My name is Guinevere DiPiazza. As an owner and executive director of Circus Place in Hillsborough, NJ, it is not a question of what inspired me to own a circus school, but who? Growing up, an extremely shy and self-conscious child, I suffered from depression and I felt kind of lost, until one day I found myself in a ballet class. I remember my first day so clearly. My teacher, Miss Laura, had this big, bright, beautiful smile. Excited to take a ballet class, but also terrified to talk to anyone or even move, Miss Laura could see how scared I was, so she came up to me, held my hand and said, “Let’s try this together.” I held her hand and away we went, taking lap after lap around the room, each time trying a new and fancier move. I practiced my moves every day until my legs almost fell off! The next week I did so well in class, an impressed Miss Laura invited me to try the next level. I felt proud! She quickly became the biggest and most influential mentor in my life. Fast forward to high school, I loved my life as a dancer, dancing 20+ hours per week. As graduation time approached, the “What do you want to be when you grow up” question quickly became something more of an action item than wishful thinking. I remember reflecting on my life and realizing that dance had quite literally saved my life. The answer to the question “What do you want to be when you grow up” was obvious, “When I grow up, I want to own a dance school just like Miss Laura. I want to provide children with the same opportunity to discover and explore their potential. I want to help people find more happiness in their lives. I want to pay it forward.”

I knew before opening a school of my own, I’d have to get out into the world for some real life experience. As I pursued a professional career of dancing in New York City, I never lost sight of the ultimate goal to open my school. Along the way, I discovered aerial arts and soon became a professional aerialist. This lead me to explore dozens of other circus arts. Eventually, I started my first business, Aerial Acrobat Entertainment (AAE), with the mission to connect professional circus artists from all disciplines: aerial, prop manipulation, balance, clowning and acrobatics, with corporate & private clients for cirque-style entertainment gigs.

Owning AAE is fun and satisfying; however, it only allows me to provide opportunities to high level professional circus artists. This was not meeting my mission to pay it forward to the inexperienced or lost who needed a little inspiration, guidance, and more happiness in life. As my professional career evolved so did my ultimate goal. Opening a dance school would only cover one discipline under the general umbrella of performing arts. I expanded my goal from dance school to performing arts center. When the opportunity to take over Circus Place presented itself, I knew the perfect springboard to fulfill my lifelong mission had arrived.

Owning Circus Place, I now have the ability to provide kids and adults with the opportunity to discover, explore, and perform circus arts. More than learning circus skills, students learn incredible life lessons, for example: how to set goals and accomplish them, healthy habits in taking care of their bodies, non- competitive but collaborative team building, giving back to their community with performances and participation in local charity events and the value of self expression through movement arts. At Circus Place students find and create their own version of happiness. I hope to expand and one day provide opportunities in dance, theater, and music, too. In the meantime, I know I am doing it; I am paying it forward!

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