Melissa Roberts is the Executive Director of Canopy Studio, a non-profit aerial arts center in Athens, Ga. She primarily teaches adult, teen and kids’ dance trapeze, fabrics, lyra and partner work. She has over 30 years of movement training, beginning with gymnastics and dance at the age of 4. Under the mentorship of aerial dance pioneer, Susan Murphy (now with The Marsh Studio), Melissa learned the fine beauty of teaching aerial dance that merges the physicality of circus with the expressive depth of modern dance. Equally formative, alongside her longtime aerial collaborator, Nicole Mermans (The D’air Project), she began to explore custom equipment and expand the studio’s penchant for dancing on metal objects. Thus, when Melissa took over the directorship reigns in 2009, it was no surprise that Canopy’s Repertory Company shows began to see more and more aerial cubes, triangles, chains, ladders and even upsidedown stars!
Melissa’s twelve years of teaching aerials have been influenced greatly by longtime training with Elsie and Serenity Smith (formerly of Cirque du Soleil and founders of the New England Center for Circus Arts). She is also greatly inspired by training with her friends and colleagues Rain Anya and Sarah Holmes (Paper Doll Militia), Amy Powell (Chattanooga Aerials) and aerialist Aimee Hancock (NECCA, Cirque Eloize). She continues to further her training and teaching techniques in several national and international schools, her favorites being Cirque School LA, Aloft in Chicago, The Circus Space in NY and private gyms in Montreal. She performs and teaches in several venues in the Southeast, but she is happiest collaborating with dancers and musicians in the local Athens community.
As the studio director, she is committed first and foremost to teaching and outreach that reflects Canopy’s mission. Her first passion is to teach and inspire others to experience the transformative power of circus arts. Additionally, she loves to create art with the Canopy Repertory Company and perform with her professional trio, Aerial Trifecta. When not directing or teaching at Canopy, Melissa can be found doing something adventurous with her husband and two sons. She enjoys bikram yoga, trail running, traveling and exploring cemeteries.
Outreach & Children’s Programming Coordinator
Ann Woodruff Conley
Ann Woodruff-Conley is the outreach and children’s programming coordinator at Canopy Studio and member of the Repertory Company. She began taking trapeze classes in 2000 with Susan Murphy and continues to travel the path into aerial dance as a teacher, student, and performer. Ann has a degree in Special Education form the University of Georgia and was a Middle School Special Education teacher for several years. In addition to spending lots of time at Canopy, she has worked as a teacher with AVPDA and as a play facilitator with Trapeze Therapy. Ann brings her great love for children with disabilities into Canopy’s outreach program, and teaches private lessons and inclusive classes for these individuals. Ann typically performs on single point trapeze, pole, duo lyra, and swinging cube. Ann‘s partners support her desire to swing very high and they always push one another to invent new tricks.
Laura Floyd joined Canopy Studio in 2016 as our new Business Manager. She is a Certified Bookkeeper who has worked for a variety of businesses and nonprofit organizations in Athens over the past twelve years. She has a background in music, visual art and theater, and currently is a backdrop artist for Arts!Oglethorpe in nearby Crawford.