Circus Center Names Juliana Neves as First-Ever Head of School
With an extensive 30-year history working in the circus arts under her belt, Juliana Neves will partner with Circus Center Executive Director Barry Kendall to build and implement an innovative vision for the Center’s training programs and performances, and further secure the institution as a leader in American circus arts training.
The Board of Directors of Circus Center—the West Coast’s premier circus arts training organization—announced the appointment of Juliana Neves (she/her) as the institution’s first-ever Head of School. In this role, Neves will work in partnership with Executive Director Barry Kendall to build and implement an innovative vision for Circus Center’s training programs and performances and further secure the institution as a leader in American circus arts training. Neves will begin her tenure as Head of School on February 15, 2023.
“I have dedicated my life to performing, training, creating, and teaching, so to have all my work converge into this new role at Circus Center feels serendipitous,” said Neves. “I can’t wait to share my years of professional experience and training with the San Francisco Bay Area arts community and contribute to the growth of the circus arts in California and beyond.”
“I’m so excited to partner with Juliana to take Circus Center forward into a new era,” adds Kendall. “Her personal experiences as an elite performer and creator are an inspiration to our community. With her skills as an educator and arts leader, she will help transform their inspiration into a passion for excellence in the circus arts.”
“Circus Center emerged from the pandemic with a renewed focus on providing equitable access to the highest quality in circus arts education to all of San Francisco, especially its children,” said Circus Center Board Chair Sophie Turrell. “To this, Juliana Neves brings proven leadership and a track record of international excellence in performing, creating, and teaching the art form of circus. She is exactly the leader Circus Center needs to realize our vision and take our place as one of the City’s preeminent cultural institutions.”
Adds Tim Roberts, Director of The Ecole de Cirque de Québec: “Juliana is well-versed in circus arts education and the Circus Center will benefit from the perspective she has gained from her various experiences from around the world.”
“From the very first days sharing the stage with Juliana in Dralion, I realized I was about to work with a unique and true performer,” said performer Viktor Kee. “Her artistry and internal energy filled the show with an emotional vibe, elevating the show and its artistic expression to new levels. For Juliana, the world of movement is not only external, but also a physical manifestation of the internal emotional world.”
Born and raised in Brazil, Juliana Neves brings an extensive 30-year track record of international excellence in all aspects of her career—performing, creating, and teaching the art form of circus. Her training began as a student in Brazil. In 1998, she became the first artist from São Paulo to join Cirque du Soleil, appearing in over 1,000 performances as an original cast member of Dralion.Following her time with Cirque du Soleil, Neves made her home in Belgium, where she worked as a professional dancer and choreographer in the Belgian dance collective ‘les ballets C de la B,’ working with the renowned director Alain Platel.
In addition to offering workshops around the world during her performing career, Neves taught aerial technique and dance for three years at ESAC in Belgium, one of the top professional circus schools in Europe. More recently, she was an aerial and dance coach and part of the artistic direction/creative leadership for three years at Circus Juventas (St Paul, MN), one of the top youth circus schools in the United States.
Neves has created, directed, and produced circus, dance, and live entertainment on a grand scale and at a world-class level. In 2014, she was the Artistic Coordinator/Casting Director and Acrobatic Choreographer for the opening and closing ceremonies of the FIFA World Cup Brazil. She has collaborated in a broad range of shows around the world, from award-winning dance performances such as “WOLF” at the Paris Opera and the professional circus-dance production Jump or Fall in Belgium to the student show B-orders at the Palestinian Circus School.
Neves holds an MA in Cultural Anthropology from KU Leuven in Belgium. In addition to her native language of Portuguese, Juliana speaks English, Spanish, French, Mandarin, and Dutch.
A committee of Board members, staff leadership, and instructors—chaired by noted circus historian Dominique Jando—conducted the search over several months, fielding and recruiting candidates from around the world.
Main image: Juliana Neves Photo @Fernando Gambaroni