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Located in Burlington, NC (halfway between Greensboro and Chapel Hill) right off I-40, Upside Aerial Arts & Fitness offers group classes, private lessons, parties and professional performances in a variety of circus and aerial arts. We teach aerial silks, lyra (aerial hoop), sling (aerial hammock), trapeze, aerial pole, hand balancing, partner acro, 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 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.

Our Instructors
Michelle Spurlock, owner of Upside Aerial performing on aerial silks
Michelle Spurlock

Owner, Instructor: Aerial Silks, Trapeze, Lollipop Lyra, Yoga

For much of her life, Michelle suffered from debilitating asthma, preventing any 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, it was life changing. She felt truly powerful for the first time 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. Though she specializes in silks, her other disciplines include dance trapeze, lyra, lollipop lyra, duo aerial, partner acro, and hand balancing. When not teaching, she performs professionally throughout the Southeast.

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

Studio Co-Manager, Instructor: Aerial Silks, Lyra & Pole

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 beginner and intermediate lyra instructor training and certification through Spin City Aerial Fitness and the Upside Aerial Mentorship Program. Her continuing education includes trainings in Narrative Medicine as Performance, Trauma Sensitive Mindful Movement, and Cultivating Equitable Learning Environments through Inclusive Teaching. She is currently pursuing Spin City's advanced Aerial Hoop instructor certification. 

Kelly McCarthy performing on aerial silks
Kelly McCarthy

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

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.

Jamie Ramirez performing on aerial silks
Jamie Ramirez

 Instructor: Aerial Silks & Aerial Sling

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. After training Sling with Alison Foster and Rebekah Leach, she also began teach Sling classes at Upside. She loves teaching this incredible art form 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.

Megan Clutter

Aerial Sling Instructor

Megan began her aerial journey in 2019 with aerial sling at a studio in High Point. She then found Upside in 2020 and starting training aerial silks. Megan fell in love with the mental exercise as well as the physical. She was thrilled with how fun the classes were and never stopped signing up. When aerial sling came to Upside in 2021 with Alison Foster, she enjoyed the flow of it so much, she decided to pursue teaching. Megan completed her Aerial Sling instructor training in 2023 with Born to Fly and Upside Aerial's teaching mentorship program later the same year. She loves to see students feel empowered when they conquer a skill they previously did not think they could do, and she loves celebrating these moments!

Kirsten Barker

Aerial Arts Instructor

Kirsten took her first aerial silks class in 2012 to regain strength and flexibility following back surgery. While aerial silks are her first love, she also practices hammock, trapeze, rope and aerial pole. She has attended dozens of workshops and retreats around the country which has given her the opportunity to learn from a wide variety of renowned aerial instructors. She curates the free website which has a catalog of over 1200 aerial fabric moves and sequences.  When she isn’t dreaming about aerial arts, Kirsten serves as Program Director for the Institute for Women's Entrepreneurship at Cornell University.  Kirsten completed her Aerial Arts Teaching Certification through Upside in December 2023.   She offers classes and private lessons specializing in aerial creative movement. Check out her offerings under the Specialty Classes tab!

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

Instrcutor: Partner Acro, Hand Balancing, Pole & Aerial Pole

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!

Daniella Schmidt

Pole Instructor

Daniella took her first pole dance class in 2018 as an interesting, fun way to exercise and move.  As a sexual assault survivor, she found pole dancing empowering and therapeutic, and it helped her feel comfortable and confident in herself.  In 2021, she earned her Pole Teacher Certification. Daniella competes multiple times a year in pole, enjoys performing for Upside showcases and events, and challenges herself to dance in different styles, tell stories through movement, and embody different characters through each performance. Never in her wildest dreams would she have believed that she would become a pan-aerialist, training regularly on trapeze, lyra, and sling at Upside! In her muggle life, she has an M.Ed and taught elementary school for ten years, specializing in early literacy;  she is now self-employed as a property manager in downtown Greensboro.  She finds the Upside community to be supportive and nurturing as a student and is thrilled to be part of the Upside instructor team!

Christine McCoy performing on aerial silks
Christine McCoy

Instructor: Strength & Cardio, Yoga & Aerial Silks

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. When Upside had to close during the pandemic, she began teaching online classes for the studio in Yoga and Strength & Cardio. Even though Upside has re-opened, these classes developed a regular following, so Christine continues to teach them! Christine has her Master's degree in Exercise Science and currently trains on aerial silks, lyra, pole and aerial pole.

Our Instructors

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