AERIAL DRAGONS TEACHERS
Jessica is a third- generation circus performer. She started performing at eight years old. Her grandmother and mother performed in Sailor Circus and Jessica was soon following their legacy. She performed in Sailor Circus for 10 years, and then traveled the country teaching at different circus camps. Jessica studied at UCF. There, she majored in Theater and produced several circus shows. Her love for circus arts only continued to grow.
Jessica co-founded Aerial Dragon in 2014. She and her best friend decided to take their passion for performing and teaching their full-time career. For the name, Jessica turned to her childhood. She loved fantasy books and collected dragons. And so, by combining her two favorite things, Aerial Dragons was born.
Throughout her life, Jessica has loved and favored each apparatus at different points. However, trapeze will always be her first and longest love.
Jessica has been teaching for 17 years, and her philosophy and teaching style has evolved. At summer camps, she endeavored to ensure the children were having the most fun as possible.
As she progressed as an instructor, she learned the importance of instilling the value of safety into her students. She worked on developing strength and technique so that students could eventually progress to more difficult and impressive tricks. After opening the studio, she taught the importance of strength progressions, proper body mechanics, drills and cross training. This would make the instructors and students as well-rounded as possible. Now, her favorite thing to teach is theory. She strives to make sure students understand all of the wraps and why they work.
Jessica loves taking someone that has zero aerial or circus experience and turning them into a dazzling performer. Jessica says, “Watching students get tricks, and then sequences, and then full routines that they thought would be impossible is one of the best rewards you can have as a teacher!”
She is most proud when she can witness that shining moment in a show: when a student’s dedication, determination, hard work and teamwork come together in a routine. She is an amazing leader, mentor, and instructor. And she always greets her students with a warm and enthusiastic, “How is everyone feeling today?”
Kiki found the Aerial Dragons back in the “backyard days” as they are fondly remembered. She did not have any aerial or dance background, but did enjoy weightlifting. She saw someone on Instagram posting videos and photos, and reached out. She was invited to a class and just never stopping. Six months into her training, she had her first performance. It was a performance to raise funds for the opening of an official studio. Kiki started as an assistant teacher for trapeze and hammock. Though hammock is her first love.
She enjoys working with student who are beginning their aerial journey. She feels she is able to examine each student’s needs. She is able to assess their strengths and weakness and create to plan to help them achieve their goals. She focuses on conditioning as it builds the strength necessary to navigate through tricks and sequences. She also values creativity so students can create their own magic while still feeling safe.
Kiki loves watching her students progress. She says, “I remember their first class to their 15th class. The overall growth physically and mentally of my students truly satisfies my soul.” When they shine on stage during a performance, Kiki gets to see all the hard work they’ve put in together.
Kiki’s classes are a perfect mix of fun, flair, and hard work. She’s a joyful, and devoted instructor. Somethings she says during her classes are: “All right, it’s going to get weird today!” or “Dang it, I ran over class time again!”
Jamie didn’t come with any aerial experience, but has been dancing since she was three years old. She trained in tap, jazz and ballet. In high school, she played various sports: volleyball, softball, basketball and swimming. She’s also been a Gogo dancer and costume designer since 2012.
Jamie was invited to take a class with the Aerial Dragons by a friend. That friend stood her up, but Jamie decided to stay for class and she’s been dancing in the air ever since. Jamie considers herself a “second-generation dragon.” She’s not been with the Aerial Dragons from the very beginning, but did get to experience the “backyard days” as they are warmly remembered.
She continued training with the Aerial Dragons after moving into the studio and began teaching in the Spring of 2018. She’s been an aerialist for 6 years.
Throughout her aerial career, Jamie has developed a true love for the trapeze. Her performances can be described as magically masterful.
When teaching, Jamie is all about having and promoting an “I can” attitude. Aerial is difficult and it is easy to become discouraged. Jamie fosters an uplifting atmosphere by setting goals for steady improvement while maintaining a fun and safe learning environment.
She loves being a part of a student’s progress and watching them grow as an aerialist.
Jamie is a remarkable and inspiring performer, and an incredible instructor.
Riquette grew up as a competitive studio dancer. She went on to college to continue her studies in dance movement and brain-compatible dance education.
Her aerial voyage began in 2016. From her very first class, Riquette fell in with circus arts. A previous facility she frequented closed, and she began her search for somewhere she could continue aerial training. She found Aerial Dragons Studios five years ago. She began teaching shortly after transitioning and has been with us ever since.
Riquette's creativity is shown through her choice of favorite apparatus. It’s a fusion of two popular apparatus: the Hammock Lyra. It consists of using an aerial hammock as the spanset for a Lyra. She feels this combination allows her to have an unlimited amount of sequences to perform.
Because of her dance background, Riquette understands that being properly warmed up is crucial. Ensuring that students understand how to safely move their bodies is vital to success. This will prevent injury and also foster self-reliance when it comes time to figure out how to move through a trick. Riquette wants to see her students excel and strives to provide the best environment in which they can do so.
Riquette’s favorite part of teaching is when she gets to witness a student overcome feeling insecure or not confident about a trick or sequence at the start of class, nail it by the end of class. When teaching a new skill, she will often be heard saying, “Okay, one more time.” Although, it’s always more than one more time. This extends into the pride she feels when seeing her students perform for the shows the studio puts together, living their aerial rock star fantasies.
Riquette is a rock star in her own right. She owns her own entertainment company here in Tampa and has been a professional variety performer for 6 years.
Kasondra started her performing arts journey in the dance world, including an Off-Off-Broadway production in NYC, a European tour with the Blue Lake International Ensemble, and working with Smash choreographer Josh Burgasse in several musical theater productions.
Since moving to Florida, Kasondra has taught at a number of dance studios and began teaching fitness classes at corporate facilities and gyms in the Tampa Bay area. She began aerial with Jessica many years ago, having been fascinated with Cirque du Soleil for years, and recently began taking her training more seriously.
She’s performed aerials for private events, had a residency at a local restaurant, performed aerial silks for Jobsite Theater’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and was commissioned by Jobsite Theater to create an original work of aerial silks and music. Her favorite apparatus is aerial silks.
Technique is such an important part of any moving arts - to prevent injury, to gain strength, mobility, and agility, and to advance to more complicated movements - but she loves taking that foundation and discovering how we can make it more performative - the difference between “doing tricks” and performing. Her favorite part of teaching is helping people overcome their fear and build trust in their own strength.
She ALWAYS feels proud when she watches a student overcome their struggle with a trick. Sometimes the struggle is mental, sometimes it’s physical, sometimes it’s both, but watching progress in real time and helping people connect their mind to their body awareness makes her proud to be a part of their progress.
NICOLE DIXON MORELLI
Nicole’s fitness journey began at a small pole studio in Largo. After a couple of years they offered some aerial classes. Nicole started with silks, but was hooked once they offered Lyra. Nicole has been with the Aerial Dragons from back in the “backyard days.”
She was teaching elsewhere and was excited to be able to take classes. When the new space opened, Nicole was asked to teach at Aerial Dragons Studios, and has been teaching for about eight years.
When asked about what her favorite apparatus is, Nicole can’t pick just one. Lyra, Trapeze and the Triple Trapeze have been her loves, and she loves spinning and tricks on the pulleys.
Nicole focuses on teaching tricks in a progression because many tricks tend to build off of each other. And she will encourage students to add their own flair to tricks. She loved to watch her student grow as aerialists and people. Teaching also provides an outlet from the stresses of life. Nicole loves to laugh and be goofy with her students.
She feels the most pride when her students’ faces light up when they nail a trick they’ve struggled with, and that special glow they have when they get to perform.
Nicole’s classes are fun, and upbeat with the right amount of challenge. During her classes, you’ll hear her saying “You look majestical,” or “So, I had an idea today (insert big smile here),” or “Let me check my post it,” or the classic, “I brought stickers!”
Kate’s aerial journey began in 2014 at another facility where she met an Aerial Dragons Studios student. Kate began training with us in 2016. Her background as a high school cheerleader, a Belly Dancer and overall penchant for fitness helped her to progress quickly. Soon she was soaring in the advanced levels, assisting with classes and has now been teaching aerial for five years.
Throughout her time here, Kate has shown talent and mastery of all apparatuses. However, she has a preference for silks, calling the apparatus her “first love.”
Kate applies her education in science to her teaching techniques. Focusing on theory ensures that students understand how each trick is broken down and how to use proper body mechanics for each trick, and helps Kate to uncover any hurdles a student may have. Kate loves to see students take ownership of the tricks. “I don’t want my students to merely be order takers".
Kate’s favorite moments are when she gets to see a student unlock a new skill, or overcome something they may have been struggling with. Her pride hit an all time high when she received the opportunity to choreograph a routine for one of our annual Straz Center performances.
Kate can often be heard reminding her students that, “If this were easy, everyone would do it.”
Kate’s classes are challenging, encouraging, and rewarding.
When not teaching aerial, Kate can be found doting on her precious babies, Dogter Dre and Marshall Meowthers. Dogter Dre can often be seen at the studio. This sweet, handsome, fluffy boy accepts belly rubs. So, make sure you give him some love.
Lauren began taking yoga classes and learning how to hula hoop in college. During training to become a Yoga Instructor, the lure of aerial arts called to her. She always felt that she was destined for the circus life. In 2016, a quick google search of “aerial classes near me” led her to Aerial Dragons Studios. It’s been her aerial home ever since.
Six months after joining, she began teaching Acro Yoga when the Aerial Dragons opened their first official studio doors. Her background in yoga helped her to excel and advance at a marvelous rate and she soon found a passion for being in the air on Silks. She also loves to be on the ground performing fire dance and flow arts.
When teaching, Lauren focuses on progressions and consistency. She will break each trick down into easily digestible pieces. This ensure that each student gains body awareness and will eventually form the bigger picture of the trick. Lauren also understands that consistency is essential for success in any art form.
She feels the most pride when her students overcome their fears and do things they once believed were unattainable. Lauren encourages students to show themselves off. She loves when they post photos and videos of what they’ve learned to show the world how they’ve progressed.
Lauren can often be seen at the studio training. She is always looking to perfect and polish her techniques and abilities. She is focused, dedicated, and determined to be her very best. This is what she hopes to pass on to everyone in her classes.
CJ was immersed into sports from an early age. From soccer, to track, and then eventually CJ’s exuberant and driven spirit found a home in competitive cheerleading.
During her time as a student at USF, she came across a photo of someone on silks. She decided it was time to hand up her pom poms and join the circus. She took her first class and fell in love.
After four years as a student, CJ became a teacher in June 2020. She initially believed that teaching with subtract from her training time. But CJ has found that she trains more than ever, and loves to pass on what she has learned and created to her students. She invites new challenges as they can only help her grow as an instructor.
CJ first loved Silks, but found a new passion when she began teaching Hammock. It unleashed a new outlet for creativity she hadn’t explored before.
CJ’s teaching techniques revolve around the fact that not everybody is the same. Each student has different abilities, ranges of flexibility, and limitations.
She also understands that not everybody learns and understands the same way. She finds a beauty in this and strives to make sure each student feels valued and safe.
CJ loves being a part of a student’s journey. Watching students reach their goals, and see the subtle changes in their strength and flexibility is why she continues to teach. As their confidence continues to grow, she is there with encouragement and support.
CJ believes in her students even if they don’t always believe in themselves. Every class she reminds them, “I know you can do it!”
Amanda has been active in some form or fashion her whole life. She is an avid runner and used to dance. Even though she wasn’t a great dancer, it never stopped her. Amanda has adapted this philosophy to all areas of her life.
She found Aerial Dragons Studios because she was looking for a new studio in the area. She had taught at another studio for two years prior and then began teaching here in August 2019. In total, she has been training in the aerial arts for seven years.
Her favorite apparatus is the Lyra. Her passion for it is evident whenever she is on one. Amanda believes that conditioning is crucial for aerial training. It builds strength while providing a solid foundation and proper technique. She prefers a simple routine with beautiful, and effortless transition and technique over a poorly executed “high tricks” routine. This is what she endeavors to infuse into her teaching.
Amanda loves to see her students grow and mature into the amazing aerialists she knows they can be. Aerial requires hard work and dedication, and it’s very satisfying to be able to see when it pays off. It also requires challenging yourself. Amanda had a student who had asked to attend an advanced Lyra class. This student knew she wasn’t quite at the level yet, but wanted the challenge. Amanda has had the immense of watching this student progress and grow. Her strength and skill set have exponentially increased.
Amanda feels so much pride for this student, who took a leap of faith with herself and is now inspiring others to do so.
You’ll leave Amanda’s classes with a sense of accomplishment and feeling thoroughly worked out. She begins each class with an enthusiastic, “Let’s start with 50 jumping jacks and 15 jump squats!” You’ll thank her later.