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Our Team

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 she 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 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. Additionally, she is the author of Cheval Aerial Training Method, an aerial teacher training course recognized by NASM / AFAA. 

Isabel Brazzel, Youth Program Coordinator & Office Manager

Izzy is an avid mover and as been dancing for over 16 years! She is trained in classical ballet, jazz, contemporary, lyrical, and movement improv. She has experience teaching dance to youth in both English and Spanish, and has spent the last 4 years performing with a dance company in Richmond. However, she is proud to say that she "ran away to join the circus" and has found a new love in the circus and aerial arts. Coach Izzy is also our youth program coordinator. 

Aerial silks artist Liz Bouton

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.

Aerial silks artist Rainy Barton

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.

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Samatha Belmore, Instructor

Coach Sam has been performing and involved in Gainesville Circus Center ever since 2016. She started in the kid circus camp and started training from there. Her favorite apparatus is silks. 

Lauren Orlik, Instructor

Lauren is a NASM certified personal trainer with over 8 years of training in aerial arts. In addition to circus, she is an active runner, having participated in multiple half and full marathons, as well as a Ragnar 200-mile relay. She is a Dallas native, has been happily married for just over two years, and has a Goldendoodle therapy puppy-in-training named Boo. 

Katie Olson, Instructor

Katie began gymnastics at age 6, and has since fallen in love with latin dance, silks, and acroyoga. She feels at home in the air and enjoys combining elegance with athleticism through acrobatics. By day she is a counselor, and at night she can be found donning her tights to climb the silks or master a new acroyoga flow.


Maddie Williams, Assistant Instructor

Maddie began training circus arts at the age of 8. She is a powerful performer and excels at aerial silks. At the age of 12, she became a soloist with Dusty's Ragtime Circus and performed in regional events. Maddie transitioned from student to team member as an assistant instructor in June 2023. 


Xavi Leon, AV Tech & Maintenance

Classically trained and self proclaimed progressive metal enthusiast, Venezuelan artist Xavi Leon has worked both on stage and behind the scenes as a pop artist, producer and sound technician in South America and Europe. Leon has worked with the Gainesville Circus Center since it's inception as sound technician, roadie, rigging inspector, general maintenance, and most recently, band director and lead guitarist for CircusPalooza. 


Lilah Habeck, Assistant Instructor

Lilah started their passion for aerial arts when they were 10 during a summer camp at GCC and hasn’t stopped since. They mostly enjoy silks and lyra but they also do contortion and acrobatics as well. Lilah has been volunteering at the Gainesville Circus Center since they were 13 but only official became a staff member in 2024. Aside from aerial arts, they enjoy drawing, painting, sewing and baking.

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Delia Hartless, Assistant Instructor

Delia started circus at 12 years old and has seen her self confidence sky rocket ever since.  Circus has helped her step out of her comfort zone and she feels gratitude for all the things she has learned during her time at the Gainesville Circus Center.


Thais Torrens, Instructor

Thais Torrens is a professional dancer, digital artist and a passionate educator. Thais holds BFA from the University of Florida where she trained in several art and dance forms including Ballet/Pointe, Contemporary/Modern, Tap, Jazz, and Improvisation. She has worked as a director and choreographer for youth theaters in St. Petersburg and is excited to return to Gainesville and join the talented staff at GCC. Dedicated to inclusivity, instructing diverse students with a focus on cultural and health informed arts education. Received several accolades, including a University Scholar Research Grant and Award of Outstanding Merit from the College of the Arts (UF). 

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