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 Aerial Space in Asheville, NC, and the Aerial Dance program at East Tennessee State University (ETSU). In 2013, he founded Night Owl Circus Arts in Johnson City, TN, where he enjoys teaching Aerial Silks, Juggling, and Acro. During the pandemic 2020 he began teaching a monthly Aerial Rigging Fundamentals class over Zoom, which has become very popular. He is very active in the juggling community, and serves as the Festival Site Director for the International Jugglers' Association (IJA). He is also a member of the Board of Directors of American Circus Educators (ACE), where he serves on the Safety Committee, and the Insurance Committee. He has a degree in Digital Media from ETSU, where today he works as a fitness instructor for the campus gym. He runs several other businesses, including a hot sauce business (Night Owl Spice), a mobile DJ business, and a circus school management software business. He enjoys international cooking, rock climbing, caving, and making hot sauce with his beautiful wife Mikaela.
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.
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 2020 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!
Assistant Studio Manager
Caroline (they/them) worked at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival four 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, they knew they had found their passion. 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. Caroline has never looked back. They have trained in lyra for 4+ years with some forays into acro, sling, spanish web, rope, trapeze, and flexibility. They team-taught beginner lyra at Warren Wilson College, performed a few times with one of their best friends, and created and performed in their own collaborative show — Flying Catastrophe Circus — at the Asheville Fringe Arts Festival in January 2020. Caroline currently teaches at Night Owl Circus Arts and Empyrean Arts. They are working on their second bachelors in theater at ETSU, focusing on production and design. They are also desperately in love with their three cats - Sirius, Quinn, and Bean.
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.
Leah first explored the aerial arts at the age of 10 and fell in love with aerial silks! She now is eagerly pursuing classes in advanced silks, contortion, trapeze, and tightrope.
Gracie is delighted and grateful to share her love for circus arts with her students and peers at Night Owl Circus Arts. She believes movement is medicine and the synergy in a community of artists and movers is unmatched. Gracie’s curiosity to hang upside down began when she explored aerial classes at ETSU where she obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Theatre and Dance. Dance has always provided an outlet for her to search for and share what feels vulnerable and meaningful. Although dancing on the ground was her first love, she prefers to be in the air and has ample gratitude for the strength she has found within her body and her mind throughout her circus journey. Keeping safety and encouragement at the forefront, Gracie teaches a variety of classes at NOCA and would love to work with you!
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!
Gem Brulee is a Burlesque performer with seven years of entertaining the Tri-Cities under her garters. The art-form of burlesque freed her to love herself. Now Gem is spreading that love to you, babes.
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 never stopped exploring ways of moving creatively. Just for fun, she holds a masters degree in Pharmacology/Toxicology and works as a research assistant in ETSU’s college of medicine. After decades of study and performing, she is now co-director of Mountain Movers Dance Company at ETSU. Under her leadership MMDC is now a mixed floor and aerial performing company. Jen also teaches aerial dance, improvisation and composition, dance history and somatic practices classes at ETSU as adjunct faculty.
Jen delights in opening the doors for others to explore their own physical and emotional capacities through movement. Her classes are a safe, fun, sweaty place to be yourself and explore your full potential. She is delighted to be a part of the NOCA family and hopes to bring her infectious joy of movement to the studio.
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!
A life-long dancer, Devorah fell in love with belly dance at age fifteen and has been obsessed ever since. She has now been studying the art form for over eight years and continues to learn everything she can about it. Her studies have included training with local and regional instructors and workshops by nationally and internationally known professional dancers. Devorah specializes in the glamorous and enchanting American Cabaret style of belly dance and loves drawing inspiration from vintage stylizations. She also enjoys dancing folkloric forms and creating theatrical performance pieces. Passionate about all types of dance, she has experience in ballet, modern, contemporary, and jazz. Devorah (as her dance alter ego Devorah Shirin) has performed both locally and regionally at dance showcases, festivals, fundraisers, restaurants, and parties. Highlights include "Raqs Layali" in Asheville, NC, under the direction of Mahsati Janan, and Bloom in Charlotte, NC, hosted by Satarah Performance Arts. Devorah also holds RYT-200 Yoga Teacher Certification. She is currently on a journey to become a clinical mental health counselor and dance/movement therapist.
Jenavieve Dance is a professional aerialist, circus artist, coach, and former contortionist. She is accomplished in aerial hoop, straps, lyra, silks, trapeze and enjoys playing on the rope and Spanish web. After running away with the circus at 16 to debut a duo Lyra act, she managed to turn a humble hobby into a full-blown career. From pounding stakes to performing for hundreds Jenavieve has now spent almost a decade honing her craft and sharing her passion for circus arts with others.
As a child Laina spent many of her summer days under the big top in Europe with her family. She quickly fell in love with traditional circus and shortly after retiring from gymnastics in her teenage years, she began training aerial silks. She attended the University of Kentucky where she studied Exercise Science. After college, Laina moved to Vermont to train full time at the New England Center for Circus Arts in their Professional Track program where she specialized in straps and aerial pole. In 2021, Laina got hired to perform as an aerialist for a residential equestrian theater in Wisconsin. Laina is currently finishing her Masters in Occupational Therapy, and then she plans on going back to performing full time!
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.
Photography by Keith Dixon Studios, Elissa Wood Photography, Amanda and Chad Photography.