Born in Murom, Russia, Elena Panova is a graduate of Moscow's Circus and Variety College, where she specialized as an aerialist. Under the guidance of the famous training tandem of Tereza Durova and Viktor Fomin, she created a groundbreaking swinging trapeze act that redefined swinging trapeze as it is performed today all over the world. Elena won a gold medal and the Ministry of Culture award at the Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain in Paris in 1987, and the gold medal at the 1988 All-Union Circus Artists Competition of the USSR. For over twenty years, she has performed in major circuses and variety and theater shows on four continents, including the Moscow Circus, Circus Knie, the Cirque d'Hiver-Bouglione in Paris, Circus Carré in Amsterdam, the Victorian Arts Center in Melbourne, and the Big Apple Circus. She has also been a judge several times at the Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain in Paris. Elena moved to the United States in 1991. She started teaching at Circus Center in 2004.
Born and raised in Portland, Oregon, Sommer comes to circus with an extensive background in martial arts, gymnastics and classical flute. She now specializes in corde lisse and tissu, performing throughout the west coast with a powerfully dynamic and musical style. Sommer has been teaching at Circus Center since 2012. Having also worked as a researcher and an engineer, Sommer brings a structured, practical and analytical approach to her teaching and enjoys catering her curricula to her students’ needs.
A jack-of-all-trades performer, Jives has been teaching acrobatics and flying trapeze at Circus Center for 14 years. He specializes in meteor bowls, acrobatics, and Chinese pole.
Christine Lee has more than eight years of experience with flying trapeze and aerial acrobatics. She trained at Trapeze School of New York and worked at Club Med Turks and Caicos as a trapeze instructor and aerial performer for two years. Christine has been teaching at Circus Center and performing in San Francisco for four years.Christine created www.thecircuscafe.com, an online community for trapeze flyers and aerial artists to share and communicate. She also manages www.charitycircus.com, a blog on how circus gives back to the greater community.
For over 40 years Jim has been studying and teaching movement and poise. He has been teaching movement and circus arts since 1980. In additional to teaching at Circus Center he maintains a private practice focusing on physical skill development musculoskeletal healing through the integration of Asian manual therapies, orthopedic and osteopathic bodywork, rehabilitation exercises and teaching related workshops.
Heidi began studying aerial at the Pickle Family Circus School in San Francisco in the late 1980s. A few years later she ran away to France, where she studied at the Fratellini National Circus school in Paris and the National Circus School of Rosny-sous-Bois, France. Heidi studied swinging trapeze for 3 years under the tutelage of Zoe Maistre. Her professional career took off in 1996 with Transe Express, where she performed static trapeze on a human mobile from a crane 90 feet in the air. In 1999 she performed with them for The King of Sweden in front of the Stockholm Opera House. She toured 4 years with the French Street Theater company Jo Bithume, playing shows all over Western and Eastern Europe, and even down into South America. She has performed static trapeze, aerial silk, rope, hoop, aerial diamond, hung from a harness at 30ft, and embodied a myraid of ground characters throughout. She once played a Death Wraith writhing up her rope and into infinity. In 2001 and 2002, Heidi toured on Caravan Stage Barge’s floating theater boat in the Eastern US, playing numerous aerial characters and grappling aloft in the rigging of the barge’s 90-foot masts. Heidi has played with bands and was once Santa’s Helper. She played a Harpie intent on stealing a man’s soul, a slut intent on stealing his body, and even an errant schoolboy. Many of these characters were in the air, though many were ground characters that interacted with the audience. Since 2000, Heidi has been steadily teaching in the US at Trapeze School NY, Streb Lab for Action Machanics and the Skybox (both in Brooklyn), and at various summer programs around the Northeast. The last few years have seen her create an original aerial apparatus, and help her students create their own artistic routines.
Born and raised in Gainesville, Florida, Jeremy started tumbling and dancing at age ten. Before moving to San Francisco in 1998 he was a soloist with Dance Alive National Ballet, with whom he has continued to perform as a guest artist, most notably as the Russian divertissement in The Nutcracker, and as the Swan in Carmina Burana. His dance training was a valuable asset in the development of his aerial skills, both as a performer and as an instructor. In addition to corde lisse (his aerial specialty) he also practices and teaches German wheel. He began his wheel training in 2002 at the Internationaler Rhonradturn-Verban in Valencia, Spain, and also has been under the tutelage of internationally renowned German wheel artist Wolfgang Bientzle. He has performed locally with the political circus group Circo Zero, and was an original cast member of Sweet Can Productions.
Aus is originally from Québec. He now calls San Francisco his home after living here for more than 10 years. When not at Circus Center honing his aerial straps skills he’s hard at work at Mozilla. Once a terribly out-of-shape kid, he decided to turn that around when he was 18 (and weighed almost 250 pounds). That’s when he discovered the importance of nutrition, and activities to get him moving. At 21, he was down to 155 pounds. It was just the beginning of an amazing journey in the art of human movement. He started his journey in the circus arts on static trapeze with Hélene Turcotte, followed by many advanced conditioning classes with Elena Panova, double trapeze, and aerial straps. Totally addicted to the circus arts, he learned how to catch on flying trapeze and honed his skills as a flier to start teaching in 2011. When not catching, he can be found conditioning and working on new skills on aerial straps.
Jennings was introduced to circus while attending Illinois State University, which had a small campus circus troupe. He caught the “circus bug” and, upon graduation, spent the next three years traveling and performing with various small circuses throughout the US. He had a two-year career at Club Med, teaching circus skills and flying trapeze. Jennings joined the staff of Circus Center in 1999. He teaches flying trapeze and trampoline, serves as the company's master rigger, and performs with Xiao Hong Weng a spectacular hand-to-hand balancing act that has won over audiences throughout the Bay Area.
Chloe Marvel Light Axelrod is a powerhouse performance artist whose talents have carried her around the world. She has performed for a variety of acclaimed companies in world-class productions in places such as San Francisco, Tokyo, Osaka, Atlantic City, Leipzig, and the Dominican Republic. Chloe is known for her dynamic performance style, full of high-level acrobatic and aerial skills combined with effortless grace and incredible form. Chloe began training under Master Lu Yi at the San Francisco School of Circus Arts (now Circus Center) when she was 14 years old. A stand out in the prestigious Youth Circus Training Program, she was trained in floor acrobatics, hand balancing, partner acrobatics, teeterboard, aerial straps, and acrobatic bungee. As an adult, Chloe began to train and perform as an aerial hoop artist, specializing in both solo and duo. Today, she excels in multiple aerial disciplines, including hoop, straps, cube and flying trapeze. She is revered for both her solo and partner acts in the air, as well as on the floor. Trained by the acclaimed coach, Serchmaa Byamba, in contortion, she is also recognized as an accomplished ground performer. Two years ago, Chloe developed an Acro Chair act that can be performed solo or with a her partner, Kerri Kresinski. In addition to her many years of training and performance, Chloe is also a teacher and mentor to many in the Bay Area Circus Community. Responsible for the development of several internationally recognized partner aerial acts, she offers private lessons to individuals at all levels - from the recreational beginner to the elite performer. Teaching the marvel of circus, and sharing with her students and her audience her passion of art and acrobatics, is what makes watching and working with Chloe such a delight!
Herdlyn serves as Co-Director of Circus Center's Flying Trapeze department. He began circus training in Jamaica when he was invited to try flying trapeze. For the past 8 years he has trained and performed flying trapeze, as both a flyer and catcher; static trapeze; double trapeze; tissu; and juggling. Herdlyn has taught and performed for various companies including Super Clubs and Club Med, where he was the circus director for Club Med Cancun.
As the General Manager, Katie Whitcraft is responsible for the business operations of Circus Center. She works closely with the rest of the administrative team to create a wonderful community space for circus arts training in the Bay Area. Katie grew up in Alaska, where she began her arts career as an intern for the Alaska Theatre of Youth in Anchorage. At the age of 18 she moved to New York to study theatre at New York University, attending studio training at Playwrights Horizons Theatre School. She worked on many productions while there, including assistant designing Love’s Labors Lost and Faust Off-Broadway, acting in Savage in Limbo and Macbeth, and producing a set of one-acts Off-Off-Broadway for the Tisch Talent Guild. Katie later moved to Colorado. She continued her career in management, production, and performance roles with notable theatres such as the Wheeler Opera House, Theatre Aspen (fka Aspen Theatre in the Park), and Equinox Theatre. Katie also assisted in the programming and management of the acclaimed Wolfe Theatre Academy at the Mizel Arts and Culture Center for more than five years. At the same time, she earned a Masters degree in nonprofit management from the University of Denver. In October 2010, Katie moved to San Francisco and joined Circus Center as its General Manager. She lives just down the street, and can sometimes be seen in acrobatics, handstand, and static trapeze classes.
Catie has been a resident of San Francisco for over 8 years. She began her training at Dance and Circus Arts of Tampa Bay over 13 years ago, where she studied dance and contortion. During her time there she trained under choreographer Debra Brown and contortionist Laurence Racine. Upon moving to San Francisco she started training with Master Lu Yi at Circus Center. She went on to train with Mongolian contortionist Serchmaa Byamba and began performing all around the United States. She's been seen performing with companies such as Quixotic Fusion, Circus Bella, Trapeze World and New Pickle Circus. Throughout her career Catie has developed a passion for not only teaching the art of contortion but also inspiring people to push the limits of their bodies.
Barry Kendall comes to the leadership of Circus Center with 15 years of experience as non-profit executive and a lifelong dedication to arts and culture. As the organization’s leader, he collaborates with the Board of Directors to set the strategic direction for the Center and marshal the resources needed to realize that vision. Barry arrives at Circus Center having successfully led three non-profit organizations, including 7 Stages Theater in Atlanta. He holds a PhD in Directing and Dramatic Criticism from Stanford University. Barry lives with his family in the Bernal Heights neighborhood of San Francisco. He was a member of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission’s Equity Advisory Committee, and a 2009 recipient of the “40 Under 40″ award from New Leaders Council.
Sarah develops grant proposals and assists with development efforts to support the unique programs that make Circus Center great. A lifelong arts enthusiast, Sarah grew up in remote northern California, then moved to the big city to earn her degree in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. After a long-term internship at literary nonprofit 826 Valencia, Sarah served as office administration ninja for catering company Gastronaut, taught creative writing at Sunset Elementary School, and eventually found her way to the circus. When she’s off the clock, Sarah is probably getting bendy in Stretching class, strolling around Golden Gate Park, or (most likely) talking enthusiastically about Star Trek.
Mike took his first flying trapeze class in New York in 2006, thinking it would be a once in a lifetime experience. He quickly became addicted to it and started teaching it in 2010. He had been teaching at Circus Center since 2013 and loves being a part of such a great community.
Phoenix returned to the San Francisco Bay area in 2014, after several years living abroad. Upon her return, she began training at Circus Center, focusing on Contortion and Hand Balancing. She now teaches beginning stretching and flexibility. When not training or teaching, Phoenix works at the Circus Center front desk, as a Student Services Representative, where she assists Circus Center students -- both regulars and new students - in choosing the curriculum best suited to their interests and expertise. Outside of Circus Center, Phoenix dances with the Latin Symbolics, Island Touch Salsa Team. She performs "Salsa on 2," and competes in the International DanceSport style of Latin ballroom dance.