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THE 1ST & LONGEST RUNNING CIRCUS SCHOOL IN DURANGO, CO (2015-present)

MISSION: 

 

Durango Aerial Arts & Acrobatics (DAAA) offers educational training in aerial arts, acrobatics, juggling, unicycle, rolling globe, clowning, stilt-walking, hand-balancing and more, 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.  We teach with the intention of 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. 

ABOUT OUR STAFF:

 

Elle Carpenter-Hockett (Artistic Director, Instructor, Performer):

Originally from Vermont, Elle started as a child 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 Elle 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.

Kati Harr (Managing Director, Instructor, Performer):

Kati has never been afraid to be a goof, which makes her a perfect fit for clowning roles in DAAA performances and a super fun "Aerial Littles" Instructor. While she has only been involved with the circus arts since 2018, Kati has gymnastics experience from her youth, is an avid runner and hiker, loves to express herself through dance and rhythm, and believes a healthy, strong, empowered body equals a healthy, strong, empowered mind. When she’s not working her day job as a 911 center Director, you can find her playing on the Lyra, running fast on the Animas River Trail, hanging out far far outside, reading excellent fiction, or having dance parties with her two kiddos.

Marylee Whitlock (Instructor, Performer, Administrative Assistant)

Marylee was born and bred in Georgia. 5 years of gymnastics, 3 years of competitive cheerleading, 2 years of tumbling and 2 years of dance led to finally finding circus!  Marylee started circus in the form of flow arts through hula hoop and dragon staff in 2018.  Quickly falling in love, she began fire spinning a few months later. Marylee started studying aerial arts in 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. Her eventual goal is to join a professional traveling circus company. Since moving to Durango in August 2021, Marylee has picked up unicycling, juggling, globe walking, plate spinning, stilt-walking and is always looking for a new prop to play with. She is excited to share her love of performing with anyone she meets. When not in the air or on a ball, she can be found enjoying time in the heat with a good book, cuddling her cat, or solving a neat puzzle. 

Tory Swinghamer (Instructor, Performer):

Tory is a Colorado native who has traveled and lived on 5 of the 7 continents.  Though gymnastics has never been her jam, she grew up in the ballet, studying and performing from age 5 through college.  After serving for 7 years in the military, Tory began avidly doing yoga to help with PTSD, and became a certified yoga instructor and certified group fitness instructor in 2018.  Her love of the aerial and circus arts began in 2016 in Seattle, Washington at Emerald City Trapeze Arts.  Today, Tory is also a certified mindfulness teacher with a Masters of Science in Mind-Body Medicine.  She teaches yoga in town at The Sweaty Buddha, works with pregnant and postpartum women, and is Mom to a very wise tiny human who you'll also see spinning on lyra and flying in acro!

 

Mark Maness (Instructor, Performer):

Mark has been juggling for over twenty years. He specializes in “numbers,” clubs, passing, and creative teaching methods.  DAAA has been thrilled to discover Mark’s philosophical approach and the awareness-practice in which he specializes.  Life is about more than the juggling, and Mark incorporates life lessons into his classes.  As a performer he’s done solo shows at Fort Lewis as a pre-show for “the Tempest”, at Elitch Gardens as a street performer, and now with The Durango Circus.  During the week days, Mark works at Cortez Integrated Health as a therapist.

 

Dylan Haley (Instructor, Performer):

Born and raised in Durango, CO, Dylan likes academics and prefers going to school rather than staying at home. She started aerial arts with DAAA in January of 2021, started performing with The Durango Circus later than year, and it’s been a solid part of her life ever since.  As the oldest of four children in a mixed family, Dylan wouldn't have it any other way.  Mainly because of that, she loves teaching and hanging with kids, and loves to build relationships with every single person with whom she works.  Aerial is a giant center of her attention - even though she is advancing quickly in all areas of circus, and is grateful to circus arts because they have drastically influenced her sense of self (in a good way).   

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