Meet the Night Owls
Craig Lewis has been fascinated with circus arts since he taught himself to juggle at age 10. He has since pursued training in aerial arts and juggling through San Francisco Circus Center, Aerial Space in Asheville, NC, and the Aerial Dance program at East Tennessee State University. In 2013, he and Mikaela founded Night Owl Circus Arts in Johnson City, TN, where he enjoys directing performances, and helping people of all fitness levels and backgrounds achieve their goals in circus arts. He serves as the Festival Site Coordinator for the International Jugglers' Association. He has a degree in Digital Media from ETSU. He is a professional mobile DJ specializing in weddings, and is also a software developer for CircusDB, his online circus school management software. He enjoys international cooking, and making and bottling homemade hot sauce with his beautiful wife Mikaela, and his cat Toffee.
Vianna began training in aerial arts in the summer of 2017 after participating in ETSU’s theatrical production of Charlotte’s Web. She has trained in aerial silks, lyra, and aerial yoga, along with a smattering of other apparatuses and circus/dance-related techniques. Vianna graduated in 2016 with a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre and minors in Dance and Storytelling from ETSU. Her focus in her dance training has been on dance improvisation, choreography, and aerial dance. She is back at ETSU working on a Master of Arts in Communication and Storytelling Studies. Vianna is passionate about blending multiple performance mediums and uncovering the story that is lurking underneath every piece of art. She is fascinated with blending improvisation into every aspect of life. Vianna enjoys looking at life as though every new opportunity thrown her way is a new opportunity to find a story and create some art. Some other interests include reading everything she can get her hands on (including academic journals), watching excess amounts of Youtube, and tabletop roleplaying games.
Performance Company Director
Samantha began her aerial journey back in 2001 (at age 9) at Xelias Aerial Arts, a MN-based studio founded by Ringling Brothers alumni. In 2006, she advanced to coaching students between the ages of 3 and 68. Xelias has instilled in Samantha a sense that safety and proper technique are the most important foundations to build, and she encompasses this in her approach to all different circus disciplines. While she has dabbled in many apparatuses, her favorites to teach are silks, spanish web, lyra, and aerial partner work. She has attended several biennial nationwide American Youth Circus Organization conventions since 2007, as both a student and an instructor. Samantha has trained under and alongside several graduates of esteemed circus colleges and Cirque du Soleil performers. She has also choreographed many circus college and Circus Smirkus auditions over the years, as well as over 100 unique recital performance pieces for students. Samantha's favorite thing about aerial arts is that there are always new challenges and new successes, no matter your experience level!
Wil began studying aerial arts after a friend recommended the classes after having taken a course in silks at their university. Having an interest in arts and athletics, he gave the classes a try and was immediately hooked. Wil loves to perform on silks and trapeze and enjoys finding connecting elements between different aerial disciplines.Wil finds technique, strength, and body awareness to be the most intriguing aspects of aerial arts but also the most difficult to master. Outside of the studio Wil has a bachelor’s degree in foreign languages with concentrations in French and Spanish from East Tennessee State University and loves cultural studies. Inspired by his instructors and fellow Night Owls, Wil encourages everyone to give aerials a try and be adventurous!
Sam started her journey in 2016 in Asheville, North Carolina. She had always wanted to try out Pole Dance, and so as soon as she could she signed up for class and has basically never left. Since then, Sam has become obsessed with Aerial, Pole, Sensual Movement, and Fitness. Starting her journey dealing with severe anxiety issues, she found that movement helped her gain strength, feel confident, and overcome her anxiety. She became a Pole Instructor in 2018 and has loved her job since. Her specialty is Low Flow and Erotique style on the pole and bar based apparatuses. She also became a Certified Personal Trainer in 2020. Sam is also a Licensed Pole Instructor through Aradia Fitness. Her goals in life are to help everyone feel their best in their own skin. She strongly believes that circus and fitness are for any body and any gender. Sam is currently teaching floor-based and aerial dance and fitness classes.
Jen was dragged kicking and complaining to her first dance class, but fell in love instantly, and has been dancing and practicing yoga ever since. She is the Director of Mountain Movers Dance Company, which has been the resident modern dance company at ETSU since 1982. She teaches aerial, modern and dance history at ETSU as adjunct faculty, works full time as a researcher in a Microbiology lab at Quillen College of Medicine, and is the owner of Azure Aerial Arts.
Jen holds a 200 hour certification in Yoga, has trained more than 300 hours with Shiva Rea in Vinyasa yoga techniques and philosophy, and has trained in Jayne Bernasconi’s method of aerial yoga. She has 40 years of experience studying, teaching and performing modern dance, and has a foundation teacher training certification in Aerial Fabrics with the New England Center for Circus Arts. She also has a Masters degree in pharmacology and toxicology, just for fun!
Caroline (they/she) worked at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival three years ago and accidentally fell head over heels in love with circus. Bernie Dieter’s Little Death Club was a whirl of lights, music, cabaret, gin, sword swallowing, and the most mesmerizing trapeze act in the world. When they left that tent, awash in after-show glow and high on magic, she knew she’d found her passion. So, when they arrived back home, one of their friends caught wind that they wanted to learn aerial arts and scooped them up, taught them some basic lyra skills, and sent them on their way to the nearest aerial studio — the purple paradise of Empyrean Arts in Asheville, NC. Caroline has never looked back. She has trained in lyra for 3 years with some forays into acro, sling, and rope, and team-taught beginner lyra at Warren Wilson College, performed a few times with one of her best friends, and created and performed in her own collaborative show — Flying Catastrophe Circus — at the Asheville Fringe Arts Festival in January 2020. They are working on their second bachelors in theater at ETSU. She’s also desperately in love with her three cats - Sirius, Quinn, and Bean.
Leigh Ann Livingston
Leigh Ann first started aerial silks because she needed a Sunday night workout. She signed up for Craig’s silk class and was hooked!! She enjoys the blend of cardio and strength building that aerial arts provides, and it's fun, so it keeps her motivated. She is constantly driven by a desire to learn the many new and beautiful moves that she is taught. She loves all the apparatuses, but her favorite is the lyra.
Leigh Ann is an osteopath, and works as a hospital physician. She has two hyperactive doodles that she tries to keep out of trouble!
What was once a hobby, is now a lifestyle. Chyanne has been emerged with circus arts- as well as conditioning, flexibility and nutrition. Chyanne loves the artistic side of the circus. Creating art and learning new choreography is addicting! She is also interested in the unique challenges it brings to the mind and body. Health, endurance and creativity are her main training goals. Circus arts gives her a sense of confidence and expression that does not compare to anything else. When not in the studio, she likes studying psychology and philosophy. Her other interests are hiking, reading and roaming through vintage and antique shops.
Chyanne encourages everyone to be adventurous and learn something new each day!
Mindy began her aerial journey in 2014. She took an aerial silks class after seeing a flyer on the ETSU campus. As a theatre student, she had the opportunity to take 2 semesters of aerial dance at ETSU and fell in love with aerial arts. She graduated with a BA in theatre and a BS in chemistry in 2017. She rejoined the NOCA family in 2019 after an extended break to focus on her daughter that was born in 2016. She loves the relationships she’s created through the studio and the escape it provides from her day job. She is employed at Nuclear Fuel Services where she is also a part of their emergency response team.
Rachel first became interested in Aerial when she had the chance to see a friend's recital in college. She was immediately fascinated by the unique blend of dance and acrobatics in the air and thought it looked like a blast. After moving to the Tri Cities she tried a silks class in 2017 and has been hooked ever since.
Rachel has a masters degree in Linguistics, and minors in Computer Science and Japanese from UNC Chapel Hill. She currently works as a Software Developer and specializes in web development.
Sam began her aerial studies in southern California shortly before moving to the Tri-Cities area. She has been a student of Night Owl Circus Art since September of 2019. Sam enjoys learning new skills on lyra, silks, and pole. Outside of the studio, Sam is a local real estate agent.
Rebecca has always been interested in gymnastics, but didn't get the opportunity to take classes until October 2015. She has been attending weekly classes since then, and absolutely loves the diversity and challenge that the adult tumbling class offers. She currently has a BS in Sociology, and is working towards a Master's degree in Biology, studying circadian rhythms in cave spiders. She also works full-time at ETSU Quillen College of Medicine as a Laboratory Coordinator in the human gross anatomy lab. Hobbies include hiking, caving, and camping, as well as reading, and science.
Eva started dance at age 3 and has been finding ways to keep moving ever since. She graduated from ETSU with a minor in dance and major in International Affairs. During her time as a student Eva found her choreographer voice, creating works that awarded her the Judith Woodruff Award for Excellence in Dance in 2016. Since graduating, Eva has worked with North East State Community College’s theatre department choreographing and movement coaching for multiple stage productions. When she isn’t busy working with planes and passengers over at Tri Cities airport, she always finds a way to incorporate dance into her life. Eva wants to empower everyone to use their body to tell their unique story!
Phil began his aerial training at the tender age of 60 after watching his daughter Suzanne perform several shows through ETSU and Azure Aerial Arts. He began his journey into the aerial world at Azure Aerial Arts in the summer of 2015, and has since branched out taking classes through ETSU and Night Owl Circus Arts. In addition to aerial arts, Phil has taken ballet since 1994. He currently takes classes with Centre for Performing Arts in Kingsport, and East Tennessee State University. Phil says that since he began drawing Social Security, his goal in ballet class is to "get worse slower." In addition to taking classes, he continues to perform in CPA's spring recital, Intercity Ballet's Nutcracker, ETSU Department of Theater and Dance Showcases, and Kingsport Ballet's Spring performance.
Katie began her yoga journey in the East Tennessee State University Mini Dome many years ago with Jen Kintner. She loved both the challenge and peacefulness a vigorous vinyasa class brought. About three years ago Katie made her new year's resolution to try one new experience per month that put her out of her comfort zone. That year's April out of the comfort zone experience was an aerial yoga class at Azure Aerial Arts Studio. Since then she's embraced the aerial life and become an aerial yoga instructor.
Katie has a Master' degree in Professional Communication, is an Appalachian and women's health scholar, and works as the Research Services Manager at the Department of Pediatrics at East Tennessee State University's Quillen College of Medicine.
Danielle has been doing aerial silks for almost five years, and she’s completely in love. The thing that drives her passion for silks the most is the physical challenge, but she also enjoy the mental challenge that comes when you’re trying to put together a sequence. As a former competitive cheerleader, she learned that to push herself physically. Since growing out of cheer, silks has been the perfect thing to fill that void, and has given her something that she can look forward to doing for the rest of her life.
Abby has been training in aerial arts for three years. She loves the challenge that silks provides for her body and mind. She has an associates degree in mathematics from Northeast State Community College. She received her RYT-200 Yoga Teacher Training in Johnson City in 2014, and RYT-500 in India in 2016. She began her aerial training in early 2015 at NOCA, and has also trained at Knoxville Aerial Arts, DragonFly Aerial Arts, Trapeze School of New York, and Empyrean Arts. She is known to be a bit of an adrenaline junkie on the silks, and she loves practicing big drops. Today she teaches classes in aerial yoga, spanish web, silks drops, paddle board yoga, and chair yoga. In her spare time, she loves practicing glass blowing, and travelling to take new yoga and aerial classes. Abby lives at home with her husband, Chris, her two year old daughter Melanie, her dog, Mia, her pig, Wilbur, and a brood of chickens.
Photography by Keith Dixon Studios, Elissa Wood Photography, Amanda and Chad Photography.