Run Away and Join the Circus

Kanat Star Circus’ professional troupe of performing artists entertains under the big tent.

Okay, so she didn’t technically run away. But 16-year-old Kat Dancourt did, in fact, join the circus.

A lifelong performer who began singing, songwriting, and playing guitar while in middle school, Kat has never followed the road oft traveled. She has swum as a mermaid at Weeki Wachee, climbed Machu Picchu, and completed the Harley Davidson Riding Academy. So it’s super on brand that Kat signed up for an acrobatics class with some friends a few years ago.

Kat was so good in the class that she was invited to try out trapeze arts in Oxford, Florida, where she met Kanat, former manager of the Cossack Riders with Ringling Bros. Now leading his wife and daughters in the Kanat Star Circus, Kanat took a chance on Kat, guessing (correctly!) that her fearlessness and style would make her a natural trick rider.

“Two weeks later, they threw me into the show!” she says.

Now, Kat spends hours each week with Kanat and his horses in Ocala. Trying to juggle her schoolwork, a part-time job, and her stunt training can be a struggle. Homeschooling has helped her be more flexible with her schedule (“My mom is really supportive!”), but Kat is also studying for the PERT exam so that she can spend her senior year in dual enrollment. “It’s very difficult,” Kat admits. “But totally worth it.”

Kat’s still trying to imagine what life after graduation will look like, but she’s pretty sure that she’ll continue with the circus. “I love the adrenaline [of performing],” she says. “And the animals. You start to get this bond with the horse, and it just feels amazing.”

Isn’t it dangerous, though? Does Kat get scared? “Of course I’m scared of falling,” she said. “Many accidents come with riding. Because it’s an animal, you never know what could happen. But that’s also the fun part — everytime you ride, there’s something to look out for.”

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