Cirque Appalachia seeks to be training center with acrobatic flair in the mountains of North Carolina, fostering a love for lifelong learning and individual expression through movement.
Sarah Ragon uses her brilliance to connect and support the people of Cirque Appalachia. Her nimble movement inspires and awes. Her zaniness breaks barriers and inhibitions. Her technical mastery motivates students and peers alike.
Sarah began her career in circus arts in 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. She studied aerial silks under Caroline Calouche & Co and also at Aerial CLT until 2015, when she continued her learning journey at New England Center for Circus Arts (NECCA) in Brattleboro, VT. In NECCA’s professional training programs, she studied Chinese pole, partner acrobatics, aerial silks, hand balancing, flexibility, and other aerial arts disciplines. A graduate of NECCA, now located to Boone, Sarah brings leadership and expertise to the Appalachian community and loves to share her eclectic knowledge of circus arts.
Jessie Nelsen is a compassionate movement instructor both professionally and recreationally. She digs deep to understand how the body moves and enjoys sharing those insights with others.
Movement is fun! Jessie began training aerial silks in 2016 - adding a new dimension of movement to her decades of training ballet, modern dance and theatre - and finally realizing her dreams of running off to join the circus. As an instructor, she taught dance for over five years - primarily ballet, modern, jazz and improvisation to students ages 10-15, but also to students ranging from toddlers through college. As a practicing physical therapist, she instructs individuals in movement every day. At Cirque Appalachia she instructs Aerial Flow and supports youth classes.
Jessie has been practicing physical therapy since 2001. She holds a doctorate in PT and is a board certified orthopedic clinical specialist and manual therapist. She geeks out just a little on postural awareness and the dramatic changes that simple mindfulness can bring.
Lauren Hayworth is a practicing yogi of 15 years. She believes yoga practice is most rewarding when it challenges the body, stills the mind, and comforts the heart. She leads Aerial Yoga at Cirque Appalachia.
Lauren began her journey in a sweaty, no-frills power vinyasa studio in a single-wide trailer in Tallahassee, while attending college at Florida State University. She deepened her practice with ashram living, spending several summers in Satchidananda Ashram (also known as Yogaville, Virginia), where she completed her 200 hour teacher training in 2004. When she moved to Boone in 2006, she taught a decade of yoga classes at the Wellness Center, leading both gentle and high-intensity vinyasa.
She began her aerial arts journey with Sarah Ragon in 2017, and has since blended these two disciplines into Aerial Yoga, completing her teacher training at CircuSoul Yoga in Sarasota, Florida in 2018.
Athalia Whitworth comes alive when new students find compassion and inspiration in circus arts. She is Cirque Appalachia's director and instructs beginner classes, in addition to providing administrative support for all classes and programs. Athalia is a relentless learner and loves a challenge.
Athalia stumbled upon the aerial arts in 2000 when she met modern dance professor and trapeze legacy Susan Murphy. An athlete with a penchant for climbing and an appetite for tests of agility and strength, Athalia was drawn to duo trapeze and later fell in love with aerial silks.
Her fitness journey has taken her through peaks and valleys of health, which has taught her patience, gratitude, and the art of blending grit with compassion for her body.
When her feet are on the ground, Athalia assists and leads numerous community and economic development projects. She holds a degree in Business Administration from the University of Georgia, graduate studies in Spanish Translation from Georgia State, and a certificate of Financial Management from Cornell University.
"Our team values the strength that comes from collaboration: it catalyzes personal transformation, clarifies vision and empowers outcomes. There is strength in numbers and beauty in community. I could not imagine growing Cirque Appalachia any other way."
"Our fall schedule includes tumbling, aerial silks, aerial yoga, acrobatic conditioning and flexibility coaching. "