Durango Aerial Arts & Acrobatics (DAAA for short) 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. 


Elle Carpenter-Hockett (Founder, Artistic Director, Coach, 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.

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):

Jesse has been performing and teaching juggling and unicycle for 15 years. A Portland Maine native, he learned how to juggle in the second grade, when 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.  Jesse recently spent a year in Little Rock, AR where he worked as a teacher and performer with the Arkansas Circus School.  In addition to coaching, Jesse is also a performer with The Durango Circus (the professional performing company within DAAA).  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.