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.
UPDATE: New COVID regulations and class changes take effect Fri, April 30. Please read our full update here.
SPRING & SUMMER PROGRAMMING -- ENROLL NOW!
SUPPORT ETC DURING COVID-19 DELAYS
Please read all COVID-19 FAQs and updates here.
We remain committed to our mission to create space for collaboration, empowerment and the joyful celebration of community using movement and ensemble theater traditions, imaginative play, and aerial arts to help people of all abilities discover their potential, encourage perseverance and embrace their humanity.
The necessary steps we have taken to help ensure optimal public health have had, and will continue to have, direct financial consequences for all theaters and teaching artists, including ours. ETC tries to operate with fiscal prudence, but with reduced class sizes and the cost of increased cleaning, ETC continues to depend on the support of our generous community For those willing and able to make a gift at this time, know that your support will help us get through this challenging time.
Your fully tax-deductible donations of support can be made on our website HERE.
Unable to donate cash?
- Consider purchasing a gift certificate to be used in the future.
- Consider signing up for private lessons.
- Register for online classes!
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.
London Mahina dances through life. Echo was one of London’s first movement homes, and they love 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.
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.
Sequoia Allen has been partner dancing for almost a decade, practicing and performing improv theater for 4 years, and clowning around for her entire life. As a child she enjoyed doing handstands in the living room and scaling trees and doorways, until finally finding her way into the world of circus in college where she joined the aerial and pole sport team. In addition to dance and improv, she has trained in lyra, pole, silks, single-point trapeze, acro, and film acting.
Candi has always been fascinated with the arts. She spent all four years in high school doing fun such activities as theater, choir, and photography. In college she decided to spend her free time at the community playhouse where she felt she came alive with moment and storytelling. It wasn’t till the end of 2015 that a friend introduced her to aerial arts. Since then she has jumped head first into the circus scene. She has done everything from aerial yoga to summer intensives in Ireland. She has also done 2 years of a circus based training company and has taken the Paperdoll teaching course specializing in silks. She now has decided to spend her time teaching the next generations in the ways of art and circus. Her lesson she learned from all this is: you can take the girl out of the circus but you can’t take the circus out of the girl.
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.
Alicia Cutaia is a celebrated dancer, instructor, and choreographer. She earned her BFA as a double major in Classical Ballet and Jazz from Point Park University. She has worked with and performed pieces by many renowned choreographers. Cutaia has spent over 15 years touring internationally with a number of professional dance companies, conducting Master Classes during her travels. She teaches and choreographs throughout the Portland area as well as around the world.
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.
Sara Fay Goldman
Sara Fay Goldman has been a student of the Echo for just over a decade and has kept busy in Portland theatre arts and instruction for as long. Having grown up in martial arts and dance studios and then taken a hard left into yogic practices and theatre, she uses a pluralistic approach to teaching students of all ages. At the Echo, Sara Fay teaches Single-Point Trapeze as well as Aerial Fitness and Yoga classes. She has also recently started training on aerial harness and dusted off the tap shoes she bought in 10th grade (to perform as an Angel in her high school’s production of Anything Goes) to train in foot rhythms with Aaron. In her personal work, she’s a private yoga instructor, a proud member of Fuse Theatre Ensemble, and holds a BA in Theatre from Barnard College. Lately she’s creating solo and duet works exploring intersections between performance arts, physical health, and mental wellness. Sara Fay is deeply grateful to her many students and teachers. Special shout outs to Masters Marybeth and Diego Perez, Stephen Bonnell and Corey Feinsilver, Lauri Clarke, Mary Cochran, Amy Trompetter, David Neumann, Becky Guy, Denny Partridge, Steve Friedman, Aaron Wheeler-Kay, and Rusty Tennant. You can follow her current work on Instagram @speedy_yogini (Photo by Russell Young)
Heath Hyun Houghton
Heath is an actor, writer and former gymnast, who has been teaching at Echo since 2013. He has appeared in recent children’s productions of Seussical, Tenali, and Chitra (NWCTS) and Me…Jane (OCT). He coaches recreational gymnastics classes for boys and girls in all competitive apparatus. He teaches trapeze and tumbling with Echo.
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.
William “Alex” Larson
Alex Larson grew up in Northwest Arkansas where he trained at his local juggling club for five years. Before the end of his first year, Alex performed at the International Jugglers’ Association’s Youth Showcase in El Paso Texas. Alex continued juggling while studying Theatre at the University of Arkansas. He was president of the Razorback Jugglers club for two years of his three years before graduating in the Spring of 2020. Alex later moved to Portland Oregon to continue his pursuits of combining object manipulation and theatrical storytelling and found himself at Echo Theater Company.
Meghan McClure (she/her) spent most of her childhood upside-down. From circus to gymnastics to general havoc around her parents’ house, she loved tumbling and throwing things in the air. In adult hood, Meghan is happy that she still gets to spend most of her time upside down as a circus artist and competitive gymnast. Meghan is a generalist so she has experience in many circus disciplines, but focuses mostly on juggling, static/dance trapeze and tightwire. Likewise, in gymnastics she couldn’t choose just one discipline and decided to compete Men’s events as well as Women’s, which lead her to a third place medal in Decathlon (a newly invented mix of Men’s and Women’s gymnastics) at the National Championships in 2019. As for teaching, Meghan grew up coaching general circus and tumbling, and was a program director and gala producer this past year at the Flying Gravity Circus in New Hampshire. Outside of the athlete/artist world, she has a Bachelor’s degree in Linguistics with minors in French and Dance from the University of Vermont and a love of cats. After recently driving cross-country, she is excited to be able to continue her love of teaching circus at Echo Theater in Portland!
Noah Phoenix Fassell
Founder of PK4ALL, Noah is a natural born teacher. He is an American Parkour (APK) Ambassador and Level II Certified Instructor and has been teaching Parkour and Freerunning for over eight years. Before creating his own business, he was the program creator and Lead Parkour and Freerunning Teacher at The Playground Gym in Portland, OR. Noah’s teaching abilities stand out from most young parkour athletes since he has been designing pedagogy and teaching children and adults movement arts, including circus acrobatics, and physical theater spectacle, for over 15 years. He was the Movement Director and curriculum designer of The Joy Now Arts Project in Portland, OR and co-designer of Circus Pedagogy for Vagaboom in San Francisco, CA. Noah’s classes promote efficiency of energy and maximum safety through focusing on proper techniques and specific progressions tailored to the individual, while harnessing the thrill of expanding one’s abilities in a noncompetitive joyous way. Find out more at pk4all.org
Scott Selby is a dancer, choreographer and the founder of 2 Deaf Feet Dance Collective, based here in Portland. His recent performances and projects were with PICA, CymaSpace and Disability Art & Culture Project. He also hosted a monthly inclusive dance jam at Echo Theater along with Wobbly where he first touch based here at Echo. He has been choreographing dance routines and creating a repertoire for the Inclusive Vibe Arts Dance Company. He is studying the DanceAbility International method and has been to Eugene for several of their workshops. He is currently employed seasonally as a FOH Specialist with White Bird Dance.
Russ Stark is an accomplished aerial acrobat, television and film performer, gymnast, aerialist, acrobatic instructor, and aerial apparatus rigger who received his training from Bitterroot Gymnastics Center, the University of Montana, and Cirque du Soleil. Mr. Stark’s live performances and industrials have included Cirque du Soleil (Quidam and Dralion), the Grammy Awards, the American Music Awards (with Enrique Iglesias), Lady Gaga, Cirque Berserk, Ledzaerial, Cirque Mechanics, Target, Wal-Mart, Fiat International, and many more. His TV and film performances have included Water for Elephants, Chronicles of Riddick, and Walt Disney’s Zack and Cody. Russ is trained in teaching artistic gymnastics, acrobatics, acrobatics for dancers, acrobatic partnering, Aerial Harness, Corde Lisse (Aerial Rope), gymnastics, Silks, Spanish Web, and Trampoline Wall. He has traveled nationally conducting workshops, intensives, and master classes. As a complement to his professional endeavors, Mr. Stark has traveled throughout South America working on community outreach and development.
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.
In 1996, Cory went to see Cirque du Soleil’s Quidam, where he witnessed one of the performers move and manipulate the German Wheel around the stage. He walked away from that show filled with enough inspiration to pursue a path of becoming a professional circus performer. Cory’s process would take him on a ten year journey of training, teaching, and a series of serendipitous events to eventually land him the same role that had inspired him once upon a time ago before. In 2005, Cirque du Soleil called him to offer him the solo German Wheel act in the now ten years old Quidam. And thus began the next ten years of Cory’s journey. Traveling around the world, performing for thousands of people each night, Cory honed his craft throughout the closing of Quidam in February 2016. He brings over twenty years of experience to pass on. He hopes to have a role to play in the development of skills and passion for others who want to learn.
Deborah Westlight first came to the Echo Theater at the age of 7 in 2004. She grew up training in various forms of movement, dance, theater, and circus arts at the Echo and other studios in Portland and Philadelphia. At the age of 17 Deborah returned to the Echo as a coach to share the joy of aerial movement with young people, as it was first shared with her at the Echo more than 15 years ago. Deborah is currently finishing a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations at Portland State University.
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!
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!
New! Private Lessons and Small Group Classes are available Feb 1, 2021. Echo is excited to welcome our students back for limited in-person private lessons and small group classes for up to 5 students in up to 2 households. Please click here for details, and email us to schedule your private lesson or small group class.
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)