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Located right off I-40 in Burlington, NC (halfway between Greensboro and 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 are for adults (see our Mission below), but private lessons and parties start at age 9.

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.

Up in the Air - A Documentary

Up in the Air - A Documentary

Our Mission

Children are constantly encouraged to climb, dance, play and explore.  But have you 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! Our goal is to use the joy of circus arts to support adults of any age, size, color, fitness background, sexual orientation or gender identity on their movement journey.

Michelle Spurlock, owner of Upside Aerial performing on aerial silks
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 13+ year study of aerial silks, she has had the privilege to study with Amy Chirico, Mandy Elledge, Cheetah Platt, Waverly Jones, Molly Graves, Rebekah Leach and Rain Anya.

Upside Aerial instructor, Ashanti Jennings, performing on aerial silks
Ashanti Jennings

Studio Co-Manager, Aerial Silks, Lyra & Pole 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!

Mollie Rose Canzona performing on aerial hoop (lyra)
Mollie Rose Canzona

Studio Co-Manager, Lyra Instructor

An Upside student since 2018, Mollie was introduced to lyra during a workshop with Gena DuBose and has been training regularly with Ashanti Jennings, who is also her aerial duo partner. Building on her background in belly dance, silks, and pole, Mollie appreciates how lyra facilitates mind-body connection and self-expression. Mollie is also a professor at Wake Forest University where her research interests include Narrative Medicine and the therapeutic value of telling stories through movement. With this same passion animating her desire to share circus arts with others, she completed instructor training and certification through Spin City Aerial Fitness and the Upside Aerial Mentorship Program. Her continuing education includes trainings in Therapeutic Movement And Dance Therapy For Trauma, Movement for Mental Health, Equity Focused Teaching, and Longevity Through Movement. She is currently pursuing Spin City's advanced Aerial Hoop instructor certification. 

Kelly McCarthy performing on aerial silks
Kelly McCarthy

Studio Co-Manager, Body Mechanics, Aerial Silks & Aerial Rope Instructor

Kelly is driven by a desire to share knowledge and develop community. She has been a voracious aerial student since 2013. Her practice and instruction is informed by her previous career as a massage therapist as well as her time as a caregiver. Kelly has been teaching aerial arts since 2018. She completed the Born to Fly Level 1 Aerial Teacher Training with Constance Palmer in 2019. Her primary apparatuses are Aerial Silks & Rope. She dabbles in low-flying trapeze, lyra, sling, and invented apparatuses such as Aerial Multicorde. Kelly specializes in aerial sequencing, act development, and helping aerialists move with strength and intention.

Alison Foster performing on trapeze
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.

Jamie Ramirez performing on aerial silks
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!

Erika Minor performing on aerial silks
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.

Gena DuBose performing on aerial hoop (lyra)
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.

Juli Bierwirth in a partner acro pose, balancing another performer in upward facing plank pose above her head
Juli Bierwirth

Partner Acro, Hand Balancing, Pole, Aerial Pole Instructor

Juli is a ground acrobatics instructor specializing in partner acrobatics, hand balancing, pole, and cyr wheel. She transitioned from a career path in clinical nutrition to circus in 2013  when she began teaching and catching for Leap Flying Trapeze School. She was hired the next year to teach hand balancing and partner acrobatics at Canopy Studio, a circus school in Athens, GA, where she taught and trained for almost 8 years. In her tenure at Canopy, Juli also taught acrobatic pole and cyr wheel and ran workshops in circus physics and sports nutrition. Juli particularly loves introducing students to partner acrobatics and infusing her teaching with the logic and physics of circus arts. Juli currently offers private and semiprivate lessons in partner acrobatics, hand balancing, pole, and aerial pole at Upside Aerial.

Amber Land performing on aerial silks
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!

Christine McCoy performing on aerial silks
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 the 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 also has her Master's degree in Exercise Science.

Our Instructors

Our Instructors
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