Teaching Staff

  • Debbie

    Debbie Atwood

    (Sr. Teaching Staff)

    Debbie is a recently retired Speech Therapist but has found her new passion at Canopy. She is also an avid scuba diver. She enjoys flying under the water as well as in the air! She has been studying trapeze and fabrics at Canopy for about 8 years. She is now teaching adult fabrics and the occasional children’s trapeze classes. She also pioneered additional Open Studios so our students have more time to get in the air! She lives in Athens with her best friend and husband, John and their “herd” of 3 cats and 3 dogs.

  • Mazie

    Mazie Bowen

    (Rep Company & Sr. Teaching Staff)

    Mazie Bowen combines her love for dance, fitness and swinging through the air through Adult Trapeze instruction and her involvement in Repertory.  She works primarily on dance trapeze and various metal apparatus.  When not at Canopy, Mazie is the Public Service Coordinator for the Special Collections Libraries at the University of Georgia.  She lives in Watkinsville with her husband, two boys and a very large cat.

  • Annette

    Annette Byrd

    (Rep Company & Sr. Teaching Staff)

    Annette Byrd a member of Canopy’s Repertory Company and also teaches adult fabrics and trapeze classes. Aerial silks are her specialty but she loves exploring on invented apparatus and bungee. Annette made her directorial debut in 2012 with an aerial version of the Wizard of Oz. She began teaching aerial silks in 2009. She also has 12 years of ballroom dance experience and competed in the amateur Dance Sport Southeast Regionals in 2003 and Athens Got Talent in 2010.

  • Ann

    Ann Woodruff Conley

    (Rep Company & Sr. Teaching Staff)

    In addition to being Canopy’s outreach and children’s programming coordinator, Ann teaches children’s trapeze, conditioning and is a 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.

  • Claudia

    Claudia Davis

    (Jr. Teaching Staff)

    Claudia Davis is beginning her first year of teaching trapeze at Canopy Studio, but has been volunteering at birthday parties and summer camps for the past three years, and has been an avid student at Canopy for the past five. She is beyond grateful for the wonderful opportunities Canopy has given her for expressing her creativity and building her strenth, and she can’t wait to help her students do the same! In her time spent not at Canopy, Claudia can be found doing her homework, because she is a huge nerd.

  • Rabun

    Rabun Dekle

    (Rep Company & Sr. Teaching Staff)

    Rabun Dekle began her aerial career studying under Susan Murphy when Canopy opened in 2002.  A year later Rabun joined the Repertory Company and has never stopped exploring. Rabun teaches mostly adult trapeze classes at Canopy. Studying dance and movement arts from the age of 3, Rabun loves teaching others how to dance in the air and make the movement their own. Outside of CanopyRabun is a pharmacist and runs Hodgson’s Pharmacy. With husband Drew, she is brining up her own aspiring trapeze artist – their daughter Tyus. Rabun‘s other hobbies include snow skiing, swimming, running, reading, sewing, traveling, and watching her daughter dive.

  • Megan

    Megan Dunn

    (Rep Company & Sr. Teaching Staff)

    Megan has been a gymnast her entire life and is still very actively involved in the sport. Currently she works full time for Athens Clarke County as the Program Leader for gymnastics. After taking classes at Canopy for several years, Megan started combining her love of trapeze with her love of kids. Megan teaches the Pre-K trapeze class and her class motto: “ we have a lot of fun while getting rid of some energy and getting strong!” Megan’s loves to perform on the circus bar with her aerial partner Amber, but enjoys exploring on all the equipment and learning from everyone.

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    Melinda Edwards

    (Jr. Teaching Staff)

    Melinda Edwards has been living in and loving Athens for 14 years. She is completely obsessed with her husband Ken and step-baby Glenlee, doing AcroYoga any chance she gets, and spending as much time upside down as humanly possible. Melinda teaches the lil kids on Tuesdays, and loves trying to give them the confidence they need to see all the awesome things their bodies can do.  When not at Canopy, she works with her husband at their restaurant, White Tiger Gourmet, plays outdoors, and she really like pizza parties.

  • MJ

    Mary Jessica Hammes

    (Rep Company & Sr. Teaching Staff)

    Mary Jessica Hammes grew up in Athens, Ga., and graduated from UGA with degrees in journalism and French—never dreaming she’d take up aerial dance in the near future! MJ is a founding member of the Repertory Company and teaches both adults and children the art of trapeze. When she’s not in the air, she’s an assistant preschool teacher, freelance writer and editor, knitter, gardener, and general crafter. She attempts to spend as much as time as possible with her husband, son, and enormous cat.

  • Amber

    Amber Ebert

    (Rep Company & Sr. Teaching Staff)

    Amber discovered the joys of Canopy Studio in 2008. She had just returned to Athens for graduate school in 2007 and found Canopy while searching for a fun, creative and athletic outlet. Amber joined the Repertory Company in the summer of 2013 and has taught children and adult classes as well as aerial conditioning. When she isn’t spending time in the studio Amber is an assistant professor at Georgia Gwinnett College in the school of education. Amber currently resides in Athens but will be relocating to Forsyth County with her fiancé Jon. While she may not always be an Athens resident she will always be a Bulldog at heart, and can still be found hanging, swinging, and flying around the studio with her Canopy family.

  • ChrisK

    Chris Knightes

    (Rep Company & Sr. Teaching Staff)

    Chris Knightes has been a part of Canopy since March 2003. He started recreational gymnastics when he was 4 and coached recreational and competitive gymnastics while in New Jersey before moving to Georgia. He has been a member of Canopy’s repertory company since May 2005. While at Canopy, he has instructed dance trapeze and fabrics for both adults and kids, and is currently one of the advanced fabrics instructors. Chris has studied and performed on dance trapeze, silks, straps, lyra, rope, and metal cube. Chris was one of the original instructors of dance and circus trapeze and fabrics at D’AIR Studio in Atlanta and performed with D’AIR in their first company performance He has also trained at the New England Center for Circus Arts.

  • Mann

    Allyson Mann

    (Rep Company & Sr. Teaching Staff)

    Allyson Mann moved to Athens for grad school and, like a lot of people, never left. By day she works as an editor, and by night she feeds her aerial addiction by teaching silks and trapeze to adults. She also fulfills her circus dreams by studying flying trapeze at Leap, where she is known to hoard the twisty belt and leave chalk handprints on her fellow flyers. She shares her home with an assortment of rescued furbabies: Sadie Lou Hammersmith, canine levitator and Head Dishcleaner; Zoe Kensington-Hightower, feline biscuit maker and Professional Diva; and StellaLuna Marylebone, feline alarm clock and Late-Night Tormentor of Frogs.

  • James

    James Neves

    (Rep Company & Sr. Teaching Staff)

    James has been part of the Canopy Family since 2009. He has great appreciation for how Canopy provides to people of all ages and abilities opportunity for self-expression, play, overcoming challenges, building strength, and even providing physical and emotional therapy. As an instructor for the Boy’s Mixed Level Trapeze Class, he enjoys the balancing act between aerial instruction and all-out, crazy, wild play time. Canopy is not the only place where James celebrates his love of all things aerial, as in his spare time he is an avid bird-watcher and dragonfly-watcher, and one of his favorite birds is the acrobatic Northern Harrier, which has the scientific name Circus cyaneus.

  • Jo

    Johanna Nicol

    (Jr. Teaching Staff)

    Jo is a Canopy student of 6 years. She has been living in and loving Athens since 2002. She works as a pastry chef and is a semi retired hairdresser. At home there is a husband, toddler and an overzealous dog. Jo loves teaching improvisational movement and watching people find themselves on the bar.

  •  annejuliemoonswing

    Julie Phillips

    (Rep Company & Sr. Teaching Staff)

    In addition to being a member of the Canopy Repertory Company, Julie Phillips teaches trapeze, fabrics and aerial yoga classes at Canopy. In her “day” job, she’s a certified yoga teacher and Yamuna Body Rolling practitioner — a therapeutic body work that’s a cross between yoga and massage — at Studio in Athens, under the guidance of her mentor Lauren O’Grady. She loves teaching and sharing aerial arts with students as much as she enjoys performing. She lives in Watkinsville with her husband, composer and classical musician Kyle Dawkins, of the Georgia Guitar Quartet and Revien, and their two delightful cats.

  • Lauren

    Lauren Puls

    (Rep Company & Sr. Teaching Staff)

    Lauren Puls has been delighted to consider Canopy her home away from home since 2002, teaching trapeze to children and young adults. She finds the dancing to be joyous and fascinating, and also considers herself a “knot nerd,” and enjoys exploring the ins and outs of rigging, as well as building equipment by hand. When not at Canopy, she works in landscaping and property management/maintenance. She is happy to get her hands dirty, but also has a degree in psychology, and has worked in the field of mental health. She is the proud mom to a dog and an elderly snake.

  • LaurenR

    Lauren Richards

    (Rep Company & Sr. Teaching Staff)

    Lauren Richards started flying at Canopy nearly 7 years ago at the encouragement of a friend. With a background in dance, gymnastics, and theatre, aerial training and performance is the perfect marriage for the “little girl who used to ‘play’ imaginary mythical creatures that could fly,” who is stuck in the body of a 37 year old woman. An oncology social worker by day, Lauren finds being in the air enormously therapeutic, a way of releasing all the heaviness of the professional world into the sky (literally and figuratively). Lauren teaches beginner level adults and finds the joy her students experience from flying as pure as her own when she’s in the air.  When not flying/teaching or at the hospital, Lauren likes to eat (burgers are a favorite), be with friends and family, nourish her soul with worship, and laugh out loud.

  • Melissa Roberts

    (Rep Company & Sr. Teaching Staff)

    Melissa Roberts is the Executive Director of Canopy Studio and 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. 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. 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.

  • Victoria

    Victoria Slaboda

    (Jr. Teaching Staff)

    Victoria is relatively new to aerials, but has been taking dance lessons since she was 7. Her hope is to pass the joy of movement on to our youngest students so that they can develop strength and confidence as they grow. She has been training at Canopy since 2012 and is now assisting teach trapeze classes for our younger students.

  • Natalie

    Natalie Smith

    (Jr. Teaching Staff)

    By day Natalie is the music teacher and an assistant classroom teacher at Emmanuel Episcopal Day School. By night she is a musician, playing flute in various classical and jazz groups.  If you hear flute at an Oconee Youth Playhouse musical, that’s probably her playing down in the pit!  She has two wonderful daughters, Lorelei and Sylvia, and the best husband she could ask for, guitarist Brian Smith. Natalie has been with Canopy since Fall of 2009. She teaches several of our children’s trapeze classes.

  • Terri

    Terri Matthews Watts

    (Jr. Teaching Staff)

    As a retired collegiate pole vaulter from UNC-Chapel Hill, Terri needed an outlet for her high-flying desires upon moving to Athens in 2007. Her love of movement and collective choreography made Canopy a perfect fit. As an occupational therapist by vocation, she enjoys encouraging aerial students to participate in lifelong creative expression as a valued life ‘occupation.

  • MelW

    Melissa Wilson

    (Rep Company & Sr. Teaching Staff)

    When she’s not wrangling 4-year-olds at Barrow Elementary School, Melissa Wilson can generally be found either in the air or on the ground at Canopy, where she joined the Repertory Company in 2008. Melissa has performed on dance trapeze, bungees, Spanish Web and various invented metal equipment, and with her frequent-partner Carlynn Kenna, has astounded Canopy audiences with incredible ground-based acrobatics as well. Melissa came to Canopy as a student in 2003 where she studied with Canopy founder Susan Murphy, who became both her friend and mentor. Outside the studio Melissa finds her life enriched to overflowing by her faith, her close relationships with family and friends, her precious dog Boo, and days on the river. This, along with her love and commitment to all children have enabled her to have an abundantly full life.

  • AlliO

    Allison Workman

    (Rep Company & Sr. Teaching Staff)

    Allison Workman has been with Canopy from its inception as a student, teacher and performer. She teaches adult trapeze classes and performs as part of the Repertory Company. The birth of her son in 2006 grounded her in many ways and led her to discover the joy of Hoopdance and the Zen of hoop-making as well as teaching and playing with young children and babies. When on the ground she derives tremendous satisfaction from helping other people get organized and loves her non-aerial work as a Well-Organized Woman. Allison lives in Danielsville, GA with her young hockey-playing son, hockey-devotee computer wizard husband and cats.