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Instructor Bios

Rachel Sable Stewart

(Co-owner, Founder)

Rachel is in love with the circus. The affair began with her discovery of fire dancing and street theater, and things got serious when she was accepted to the nine-month Professional Track Training Program at the New England Center for Circus Arts with a major in aerial hoop and a minor in aerial rope. Since graduating, she has performed in venues big and small, for avant-garde theatrical shows and big-budget holiday spectaculars, around the country and up and down the hemisphere, and was awarded Best Artistic Performance at the 2011 Aerial Acrobatic Arts Festival. She is also the founder and co-owner of Esh Circus Arts.

Rachel loves the depth of understanding that comes from teaching movement arts, and she looks forward to the interactions that come with teaching her classes. She feels constantly nourished, revitalized, challenged, and humbled by her students. Esh Circus Arts began as a way to make ends meet while she performed. What it has become, and what she hopes it will continue to grow into, is a venue for everyone, from seasoned professionals to recreational amateurs, to discover and hone their bodies' amazing potential.

Ellen Waylonis

(Co-owner, CEO)

Ellen Waylonis first performed on stage at the age of 5, tap dancing to Frank Sinatra's "High Hopes." Though her tap career was short lived, she loved performing, and made her way back to the stage during college as a member of an experimental dance troupe. After graduating from Northeastern University with degrees in English literature and photography, Ellen discovered partner acrobatics and aerial arts, and fell head over heels for the joy, sweat, and magic of the circus. Ellen trained at the New England Center for Circus Arts in the Professional Track Program, where she focused on partner acrobatics, aerial rope, and Spanish web, while also studying a variety of other circus disciplines.

Ellen is a founding member and frequent performer with the Boston Circus Guild, and has toured across the US with Cirque Dreams, Nimble Arts, and her own company, Off the Ground Circus. She now splits her time between performing, teaching, and keeping the circus in business as the Chief Executive and co-owner of Esh Circus Arts.

Roger May

(Co-owner, COO)

Roger is a circus performer with more than a decade of experience in juggling, acrobatics, partner balancing, fire performance, hand balancing, and the aerial arts. He has performed on stages across the country, been featured in instructional videos, and taught workshops from Boston to California to Spain. Roger is a graduate of the New England Center for Circus Arts' professional track program.

Roger is a proud founding member of the Boston Circus Guild, one half of the performing duo Off the Ground, and a touring member of the circus & fire arts troupe A Different Spin. He is endlessly excited about spreading his circus addiction to everyone - this means you!

Johnny Blazes

(Co-Director of Professional and Youth Programming)

Johnny Blazes is a Boston born-and-raised performer whose work includes theater, modern dance, opera, clowning, and acrobatics, Johnny is a lifelong performer and teacher.

Johnny graduated from Oberlin College in 2007 with a degree in Dance Performance, after founding and directing OCircus!, a 95-person student circus group that brought together performers, composers, and musicians. During Johnny's tenure as Ringmaster, the group created 5 full-length shows, including a touring show that played 11 cities in the Midwest and East Coast

Johnny returned to Boston in 2007 and immediately dove into the nascent local circus community. In 2008, Johnny co-wrote and directed Mischief in the Machine, an evening-length circus theater production, in collaboration with Emperor Norton's Stationary Marching Band. This show served as one of the seminal moments for the founding of The Boston Circus Guild. Johnny served on the board of The Boston Circus Guild for several years, and directed and performed in a number of shows with the BCG, including Reign of Revelry, Threshold, and Vaudevillainy.

Johnny has been an elementary and middle school classroom teacher as well as a leader of workshops and weekly classes, with students ranging in age from 10 months to 75 years old. Johnny specializes in clowning, improvisation, physical theater, and act construction.

Rachael Longo

(Studio Manager)

Rachael Chapin Longo is a graduate of Skidmore College where she received her BS in Theater in 2000, and New York University where she earned her MA degree in Educational Theatre in 2005. Her NYC acting credits include A NIGHT OF PAULA VOGEL at The Producers Club and ANYTHING FOR YOU for the Creative Acting Company. Rachael has worked as a producer, director and choreographer for many stage productions. Since graduating from NYU, Rachael has dedicated herself to Educational Theatre and arts administration and has worked as a professional teaching artist and education director; creating curriculum and teaching classes in acting, directing, playwriting, yoga and movement. She has collaborated on and written several original scripts for children. Her directing credits include THE WIZARD OF OZ, THE LARAMIE PROJECT, WEST SIDE STORY and THE TEMPEST. While in the NYC area, Rachael taught with The New Victory Theatre, Pelham Arts Center, Lighthouse Youth Arts Center and Ossining Arts Center. She served as the Director of Education and Operations Manager for The Play Group Theatre in White Plains, NY for several years.

Rachael relocated with her family to the Boston area in the summer of 2012. Since moving she has been a professor of acting and playwriting at Phillips Academy and Merrimack College and recently directed WEST SIDE STORY with Kids Coop Theatre in Derry, NH. She also enjoys performing with Theatre KAPOW. Rachael is thrilled to be joining the team at Esh!

Leah Abel

Leah James Abel has been performing and teaching from New York to China and Korea for over 15 years - dancing, clowning, stilting, twisting around trapezes, or parading around with someone standing on her shoulders.

Leah holds a Masters degree in Social Work from Simmons College, and is a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). Leah also completed her Masters in Environmental Law and Policy at Vermont Law School. She is Co-Founder, Business Manager, and Head Instructor of Circus Up, a Boston-based social circus program. Leah loves to perform and teach with the nonprofit organization Clowns Without Borders, which has sent her on several trips to Haiti, as well as to Palestine and Texas. Leah was a freelance performer and troupe company member in NYC for many years, perfecting her funny persona and aerial skills with companies such as Cirque Boom and Kirkos. She has also frolicked and toured with Imago Theatre (Portland, Oregon), a mask and puppet theater company, with their shows Frogz and Biglittlethings. Currently, Leah works for the Big Apple Circus Clown Care Unit at Boston Children's Hospital bringing smiles and laughter to the children, staff and families there. Leah also stilts at various events and locations, including Fenway Park, and performs aerials all around the area at corporate, community and college events with her doubles partner, Molly Baechtold.

Leah has a glorious time teaching aerials and other circus skills to kids and adults in and around the Boston area, and is so happy to be part of the Esh community. Leah loves the circus world and is happiest there.

Erin Chiesa

(Professional Program Dance Instructor)

Erin has over 30 years experience in dance. She began her training at the Lisa Pilato Dance Center in Dracut, MA. She has studied modern, contemporary, ballet, and jazz at the Dance Complex of Cambridge, Jeannette Neill Dance Studio, Deborah Mason School of Dance, Harvard University, Ballet Theatre of Boston, The Boston Ballet, and the New England Civic Ballet. At the University of Boston, where she earned a Bachelor's of Science degree in Biology, she had the opportunity to train and perform with the Daytime Dancers under the direction of Adrienne Hawkins, and to choreograph for the University's Dance program.

Erin has performed in The Nutcracker with New England Civic Ballet and Ballet Theatre of Boston. She has competed locally and nationally, and has performed in charity events and industry shows for Wella International. In June of 2016, Erin attended the DanceLife Retreat Center's Jazz Intensive and had the opportunity to work with master teachers Rhee Gold, Joe Tremaine, Jackie Slate, and Derrick Shrader. In December of 2016, Erin danced and performed a repertory piece choreographed by Christopher Huggins during the Dance Complex's Winterfest.

Erin is a member of Connection Dance Theater under the direction of artistic director Jenny Oliver, and performs throughout the Boston area. She is an award winning coach and choreographer for the Innovation Academy Charter School Dance Team in Tyngsboro Massachusetts, and has also trained as a Pilates instructor.

Tim Ellis

Though his parents will tell you that he learned to somersault before he could walk, Tim found his passion for circus in college. At Vassar College, Tim was a leader in the Barefoot Monkeys circus arts club, helping to grow the organization from a casual juggling club to a large touring performance troupe. After graduating with a degree in theatrical lighting design, Tim moved to Boston with the circus and fire arts troupe A Different Spin and quickly developed a strong relationship with the Boston circus community as a juggler, acrobat and fire arts performer.

In addition to touring nationally and internationally with A Different Spin, Tim works with the Boston Circus Guild as a performer, writer, vocalist, collaborator and choreographer. Recent theatrical credits include Speakeasy Circus, Midnight at the Midway, and Cirque of the Dead.

As a teacher, Tim is a firm believer that anyone can learn to juggle, so they probably should. He is excited to see people discover their own personal love for circus, and is eager to share his passion with students of all ages and abilities!

Amanda Graff

Amanda Graff was always happiest on the balance beam or on the stage as a child. When she found circus as an adult, she was delighted to discover a magical combination of the dance, theater, gymnastics, and visual arts mediums she had loved since childhood. After a few years of training and performing hand-to-hand and partner acrobatics in Boston, Amanda was accepted into the professional training program at the New England Center for the Circus Arts (NECCA) in Brattleboro, VT. Inspired, she decided to take a break from her career as an elementary school teacher to pursue the circus arts.

At NECCA, Amanda specialized in walking pipe and trapeze, and continued her training as an acrobat, hand-balancer, and wire-walker. Upon completion of the program she spent a summer as an acrobatics coach at Circus Smirkus summer camp in Lyndonville, VT. Back in Boston, she helped to pilot a program bringing circus arts into after school programs in Cambridge. Amanda finds joy in helping people of all ages discover the limitless possibilities of their bodies through the circus arts!

Abbie Green

Abbie started doing gymnastics as a toddler, and competed with her high school team in upstate NY throughout middle and high school. She then trained with her college team at Ohio State during her freshman year before leaving gymnastics at age 19. Several years later Abbie realized how much she missed the sport, and found an adult gymnastics class in the Boston area. She began coaching shortly thereafter, in Sept. 2002, and has gained experience with coaching all ages and levels, including children's after school classes, USAG Levels 5-7, PREP-Op, and high school gymnastics.

She now specializes in adult beginner gymnastics at Cambridge Community Gymnastics, where she is the Head Instructor and Executive Director. Abbie also holds a Masters in Public Health from Boston University, where she had the opportunity to compete as a part of the BU Gymnastics Club. She continues to compete in the NAIGC with the CCG Rec Team.

Elsa Hall

Elsa Hall started gymnastics at age eleven, but it wasn't until her freshman year at Ithaca College that she was introduced to circus in the form of partner acrobatics. After finishing her degree, Elsa attended the Intensive and Professional Training programs at the New England Center for Circus Arts (NECCA). There she studied aerial straps, hand balancing, and hand to hand. Since then she has trained in Montreal specializing in straps. Elsa has performed at various corporate events as well as shows for Aerial Experience Productions, Nimble Arts, and the Boston Circus Guild.

Alexis Hedrick

Having decided to become an elephant rider in Barnum & Bailey, Alexis Hedrick began her circus training with Splash Circus in Oakland, CA at age 10. Although there were no elephants, she excelled at acrobatics, aerials, juggling, and clowning. She went on to work with Master Lu Yi and the San Francisco Youth Circus, learning traditional Chinese Acrobatics and touring the Bay Area with contemporary circus shows directed by Gypsy Snider (7 Fingers) and Aloysia Gavre (Cirque du Soleil). After her alter ego finished a BA in Psychology and French at Vassar College and a fellowship in neurodevelopment, Alexis returned to circus full-time at the National Institute of Circus Arts in Melbourne, Australia where she majored in aerial rope, cyr wheel, and comedy acrobatics.

Alexis has performed and taught across the US, Australia, and the South Pacific, and is delighted to share her knowledge and passion with the Boston circus community!

Sophia Herscu

At age six, Sophia was presenting circus shows on the swing-set in her backyard. She graduated from Colorado College with a BA in Sociology and Drama/Dance in 2011. Following graduation, she was awarded a Watson Fellowship to travel the world teaching and exploring the positive impact of circus education on underprivileged youth and women.

Sophia is a graduate of the Aerial Dance Professional Training Program at Frequent Flyers in Boulder, CO. Sophia is one of the artistic directors of Spoke Movement Ensemble, a Boston-based contemporary circus and physical theater company. Before her move to Boston, Sophia taught with Frequent Flyers and performed with Colorado-based Iluminar Aerial.

Sophia recently graduated with an Ed.M. in Arts in Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and is a co-manager and co-owner of the Commonwealth Circus Center in Jamaica Plain. Sophia is delighted to be a part of the Esh Community!

Lolli Hoops

Lolli Hoops has been on the leading front of the Hoop Dance scene since 2003. She is a founding member of The Boston Hoop Troop and an international hoop performer and teacher. Lolli has performed recently in Las Vegas, and in England. She teaches regularly at large hoop conferences including SWHOOP (England), Return to Roots (PA), and Hoop Convergence (NC).

Lolli has been teaching hoop dance to adults and kids since 2005. She merges her extensive performance and movement arts background with her academic background as an Occupational Therapist to break moves down into simple, attainable steps. She helps participants understand their personal movement patterns, and how to use these successfully to execute moves with style and grace. Lolli is known for her high-energy, fun classes -- come play!

Trevor Kafka

Trevor Kafka began his circus arts training at age 13 after Cirque du Soleil's shows Alegria and Quidam ignited his interest in circus arts. He had his first introduction to aerial arts at Circus Smirkus summer camp in Vermont, and continued his training in the following years with various coaches in New York City. In May 2011, Trevor graduated from the Professional Track program at the New England Center for Circus Arts in Brattleboro, VT, were he focused on single-point trapeze and floor acrobatics. During this time he also completed teacher training programs at the New England Center for Circus Arts.

Trevor began teaching aerials in 2011, and has since taught at various circus studios and summer camp programs in New York and Massachusetts, as well as numerous American Youth Circus Organization festivals.

Trevor has performed circus arts throughout the Northeast, including at Madison Square Garden, Galapagos Arts Space, Club OBERON, Coney Island, and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

Trevor is a graduate of Brandeis University, holding a double-major in Physics and Mathematics, and complimentary studies in Mandarin Chinese and Secondary Education. Trevor is a former teacher of 9th and 12th grade physics at Wellesley High School, and currently tutors high school/college physics, mathematics, and SAT/ACT prep.

Sophie Kaufman

(Events Coordinator)

Sophie Kaufman grew up in Brattleboro, Vermont where she discovered the New England Center for Circus Arts at a young age. She spent much of her childhood in the air, and enjoyed performing with NECCA each summer. Upon moving to Boston to attend Suffolk University, she continued her training at Esh Circus Arts, and began her journey as an instructor there.

Sophie completed a degree in Environmental Studies at Suffolk University in 2017. When she is not training, she enjoys biking, reading, and sending letters to friends and family.

Sophie credits circus with her ability to express herself openly and creatively, and believes that it is the best way in which to meet incredible and diverse people.

Melissa Knowles

Melissa K. Knowles is a juggler, partner acrobat, aerialist, hula hooper, stilter, hand-balancer, contortionist, musician, artist, and circus instructor. She is also "professionally tiny" and can often be found hiding in your locker or suitcase or being thrown high into the air by pretty much anyone. She has toured across the United States, Canada, Europe, and Australia performing with C!RCA, Nimble Arts, Aerial Angels, Infinity Circus Productions, Boston Circus Guild, and Wunderle's Big Top Adventures.

Before discovering circus, she received degrees in Art and Psychology from the University of Tennessee. She has since completed the Professional Training Program at New England Center for Circus Arts (NECCA) in Brattleboro, VT as well as several rigging, fabric, and trapeze teacher training workshops. Now she spends most of her time performing or teaching classes and workshops for both kids and adults.

Her favorite thing about teaching and performing circus is the way it empowers people to do things they always thought impossible, but had just never tried.

Sara Kunz

After leaving her hometown of Kona, Hawaii, Sara discovered circus while completing her Bachelors degree in Fine Arts at the University of Oregon. Her passion for hula hooping led her to study acrobatics and contortion in China at Beijing International Arts School. Though her training as a contortionist led her to sustain a significant injury, the setback changed the way Sara approached her training for the better and has inspired her focus on injury prevention for herself and her students.

Since leaving Beijing, Sara has been performing her one woman show and making variety, cabaret, and TV appearances in more than 10 countries in Europe and Asia. She has sought out new information on safer ways to approach physical training, and has pursued yoga and meditation teaching certification to help balance the intensity of the traditional Chinese approach to training circus arts.

Today Sara is happily living in her home country after years on tour. She is a proud member of the Boston Circus Guild, and excited to share her knowledge as a teacher at Esh. When not happily hooping, dancing, and stretching you can find Sara with a giant mug of coffee and a book, painting with her hero Bob Ross, or on a trail in the wilderness.

Michael Lanphear

Michael has dedicated the past fifteen years to training, performing, and coaching circus across the globe. As an artist, Michael specialized in aerial straps and had the pleasure of performing for productions such as Britney Spear's Circus Tour, Soap the Show, and Cirque Eloize. Michael's technical style focused on combining dynamic strength with flexibility and fluidity. Since retiring from performing, Michael has been fortunate to coach for Pippin the Musical, Celebrity Cruises, Orchid the Show, and most recently Cirque du Soleil's Luzia. Michael strives to pass his knowledge and love of circus along to his students in a safe, high energy, and fun learning environment!!

T Lawrence-Simon

After an early start with physical theater training, T joined the circus community as a freshman in college. After college, he attended the New England Center for Circus Arts' Professional Training Program for 2 years, specializing in Aerial Hoop and Double Bar Trapeze, and minoring in Duo Aerial Rope and Handbalancing. During his second year as a student, T was hired to lead the Aerial Hoop program at NECCA and to teach trapeze and fabric classes. T has since taught all over the country, and spends his summers as the Head Aerial Coach at Circus Smirkus summer camp. When he isn't circusing, he can be found teaching ZUMBA, or sewing everything from modern quilts to couture costumes.

Michael Lewin

Inspired by a street performance festival he attended in his youth, Michael Lewin has continually strived to perform for an audience in any capacity he could. He grew up performing in theater, dance, music, and even briefly as a shout leader. In 2008 he became the hand drummer for the belly dance troupe Oriental Dansi. Shortly after that he discovered the explosive art of fire performance and promptly added it to his repertoire and joined the Utah Fire Conclave. By the year 2012 Michael had discovered Cyr wheel, purchased his own, and just 3 months later performed his first Cyr wheel act for Voodoo Productions. The same year he uprooted from his home town and settled in the Boston area. Since his move, he has continued to study and train Cyr wheel and Cyr wheel coaching under Esh's own Kate Law, as well as her brother Ethan Law; NECCA's Zebediah Galipeau, and graduating student Steve Brine. Michael has also received coaching from Sam Tribble of Spinovation. In March of 2015, Michael attended the USA Wheel Gymnastics Federation's Big Wheel Weekend and completed the Cyr wheel coaching program.

Eileen Little

Eileen Little has been climbing on things ever since she can remember, but she first touched a trapeze when she was working toward her MFA in Acting from the National Theater Conservatory. Eileen is co-artistic director and co-founder of Fight or Flight, an aerial theater company based in NYC. She teaches aerial workshops and classes across the US, and in conjunction with Fight or Flight tailors aerial programs to school curricula for education and outreach. She is a graduate of the New England Center for Circus Arts in Brattleboro, VT. Eileen performs regularly in the Boston area and is a member of Girls on Trapeze, whose latest show "Herself Rising" is touring across the U.S.

Tracy McAskill

Tracy McAskill began studying contortion at the age of 16. She credits her introduction to contortion to her extensive dance background. Taking her first ballet class at the age of 6, she quickly excelled and began competing in dance competitions in her early teens. This competitive environment inspired Tracy to begin her own personal conditioning regime, where stretching gradually turned into contortion. Tracy began seriously training as a contortionist in 2008. She takes a very methodical and safety-conscious approach to her training and specializes in extreme back flexibility and oversplits.

Steve Minnihan

Steve spent a decade training marathons and triathlons, but he found a new love for movement when he started yoga in 2008. From there, he reached outside his comfort zone to try dance, gymnastics, martial arts, and more. in 2012, Steve walked into Esh Circus Arts (which fit in a tiny room at the time!), and he never looked back. He completed the Intensive Track training program at the New England Center for Circus Arts (NECCA), and he is currently in the Professional Track.

Steve has a bachelor's degree in Material Science Engineering and Mechanical Engineering, and he loves examining and explaining the math and science behind circus rigging. When he's not in the studio, Steve is a Massage Therapist, a cat owner, and an avid stand-up and improv comedy fan.

Theresa Racicot

Theresa Racicot is in love with physical fitness. She discovered flying trapeze and circus arts in 2000, and has been pursuing education and training in these modalities ever since. Her passion to share fitness and a healthy lifestyle lead her to become an ACE certified personal trainer, as well as a certified Pilates and yoga instructor.

When she isn't working out on the ground, Theresa takes to the air. She completed the Static Trapeze Teacher Training at the New England Center for Circus Arts in Brattleboro, VT in 2003. She has also been working as a flying trapeze instructor since 2007, and in aerials arts since 2010. Theresa describes flying trapeze - her favorite aerial discipline - as "singing to my soul."

Pam Shwartz

Pam began her circus journey two days after graduating from college. Never having been athletic as a child, she figured that in graduating college she would have more free time, and should get a hobby! The first circus class she attended, in Philadelphia, changed her life. It took her a long time to to get the hang of it, but as she likes to tell people, its ok if you are not able to do everything when you start, circus is a great way to get stronger! Since that first class, Pam has trained at The Philadelphia School of Circus, the New England Center for Circus Arts, and Esh. She focuses on static trapeze and Cyr Wheel. Outside of circus, Pam teaches middle school science, and adult ESL. She also works with children with type 1 diabetes in Haiti. A licensed teacher in Massachusetts, Pam uses her extensive classroom experience to help teach circus to kids of all ages.

Jacob Skeffington

Jacob returned to New England after a year and a half in Seattle, Washington as the Acrobatic Department Manager at the School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts. He has been a circus artist, specializing in hand to hand acrobatics, and circus teacher for over ten years. His coaching specialties are hand to hand, group acrobatics, and handstands. His training comes from the Flying Gravity Circus (original troupe), Circus Smirkus, and Ecole national de cirque (the National Circus School) in Montreal. Jacob took part in the creation and North American tour of the Cirque du Soleil show Kooza.

Karen Sokolow

Karen Sokolow discovered her excitement for the circus during her freshman year at Vassar College when the extracurricular circus arts club offered an opportunity to learn partner acrobatics and fire spinning. She quickly became a leading member of the club and began teaching partner acrobatics to incoming members and, after graduating, at local and national festivals.

Karen has always been passionate about education, and has been teaching people of all ages for more than 10 years. She tutors children and teens in everything from math to english to AP Bio, has worked with kids of all ages (and languages) in daycare centers, and has spent countless summers teaching english and American culture courses to young professionals in China. Currently, Karen is a high school math teacher at Chapel Hill Chauncy Hall school in Waltham whose students claim dramatically, "You're kind of a like a superhero---you teach math during the day, but by night... you circus!"

"Rachel is a fantastic aerials instructor! She is patient and encouraging, and keeps me motivated. Additionally, her demonstrations and explanations are clear, easy to follow and shown at appropriate levels of difficulty without overwhelming. Her passion for the art is obvious and will inspire anyone who studies with her."
         ~Larissa S, student
Esh Circus Arts
44 Park Street
Somerville, MA 02143
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