peace."
Liz Bouton, Instructor
Liz studied classical ballet from the ages of 3 - 20, but found her passion dancing in the air. Her favorite apparatus are silks and lyra, and she loves getting bendy with flexibility classes. As a young ballerina, Liz received many merit scholarships to attend summer intensives ranging from the Joffrey Ballet School in NYC to the Orlando Ballet School. Ballet has helped with her flexibility and technique in the air, and though she will always admire it, she loves how strong aerial has made her inside and out.
Robin Best, Instructor
Robin Best began aerial arts at the Gainesville Circus Center in the summer of 2018. Though their favorite apparatus is static trapeze, they have received training in lyra, silks, and acrobatics. Just one year after joining the circus, Robin became a soloist with the touring production of Dusty's Ragtime Circus, earning their title as the Darling of Dusty's Ragtime. Robin is also a music teacher and a graduate of the University of Florida with a degree in African studies and bassoon performance.
Rainy Barton, Instructor
Rainy Barton is an elementary music teacher, teaching grades Pre-K-5 about the joys of music making. Music and dance has always been a part of her life through her participation in band, musical theatre productions, dance teams, etc. She stumbled upon aerial arts through a friend, and has not stopped attending since. Her favorite apparatus is silks. She is very thankful for the circus community and enjoys performing and teaching there.
Dana Habedank, Instructor
Dana Habedank is a Sarasota native and spent 8 years as a student and coach at Sailor Circus. She performs on the flying trapeze, spanish web, teeterboard, with the juggling team and on unicycle, just to name a few. Dana traveled to Washington D.C. to perform on the National Mall during the 2017 Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Dana moved to Gainesville in 2020 and currently attends Santa Fe college to pursue a degree in Criminal Justice, but still manages to find time to perform and teach as often as she can.
Stazja Gray, Instructor
Stazja Gray is a neurodivergent musical queer, yoga enthusiast, full time student of metaphysics, circus arts instructor, community folk herbalist, caregiver, Tarot reader and aspiring astrologer.
In 2018 they created the Shimmer Hive, a Mystery School for Metaphysical Inquiry, Trauma Recovery and Collective Liberation from White Supremacy. They joined Gainesville Circus Center in March of 2019 and love teaching children.