Located right off I-40 in Burlington, NC (halfway between Greensboro and Durham/Chapel Hill), Upside Aerial Arts & Fitness offers group classes, private lessons, parties and performances in aerial silks, lyra (aerial hoop), trapeze, sling and pole. Our group classes cater to adults (see our Mission below). But we offer private & semiprivate lessons and parties to ages 9 to adult.

How We Began

"Up in the Air" is a short documentary created by Elon University students about Upside's owner, Michelle Spurlock, and how aerial arts changed her career and life.

Our Mission

Children are constantly encouraged to climb, dance, play and explore.  But have you ever noticed how this stops when we grow up? Our main option as adults is the gym. Dance classes, playgrounds, and creative body movement classes for adults are difficult to find. At Upside, our mission is to change that. We think adults should be able to climb, dance, play...and fly! And what better place to get our of your comfort zone than one with a strong sense of community: where adults of any age, size, color, fitness background, sexual orientation or gender identity are welcomed and supported.

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Michelle Spurlock

Owner, Aerial Silks & Yoga Instructor

For much of her life, Michelle suffered from debilitating asthma, preventing almost all physical activity. She became a yoga instructor in 2004, finally having found something that allowed her to breathe and move. When she tried aerial silks in 2010, she felt truly powerful for the first time in her life and it became her passion. When she moved to Alamance County in 2015, there were no aerial schools. She couldn't imagine her life without it! So she completed her Aerial Silks Teacher Training with AerialCLT. She loved teaching aerial arts so much, she gave up her career as a pharmacy professor and opened Upside in 2018. In her 10+ year study of aerial silks, she has had the privilege to study with Amy Tynan Chirico, Mandy Elledge, Cheetah Platt, Waverly Jones, Molly Graves, Rebekah Leach and Rain Anya.

Ashanti Jennings-Gray

Aerial Silks, Pole & Lyra Instructor

Ashanti began her aerial journey as an Upside student in 2017. A lover of health, movement, and teaching others, Ashanti has been a personal trainer and pole dance instructor since 2015. She has also trained in belly dance, hoop, ballet, and burlesque. After discovering the beauty and challenge of aerial silks, she completed her Aerial Silks Teacher Training with Upside in 2019. She was introduced to lyra during an Upside workshop with Gena DuBose, and she discovered she loved that too! So she completed her Lyra Teacher Training with Gena in 2020. She loves being part of the phenomenal Upside Aerial instructor family!

Kelly McCarthy

Aerial Silks Instructor

Kelly is driven by a desire to share knowledge and develop community. In 2013 she jumped at the chance to try aerial silks having enjoyed watching Cirque Du Soleil as a child. Since then she has spent thousands of hours training as an aerialist and studying aerial movement theory. Her practice and instruction is informed by her previous career as a massage therapist as well as her time as a caregiver. Previously, she was an instructor and studio manager at Triangle Circus Arts. In 2019 she completed the Born to Fly Level 1 Aerial Teacher Training with Constance Palmer. Her primary apparatuses are Aerial Silks & Rope with additional training in low-flying trapeze, lyra, and sling. Kelly specializes in aerial sequencing, act development, and strength development for aerialists.

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Alison Johnson

Trapeze & Aerial Sling Instructor

Alison began dancing at age 12 and went on to earn a dual degree in Dance (specializing in Contemporary) and Child & Family Development from the University of GA and a Masters in Public Health from UNC Charlotte. She gained most of her professional dance experience as a main company dancer for Caroline Calouche & Co. There, she expanded her skill set to include aerial sling, silks, single point trapeze, duo trapeze, and partner acrobatics. Her ultimate goal is to combine her public health knowledge and passion for the arts and work in arts-integrated public health outreach programming.

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Jamie Ramirez

Aerial Silks Instructor

Jamie started her aerial journey in 2015 and since then has studied aerial silks at several different studios in NC, TN, and FL. A dancer at heart, Jamie loves performing on the ground and in the air! Her background in dance includes training primarily in ballet, pointe, jazz, tap, and modern. As a company member of NC State’s Panoramic Dance Project, she dabbled in a multitude of global dance styles, partaking in residencies with Baba Chuck Davis, LD Burris, and Willie Hinton, among others. Jamie completed her Aerial Silks Teaching Certification through Upside in the spring of 2021. She loves teaching aerial silks to people so they can share in the beautiful empowerment that she has come to find in aerial!

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Amber Land

Aerial Silks Instructor

A longtime lover of entertainment and movement, Amber unknowingly stumbled into the circus arts world when she was gifted her first hula hoop. This hobby quickly turned into a passion, and in 2016 she began performing hoop dance and other specialty acts professionally. She also took a yoga teacher training that same year and realized she loved helping others feel confident and strong in their own bodies. Since then, she has continued to teach yoga and hoop dance and is excited to add aerial silks to that list of offerings. Amber completed Paper Doll Militia’s Remote Silks Teacher Training in July of 2020 and completed Upside Aerial's Silks Mentorship Program in 2021. She is so grateful to have found a home at Upside and to share her love of circus arts with others!

Erika Minor

Aerial Silks Instructor

Erika began taking aerial silks classes because she hated exercise but wanted to do something that gave her energy and helped her gain strength. She signed up for an introductory aerial silks class on a whim and was immediately hooked. When she’s not hanging around in the air, Erika is a middle school librarian. In her own words, “Silks makes me feel strong, creative, and it’s so much fun. I love that there’s so much to learn.” Erika has also discovered that she loves the creativity and thrill of performing and loves being part of Upside Aerial Showcases and community performance events. Erika completed her Aerial Silks Teaching Certification through Upside in the spring of 2021.

Christine 2019 Spring Showcase
Christine McCoy

Yoga, Strength & Cardio, and Aerial Silks Instructor

Christine discovered aerial arts in 2011, right before she turned 43. She immediately fell in love with how it made her stronger and more flexible, but didn’t feel like working out because it was so much fun! Christine completed her Aerial Teacher Training at the New England Center for Circus Arts in 2014 and her 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training through Life Power Yoga in 2016. She has been training on aerial silks with Upside since they day they opened! When the studio had to close due to COVID-19, she began teaching online classes for Upside in Yoga and Strength & Cardio. Even though the studio has re-opened, these classes developed a regular following, so Christine continues to teach them! She is currently pursuing her Master's degree in Exercise Science.

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Gena DuBose

Lyra Instructor

 Aerial arts, specifically Lyra, have been Gena's passion since 2009. She has spent over 10 years navigating her path of creativity with a focus on physical awareness, movement capabilities, and how they pertain to the human body. Her certifications in Pilates, yoga, and personal training complement her aerial coaching. Gena has worked with many artists and dance educators to help perfect her aerial skill set, including Boleyn Willis-Zeger, Rachel Strickland, Shannon McKenna, and Lori Hernandez. Gena is also the founder of Durham-based SOAR Aerial Arts: a collaboration with professional, local artists to bridge the gap between aerial dance and performance art in her community.

Our Instructors


Circus for Change

As part of our mission to cultivate a space where everyone feels welcome and supported, we created a resource page dedicated to challenging social injustice. Check it out: