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 has a degree in Digital Media from ETSU, and he is also the owner of Craig Lewis Weddings, where he works as a professional wedding DJ and MC, and CircusDB, where he develops student management software for circus schools and aerial studios.
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!
Mikaela is the owner of Night Owl Circus Arts and Cirque Regalia (circus merchandise vendor). She is also a professional designer and marketer. She is a proud ETSU Fine & Performing Arts alumni (Art Scholar) and has a Bachelors’ in Digital Media (2012) and Master of Arts in New Media (2014). When they first founded NOCA in 2013, Mikaela’s goal for NOCA was to always be an inclusive home for all fitness abilities and body types. Mikaela’s BMI at the time was 42+. In 2017, she lost over 100lbs, 100% naturally through diet and exercise in 14 months. Regardless of size, Mikaela always believes that circus is for everyone, and NOCA will always be a welcoming and inclusive place for anyone who walks through our doors.
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!
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!
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.
Caitlin's love for aerial started from an Instagram post. She was so mesmerized by it that she instantly went to Google to find a studio in the area that taught aerial silks. She stumbled across Night Owl Circus arts where she signed up for her first class and was immediately hooked. Growing up she always wanted to be a ballerina but was never allowed to take classes. She loved the gracefulness of ballet dancers and envied it as a child. Her favorite thing about aerial is being able to complete complex moves and be graceful while doing them. Caitlin is a mother to two beautiful children: five-year-old Colt, and two-year-old Cora. She hopes they will one day take aerial classes too, and fall in love with aerial like she did. Caitlin works as an Administrative Assistant in the Division of Health Professions at Northeast State Community College.
Valerie's first experience with aerial arts was in May 2015, after seeing an advertisement on Facebook. Having competed in road races both on foot and bike, as well as triathlons, aerial arts was far removed from any physical challenge she had ever attempted. Valerie soon determined aerial arts greatly improved her flexibility, while significantly improving upper body strength.
Married with two children, Valerie's family assumed her new circus antics were the result of a pre-midlife crisis. Ever supportive, her family has embraced and encouraged Valerie's aerial interests.
A science teacher by day, Valerie is also pursuing her doctorate in education from Carson Newman University.
Lauren Wirick has enjoyed performing on stage through dance, drama, singing, and playing instruments since the age of 6. Fulfilling her childhood dream of running away with the circus, she started training on aerial silks in 2010 through Anti-Gravity and Orlando Aerial Arts. Training under artist director, Jennifer Drabik Pierce, her aerial experience expanded through various art forms including lyra, cube, Spanish web, hammock, and aerial partnering and synchro acts in addition to aerial silks. She enjoyed teaching her love and passion in the aerial art form at Orlando Aerial Arts and performing through Suspended Artistry Performance Company professionally for community events, including Give Kids the World, Microsoft, Power-Gen International, and Red Chair Affair. She also enjoyed performing through dance with Central Florida Community Arts. Lauren continues her passion with teaching aerial choreography, lyra, and silks at Night Owl Circus Arts. She loves character performances as well as deep emotional pieces that engage the crowd to feel what she is performing and invite them in to the story she is telling. Lauren has recently added acro yoga to her list of skills and hopes to incorporate this onto the stage as a beautiful art form.
Tasha Adams recently graduated from East Tennessee State University with a Bachelor's degree in Biological Sciences. She plans on furthering her education by receiving her Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine. Tasha first became interested in silks while attending an aerial performance as a child, so in 2017 she decided to give silks a try. She enjoys the physical and mental challenges while learning aerial silks. In her free time she enjoys writing, working out, and spending time with her cat, Oreo.
Sam started doing aerial in 2017, and to the fear of his family, has been up in the air ever since. Sam's favorite part of Aerial is learning new skills and exploring character in the air. It has been said that "The dance is a poem of which each movement is a word." Samuel wishes to write sonnets in the air. Being in the air also allows Sam to explore his inner Airbender. When he's not hanging upside down you can find him reading the Bronte sisters novels or taking care of his pets and many plants.
Hana Lee has been taking classes at Night Owl Circus Arts for a year. Her first aerial performance was for the Night Owl Circus in October of 2016, but she is very familiar with the performing arts as she is usually behind the scenes working as a Scenic Designer/Scenic Artist. Currently she works at the Barter Theatre as a Scenic Designer and picked up doing aerials as an exercise program and has come to enjoy it immensely. She says the best part about aerials is the confidence it gives you in all aspects of your life, and the large rippling muscles are definitely a bonus.
Megan Bordwine began aerial silks four years ago. She became interested in silks after seeing a circus as a little girl. She thought that the aerialists were amazing and wanted to be just like them. Years later an online search lead her to the Night Owl Circus and she absolutely loved it. Megan has been a cheerleader for eight years cheering on varsity, competition, and college levels. She is currently studying Music Education at Emory and Henry college.
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.
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.
Heather Byrge was born in Albuquerque, NM and has moved around most of her life as a military brat. Heather started dancing in 2007, taking classes in hip hop, modern, and jazz, and first discovered aerial silks in 2010 while enrolled in a dance class at ETSU, and was instantly in love! She trained for 3 years at ETSU, but had to take a year off when she moved away. She discovered Night Owl Circus Arts in 2013 and has been taking silks and lyra classes since then. She also has experience with partnering on the silks.
Kayla is the true mother of dragons. She needed time off from her rein as Khaleesi so she became an aerial mermaid. Kayla started silks in 2016. No one has been able to stop her since. She previously took dance and cheered all through school. Kayla's favorite thing about performing is getting to take on new character's and costumes. She also enjoys her after performance celebrations with Kay Newell. Her main hobby other than silks is being a mermaid. The position to be the merman of her dreams is still available. She recently graduated with her bachelor's degree in social work from ETSU, and today she works as a Juvenile Probation Officer at the Johnson City Juvenile Court.
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.
Photography by Keith Dixon Studios, Elissa Wood Photography, Amanda and Chad Photography.