Phil Busse, Executive Director
Wendy Cohen, Education Director
Aaron Wheeler Kay, Creative Director
Office & Technical Staff:
Sequoia Allen, Program Manager
Maria Vazquez, Front Office Coordinator
Emma Christensen, Program Manager
Lara Klingeman, Technical Director
Sarah Peña, Front Office Coordinator
Board of Directors:
Helen Kalk, President
Bobby Fouther, Vice President
Briana Kalk, Secretary
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
Sequoia has been teaching at Echo Theater company since 2019, was an instructor and training company member at the Circus Project, and has a DanceAbility teacher orientation certificate. She has performed with Tempos Circus, the Circus Project, and others.
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.
Sierra Cleary has been an avid mover and upside-down enthusiast since childhood. Beginning classes at Echo Theater as a kiddo, they eventually came to perform with the TikTok’s and ZigZags as well as training with other aerial studios around Portland during their teen years. Since then, Sierra has been a yoga teacher for the past 6 years teaching partner acro, vinyasa, hand-balancing, and Ashtanga. With a love of theater and the stage Sierra has trained and performed in pole dancing, cyr wheel, lyra, and burlesque. Graduating with degrees in exercise science and psychology they seek to share their joy of playful movement with their students and encourage exploration in the air and on the ground with their patient, goofy nature.
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 and Johnny. 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. She teaches and choreographs throughout the Portland area as well as around the world.
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.
Renee burst onto the performance scene at age 4 with a sassy catwalk down her hallway in her mothers boots, and the world has been her stage ever since.
Growing up, she trained in voice, dance, and theater, attacking each one with her trademark “all or nothing” intensity. However, it was in 2012 when she first discovered aerial, that she really found her niche. Renee spent two years training and performing with A-WOL Dance Collective, before moving to coaching full time. Since then she has been teaching at several local studios, as well as spending a year as the head coach for Premier Cirque in Vancouver. In 2019, she spent two weeks training at an aerial intensive in Ireland, studying lyra, sling, acro, and vertical dance. She is well versed in multiple apparatuses and styles, but her first love will always be lyra, which she has been training and performing on for almost ten years.
With a dynamic performance and coaching style, Renee loves finding surprising new ways to share her art, and help her students find their own artist voice.
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.
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
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.
Kari Jay Hunter
Drawing from a background in dance, gymnastics, theater, and music, Kari has been training, performing, and coaching circus arts since 2001. Her coaching credits include the Circus Guild (Seattle), Versatile Arts (Seattle), Emerald City Trapeze (Seattle), Le Cirque Centre (Ashland), the Circus Center (San Francisco), New England Center for Circus Arts (NECCA), the School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts (SANCA) where she served as lead aerial coach for the Professional Preparatory Program, and most recently, The Circus Project, where she served as Education Manager, youth training company manager, and rigging coordinator in addition to coaching. Deemed an “aerialist par excellence” by the Seattle Times, Kari has graced the stage in over 30 major U.S. cities and internationally with the Moisture Festival, Seattle Opera, Palazzo Variete, Friedrichsbau Variete (Germany), Festival Burlesco (Portugal), and Teatro Zinzanni (Seattle and San Francisco), among many others regionally. Kari is delighted to share her knowledge with the circus community here at 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.
Meghan McClure (she/they) spent most of their childhood upside-down. From circus to gymnastics to general havoc around their parents’ house, she loved tumbling and throwing things in the air. In adult hood, Meghan is happy that they still get to spend most of their 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, they have 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!
With an educational background in theater and music performance, Megan Norton has always loved the stage. When she discovered aerial acrobatics in 2014 at a local student show, she was instantly taken by the artistry and athleticism. After years of training at Night Flight Aerial Arts, Megan joined A-WOL Dance Collective’s FlyCo training company in 2019 and is a new member of A-WOL’s Circus Rose Company. She is also the Marketing Director for Silks and Steel Aerial Arts, a new Portland-based aerial arts company focused on education. She loves the physicality, creativity, and comraderie of circus, and brings this love for the art and an infectious energy to every class she teaches. She loves sharing her passion for aerial arts with folks of all ages, and particularly enjoys working with kids. She thrives on creativity and exploration, and loves working with anyone who aspires to perform. She is currently focusing on lyra and trapeze, and loves performing and coaching duets. A new coach with the Echo Theater Company, Megan strongly believes in their mission to create a joyful, collaborative, and inclusive environment for folks of all abilities and ages.
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.
Alexander Smith has been working in the entertainment industry as an event coordinator and performer for over a decade. He received his formal education in the Circus Arts from Italy’s FLIC and England’s Circomedia, contemporary circus, and physical theatre. His specialties are Cyr Wheel, Magic, Juggling/Object Manipulation, and Contemporary Dance.
He’s worked for many reputable companies including the San Francisco Opera House, the 50th Superbowl, and New Zealand’s Auckland City Council. He has traveled the world teaching and performing circus, magic, and dance to people of all ages. Locally, he has taught his Magic and Public Speaking classes in many school districts in California and Oregon.
During his involvement with a social circus project called Spark Circus, he worked with Burmese refugees and realized how impactful circus arts can be for young children. From his experience, Circus can be a life-changing experience and can instill confidence while facilitating physical and mental well-being.
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.
I began training as a circus entertainer in my homebase of Portland Oregon in 2008, beginning my training with a group called Kazum. After quickly becoming established and performing as an acrobat for a few years I began stilt walking, late 2014ish. Traveling nationally; spinning and dancing my way from stage to street fair, I have the pleasure to work and perform with groups such as Izohnny, Rose City Circus, Arc in Movement, NW Iconic Characters, and CiGi Entertainment. Recently, I have added burlesque to my ever growing resume beginning back in 2019. I have been told that I offer a unique blend of smooth elegance and interactive fun. Currently, I train full time in Portland as a circus entertainer but also enjoy cooking, tabletop games, and painting miniatures.
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!
A creative spirit since a child, Tinkk has always loved dance! She took her first pole class in 2014, started teaching in 2015 and has been hooked ever since. She competed in the PRO Qualifier Division at Emerald pole championships in both 2019 and 2020 where she won first place! In addition to PRO Qualifier NW Pole Championships 2018 and took 3rd place at Nationals. Tinkk started aerial pole in 2018 and has been flying on stages sharing her love for the art ever since. She is excited to see where pole takes her next!