DAAA offers educational training in aerial arts, acrobatics and other areas of circus, to people of all ages in a safe and supportive atmosphere.  We hope to instill body awareness and a strong work ethic that will be beneficial to our students even outside of the studio.  As the Colorado circus community grows, we are training students to perform at a professional level with the development of our performing company: The Durango Circus.  As part of the local community here in La Plata County, we are encouraging a belief that all performing artists deserve to be compensated. 


We teach with the intention of providing body awareness and self-respect, encouraging students to challenge themselves in new and exciting ways, at the same time absorbing the knowledge of how to be safe and how to perform with grace. 


Elle Carpenter-Hockett (Founder, Artistic Director, Coach, Performer):

Originally from Vermont, Elle has been involved in performing arts from a very young age. Having started in competitive gymnastics and stage acting, she became extremely interested in circus arts after performing with the High Flyers Family Circus in Bloomington, IN at age 11, and continued training with Circus Smirkus coaches Zina and Vladimir Augustov, (graduates of Moscow's State Circus and Variety College) in between gymnastics lessons.  Since graduating from American University with a BA in Musical Theatre, Elle has worked as a performer, director, choreographer and instructor in musical theatre, on film & television, for large corporate events and as a guest artist in theatrical productions.  As a performer Elle has appeared on TV (Grey’s Anatomy, House M.D., Conan O’Brien, Cake Wars) and live with the Eye of Newt Circus, Dream World Cirque, Le Petit Cirque, The LA Circus, Cirque De La Mer at Sea World, and the Kennedy Center, (Carnival 2007).  In addition to founding and working for DAAA and The Durango Circus she has taught circus classes all ages, camps, and workshops with Wunderle’s Big Top Adventures, Focusfish, Le Petit Cirque, and various circus companies around the USA.  On top of being a circus artist, Elle is also a professional actor and singer-songwriter.

Cynthia Johnson (Aerial and Acrobatics Coach, Performer):

A former competitive gymnast of ten years, Cynthia Johnson was born and raised in Wisconsin.  Cynthia's love for circus arts had been consistently growing during the time she lived in Durango and after seeing and enjoying The Durango Circus's production of Circus in Wonderland in 2018 she decided she wanted to make a career out of it.  Having met Elle Carpenter-Hockett through Durango Gymnastics, where Cynthia currently teaches CARA team gymnasts, she has now been hand-trained in aerial arts by Elle for her coaching position, although her instincts as a coach and performer were already in place prior to, because of her extensive gymnastics background.  Cynthia also has her own jewelry business in town.

Jesse Shavel (Special Skills Coach, Performer):

A Portland Maine native, Jesse Shavel learned how to juggle in the second grade.  After taking a liking to it, he and a close friend decided to perform a juggling act in the school talent show.  Since then, he has been an avid circus artist, always working on improving his craft and helping others to improve also.  Jesse has been performing and teaching juggling and unicycle for 15 years.  Jesse recently spent a year in Little Rock, AR where he worked as a teacher and performer with the Arkansas Circus School.  You can usually find Jesse juggling or unicycling around Durango, playing hockey, or taking an adventure somewhere in the mountains.  Jesse is also an avid hiker, an advocate for health and wellness and a talented musician. 

Kayla Dixon (Aerial Coach):

Kayla Dixon is originally from Denver, Colorado. She graduated from Fort Lewis College in 2013 and recently completed her Masters of Education at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona. She has been involved in aerial arts since 2011.  In addition to teaching at and performing with the Salida Circus, Adams State University, Circus Bacchus, and Flagstaff Aerial Arts, Kayla also completed the Born to Fly Level One Teacher Training, further developing her skills as a circus instructor.