ETC School encourages physical confidence, freedom, and grace in a creative, non-competitive atmosphere. Students of all abilities develop strength, balance, flexibility, and creativity while working with others to explore the intersection of circus, movement, and storytelling.
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Wendy Cohen has worn many hats during her 23 years at the Echo Theater: Education Director, Co-Director of Youth Performance Ensembles (Zig Zags and Tik Toks), Production Manager, Performer, and Teacher…to name a few.
Wendy began studying gymnastics at age seven, shortly after being told to stop swinging on the bars in ballet class. She went on to compete nationally in USGF, win CIF Championships twice, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame at her High School. She graduated from UC Berkeley where she studied English, Environment Education, Dance and Choreography. She found her home at the Echo Theater in 1996 when Robin Lane introduced her to single-point trapeze and extremely physical theater. She was a core ensemble member of Do Jump! for 12 years, performing on Broadway, at the Kennedy Center, and in countless Portland Elementary Schools.
Wendy has helped the Echo Theater Company evolve into a warm and inclusive home for generations to explore, learn, grow, and create fearlessly. Wendy is the proud mama of Kai and Lily, the most brilliant, exhausting and awe-inspiring of her collaborative projects.
(Single Point Trapeze, Aerial Dance, Acrobatics, Tap, Youth Company Director, Inclusion Specialist)
Aaron Wheeler-Kay has been teaching at Echo Theater for 22+ years. Whether teaching trapeze, inclusive dance, tap or acrobatics, Aaron utilizes creative imagery, playfulness, and mindfulness to inform the class. He is focused on physical integration, exploration and expression and strives to cultivate feelings of safety, freedom and fun in his students. His teaching is anchored in self-awareness and self-care principles gleaned from his history as a performer, dancer, director and Licensed Massage Therapist. He is a certified Master Teacher of DanceAbility, a method of teaching dance to all people, and his teaching is informed by inclusive practices.
Laura Cannon studied dance at the University of Texas at Austin, earning a BFA in Dance in 1998. She danced professionally in the late 90’s and early ‘oughts with Sharir+Bustamante Danceworks, Deborah Hay, and Blue Lapis Light among others. As a prolific performer and choreographer in Austin she was awarded numerous times for her work as a creator, performer and costume designer. She was a founding member of Blue Lapis Light, a performance company whose mission of presenting site-specific dance pieces fostered her early love of dancing in the air. Her performances grew increasingly more complex and vertical over time and she was regularly featured dancing off of or swinging between the buildings of the Austin skyline. Laura moved to Portland in 2009 with her husband Ryan and started a family that now includes Pirle (9) and Johnny (6). She started teaching and performing at the Echo Theater in 2014, bringing her experience in aerial harness to help launch ETC’s robust harness programing. She has also conceived and created a bungee dance technique called Rebound Movement that is taught exclusively here at the Echo. Laura lets her strong belief that movement is full of joy inform every class she teaches.
London Mahina dances through life. Echo was one of London’s first movement homes, and she loves being a part of the teaching team here — instructing, co-directing, performing, playing and continuing to learn. After receiving a full-scholarship, London studied dance, somatics, improvisation, anatomy, and kinesiology and received a bachelors in Dance from the University of Oregon. London feels blessed to continue to feel heels-over-head for movement arts after so many years. London’s movement and teaching practice integrate efficiency, growth mindset, compassion and creative problem solving.
Robin Woolman styles herself as an ACTORBAT. She came to physical theater via a more typical stage career with Portland theater companies such as A.R.T, New Rose, and Tyger’s Heart Shakespeare. After joining Robin Lane’s theater company Do Jump, trapeze and acrobatics largely replaced words for eleven years! She can’t claim to have been raised as a dancer or gymnast, yet has played one on stage, in gyms and classrooms, and with her own three kids for some 40 years. She has taught Tiny Tot Fitness at West Side Academy, Physical Theater for Lakewood theater, Trapeze and Acrobatics for Do Jump and now Echo Theater Company. Robin enjoys teaching all ages and all skill levels, reveling in the physical strength, confidence, creativity, and community that these classes offer her as well as her students!
Flo Buddenbaum began her aerial journey as a student at the Echo Theater at age 13. After taking evening classes for few years, she auditioned for the youth performance company the Zig Zags and performed with them for one year. Around the same time she began teaching summer camps and kids classes. In 2013, Flo became Echo Theater Company’s first ever intern, a position she created for herself to become more involved. Flo took a break from circus life to live in Washington state for three years, continuing to study movement arts and dance in different forms. Upon returning to Portland, she reached out to Wendy Cohen and reunited with ETC as both a student and teacher. Beyond teaching, Flo has involved herself in theater maintenance and facility management. She has performed with ETC for the last two seasons. In 2019, Flo became a faculty member.
Heath Hyun Houghton
Heath Houghton A Korean American actor, writer, and director. He grew up as a competitive gymnast and also played tennis, soccer and pole vaulted. He studied ballet, jazz and tap. He has worked as a gymnastics instructor in northern California and currently teaches tumbling and trapeze with Echo Theater Company.
Sara James is always looking to try new things – though she has collected many hobbies, her first love is dance. She began dancing as a child and has trained in ballet, contemporary, jazz, and tap. As an adult, she has experimented with other forms of movement, such as yoga, pilates, belly dance, calisthenics, and burlesque. It wasn’t until she found aerial arts that she fell in love with movement for a second time. Sara was blown away by the strength, grace, and flexibility required and was inspired by the creativity, freedom of expression, and community support. As a mother of two young children, this was something she greatly craved in her life! Sara trained in pole dancing before becoming an ElevatEducation certified instructor. She taught pole fitness, freestyle, strength and flexibility, and choreography classes at Verticality Pole Fitness in Houston, Texas, before moving to Portland with her family. Sara immediately enrolled at Echo Theater Company and began training in aerial arts as a natural extension of her contemporary dance and pole dance experience. Under the tutelage of Echo’s excellent adult instructors, she quickly excelled on trapeze and silks. A passion for circus arts was ignited in her. She loves that each apparatus offers something different and exciting. As an instructor, Sara enjoys exploring the synthesis of strength, grace, and flexibility that drew her in those many years ago.
Amy Stewart started training aerial in 2013 when she realized her college had an aerial club. She has dabbled with lyra, trapeze, sling, but silks will always be her first love. Amy joined Echo Theater in 2016. She is passionate about teaching and loves seeing her students growth as they discover and play at Echo.
Max Calle’s blatant disregard for keeping her feet on the ground began when she discovered a nearby aerial acrobatics studio in high school. She subsequently studied at several studios in Southern California before migrating up to Portland, where she began teaching in the aerial acrobatics troupe at her college. Max has welcomed the opportunity to join Echo Theater as a silks instructor, and is excited to continue learning from all the wonderful people in this community. (Nine Lee Johnson photography ninaleejohnson.
Tera Nova Zarra
Tera Nova Zarra is a professional strongwoman, aerialist, hand-balancer, and vocalist. She has performed for Nike, Intel, Game of Thrones, Red Dead Redemption II, and hundreds of national and international venues. Tera’s coaching philosophy is a mix of gentle patience, and transformational challenge. She offers 20 years of experience to help you meet your goals; from your first pull-up to your first time performing for two-thousand people!
Nick John draws from a long movement background including acrobatics, aerial, multiple dance disciplines, mountaineering, rock climbing, and triathlons. Specializing in aerial rope and partner acrobatics, he began training in the circus arts in 2013. He’s a proud member of Tempos Contemporary Circus and Sir Cupcake’s Queer Circus, performing throughout Portland and beyond. While adept at a range of movement styles, Nick most enjoys exploring emotional, uncomfortable, and dark themes in his devised acts.
Amanda Elson started her circus career when she started taking silks classes back in 2013. She has since spent the last 6 years training, performing, and teaching circus arts and aerial dance. Before finding her love for circus arts, Amanda was a competitive gymnast and springboard diver. Amanda performed with Circus Bacchus and Flagstaff Aerial Arts from Flagstaff, AZ from 2014 through 2018 before she moved to Portland. Amanda joined the circus in 2014, the same year she completed her Master’s degree in Counseling. She was the Co Director of Circus Bacchus from 2016-2018 and taught aerial silks and trapeze with Flagstaff Aerial Arts from 2014-2018. Amanda is a certified aerial instructor after completing NECCA/ Nimble Art’s into to aerial teacher training in February 2018.
Echo Theater Company has 20+ years of experience meeting each student where they are and including them in our classes. Our curriculum is adaptable and accessible to students of diverse mental and physical characteristics.
In the past we have successfully integrated students identifying as on the autism spectrum, Deaf, ADHD, non-verbal and ESL students, as well as students with limb loss, sensory integration challenges, and more. While no class is ideal for every learner, we are ready to meet the needs of a wide variety of students within the context of our classes.
If you or a member of your family would like to explore accessibility in our classes, please give us a call. We are happy to discuss your specific circumstances and strategies to make your experience at Echo a positive one!
Sometimes, students benefit from having one-on-one assistance in class. An inclusion specialist may be a family member, a member of your support team, or a member of our staff who provides assistance with communication, participation, using the restroom, etc.
Hiring an inclusion specialist from our staff entails an additional tuition of $6-$12/hour. We are creative problem-solvers and will do our best to accommodate your financial situation. We have a sliding scale financial aid program, work trade opportunities, and other sources of funding that can be used to assist with tuition. We strive to offer class options that are accessible to all. Please talk to us about your budget and we will create a plan that will work for your family.
DANCEABILITY, INCLUSIVE DANCE:
DanceAbility uses improvisational dance to promote artistic expression and exploration between people with and without disabilities. This class cultivates a common ground for creative expression of all people. The material is drawn from the group present in a given situation and isolates no one. The method supports self-empowerment by offering ways that all individuals can participate fully in expressing their creative choices, including respecting one’s own limits.
DanceAbility International’s mission is to create opportunities for people with and without disabilities to dance and move together. Our vision is that through dance and movement, people from very diverse backgrounds experience the art of being together.
We do not currently have a class in DanceAbility running at Echo. However, we are happy to bring DanceAbility to you or schedule a private workshop at Echo Theater. If you need accommodations, please contact us at 971-267-ECHO (3246), or hello [at] echotheaterpdx.org.
Instructor: Aaron Wheeler-Kay (certified DanceAbility instructor)