Thanks to all of you, in 2021 CSAW was able to raise over $25,000 to provide another year of funding for our Microgrant Program for U.S. Circus Artists of Color!
Since September 2020, CSAW has provided one microgrant of $1K a month to a circus artist of color in need of funding for any and all their circus-related expenses.
Read below to learn about our past recipients and see how they used their microgrants!
June 2022 Microgrant Recipient - Catherine Doveland
Swinging on monkey bars wasn’t enough of a challenge for Catherine, so she decided to try flying on a trapeze instead. She took her first trapeze class at Circus Juventas in Minnesota, and continued to train and perform with them for 13 years. During that time she was an aerialist and high wire walker in their smash hits such as Wonderland, Steam, Twisted, and more. After getting her BA in theatre arts from the University of Minnesota, she moved out to Philadelphia to attend Circadium School of Contemporary Circus. In between classes she’s performed with Airplay Entertainment, American Tightwire, and Alterra Productions.
Catherine will use her microgrant for expenses that arose from treating a foot injury as well as living expenses she couldn’t meet due to not being able to work while injured.
Alyssa Bigbee is the Founder & Director of Rebel Arts Movement Center, a studio based in the Kensington area of Philadelphia. She founded Rebel Arts Movement in 2020 with the idea of increasing accessibility to acrobatics & aerial arts to Black and Brown youth. Alyssa has a combined experience of 15 years in teaching tumbling, acrobatics, and aerial arts classes to youth. She prides herself on providing space to help underserved youth recognize their strengths and helping them understand how to use their unique abilities into their artistry.
Alyssa will use her grant to develop her circus arts program by covering the cost of equipment and installation. With the grant, she will be able to offer an affordable circus arts program for Black & Brown youth.
April 2022 Microgrant Recipient - Amancay Kugler
Amancay is the Executive Director of Yes Ma'am Circus, a Chicago-based contemporary circus company that specializes in adapting literary classics for a modern audience. She is a first-gen immigrant from Argentina, having emigrated to the United States with her mother as a child. When not producing circus shows she performs at private events, teaches circus classes, and wrangles her two toddlers.
Amancay will use her microgrant to fund her production of the Chicago Circus & Performing Arts Festival. The primary focus of the grant is to cover expenses related to the BIPOC Circus Alliance Midwest's cabaret show, which will allow the performing BIPOC artists to keep all of their ticket sales. Any remaining amount will go towards covering general festival expenses.
March 2022 Microgrant Recipient - Emilio Petriella
Emilio is a midwesterner from Northeast Ohio who moved to Oregon to pursue their dreams as a designer in the cosmetics industry, as they are a licensed Esthetician and Hair Designer in the State of Oregon & Ohio.
Emilio considers themselves a circus freak of many disciplines. As of 2020, Emilio is a sarcoma survivor and finds community and support within the world of the circus arts. One day, they hope to be an artist for Cirque Du Soleil and travel the world as a performer.
Emilio plans to use their Microgrant to fund training at Pole & Dance Portland and equipment to use for home practice.
February 2022 Microgrant Recipient - Paúl Gomex
Paúl Gomex is a pluridisciplinary performer and director. He is the founder of 406Cirque, the Circus School of Bozeman, Montana. In 2017, he graduated with honors from Academy Dimitri (CH) for a MA in Physical Theater. Later on, Gomex became Mary Overlie’s right hand for the publishing of “Standing In Space”, her legacy book about the Six Viewpoints technique. Gomex has toured in more than 18 countries, performing, directing and teaching circus and movement theater. He has directed and produced several shows for Clowns Without Borders and is an occasional advisor and performer for with them as well.
Gomex plans to use his microgrant to pay for rehearsal space in order to be ready for the upcoming summer season.
January 2022 Microgrant Recipient - Randy Kato
Randy Kato is a Cyr Wheel artist athlete, performer, and coach. His Space Oddity/Major Tom act was selected to be performed as part of the “David Bowie Is” exhibition at The Brooklyn Museum. He has performed for Big Apple Circus, The Bindlestiff Family Cirkus, The Chicago Contemporary Circus Festival, NBC News, the CBS Morning Show, the FOX Morning Show, and so much more. He is also a Wheel Gymnastics World Championship competitor for Team USA. Check him out at http://randy.kato.com/cyr .
Randy hopes to use his grant as a resource to fund training and rehearsal needs during these uncertain times.
December 2021 Microgrant Recipient - Myles Azehko
Paidamoyo-Janet Azehko, more often known as “My.L.E.S” is an interdisciplinary artist out to blur the lines between circus and technology with their latest project: #CircusAndCode, an attempt at the world’s first AI written open-source circus production. You can find out more and sign up at:
They live in Oakland, CA. Their mission in life is “To increase the number of positive interactions between people."
Myles will use their Microgrant to install rigging and purchase aerial apparatuses to train on.
November 2021 Microgrant Recipient - Jai Carter
Jai Carter is an energetic sensory seeker that has been doing gymnastics since he was a toddler. Seeking a summer camp that would be a good outlet for his energy, his mom enrolled him in a program with Le Petit Cirque and he has been hooked on circus ever since! Several days a week, Jai trains as a competitive gymnast and and applies his gymnastics conditioning in circus arts training with Le Petit Cirque. He is currently focusing on polishing a trapeze and aerial straps act. Circus is a therapeutic outlet for his creative energy and is enriching for his self esteem because his abilities are celebrated and his performances bring joy to audiences.
Jai will use his microgrant to cover circus training session fees, private coach lessons to polish aerial acts for his performance, and gymnastics training dues.
August 2021 - Lena Fumi
Lena Fumi is a contortionist and aerialist based in Los Angeles. Having learned the art of dance from a young age, she continued to pursue dance until her teen years when various circumstances diverted her away from a potential dance career. In her 20s and 30s, after conquering some health issues, she worked her way up into an engineering department of a corporate company. At the age of 36, after a department layoff, she used this time to transition into full time circus training.
Starting contortion at an advanced age with no prior experience in backbending or acrobatics was no easy task! However, she immediately felt a passion for the artistic movement and skills, and has continued to dedicate her time to training and learning new skills while taking every chance to perform. Lena teaches for Fit and Bendy, a company dedicated to supporting students in getting to know, nurture and appreciate their bodies while developing a new ranges of motion. The CSAW grant comes at a critical time and will allow her to obtain the necessary equipment to develop a new act while continuing to teach students from all backgrounds and walks of life.
July 2021 - Quentin Jackson
Quentin Jackson is based in New Orleans and will be using this grant to continue pursuing trapeze and rope. He also hopes to invest in a unicycle and juggling balls!
June 2021 - Jacqui Ray
Jacqui Ray is a San Francisco-based pole dancer and performance artist. While her original background is in fine arts and painting, her focus on performative studies and dance through university redirected her passion for self-expression.
At 19, she discovered pole dance and contortion while beginning her first formal training in modern dance. Much of her stylistic and movement influence comes from avant-garde artists and painters. as well as her love for defying what's expected in movement and story-telling.
Soon after her discovery, she moved to San Francisco to finish her Bachelor's as well as further pursue her education in contortion and pole dance. In time, she's found her greatest mode of performance is in competitive or showcased environments. For 2 years in a row, she's won first-place in Pole Sport Organization's Golden Gate and National Championships. Shortly before lockdown, Jacqui began performing in non-competitive showcases in night venues like The Great Northern with Flux Vertical Theatre. Now with reopening, she hopes to reignite her performative trek around the countries in art-galleries, competitions, and other venues alike.
With this scholarship, Jacqui will now have the financial accessibility to redevelop her contortion skills to support the unusual and sometimes "inhuman" aesthetics of her movements.
May 2021 - Tiffany Wright
Tiffany Wright has a story worth telling. She just recently, officially joined the Contemporary Circus community, although has unknowingly been practicing Circus Arts for years.
She has pursued acrobatics and competitive cheerleading for over 10 years along a successful career as a Psychotherapist, but a happenchance meeting led to the discovery of Circadium School of Contemporary Circus. She finally found a home. Tiffany will soon be finishing her first year, studying contortion, hand balancing, and partner acrobatics and she plans to use this grant to assist her continued journey through circus school at Circadium. She has a passion for teaching movement, advocating for and supporting mental health, and using movement as a voice when words don’t see fit. This journey, thus far, has allowed her to truly label herself a “circus kid” and she looks forward to continued exploration into using art as a healing modality for herself and others.
April 2021 - Stephanie Little Thunder Morphet-Tepp
Stephanie Little Thunder Morphet-Tepp, also known as The Flying Brain, is Colorado's first hair hanger. She also specializes in aerial hoop, aerial chains, stilting, and fire. Stephanie grew up as a gymnast and collegiate cheerleader. After a life-changing car accident in 2012, she spent three years in physical therapy to regain her mobility, which she then applied to the circus arts.
The Flying Brain has worked locally in Colorado, as well as nationally and internationally with groups such as Garden Brothers' Circus. Great Benjamin's Circus, Fractal Society, Bindlestiff Family Cirkus, and Phantom Circus. Her favorite performance memory is spinning fire while hair hanging in Costa Rica before the pandemic. She even brought home a street dog- who is now a hoop diver!
Beyond cultivating her own athleticism and artistry, Stephanie works to bring circus to her community as a means of bolstering mental health through donation based lessons, specifically targeting troubled and at-risk youth, survivors of abuse, and people with physical disabilities. Stephanie Morphet-Tepp believes the circus has something for everyone and dreams of opening her own circus non-profit sanctuary in the future. She also works as a diversity consultant for several groups and is passionate about her work specifically with indigenous people and BIPOC civil rights. Stephanie will be using the funding from CSAW to continue developing her independant donation-based program in Fort Collins, CO. While circus is present in Northern Colorado, Stephanie's program is structured as a community service, rather a business, and centers on improving physical and mental health in the community.
March 2021 - Neimyiah Whittley-Jones Jr
Neimyiah "Neimo" Whittley Jones Jr was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They graduated high school at sixteen years old,moved to Philadelphia to study dance, and the adventure set sail. From coaching gymnastics, street performing at festivals, the circus-dance artist has moved on stages from Newyork to San Francisco using tools found in formal dance training and oddities learned from having a heavy sideshow background.
With time, they went from participating in underground sideshows to working with dance productions including the works of Weftworks, Water Street Dance Company, and Brian Sanders' Junk. Dancing from the local dance studio to Marcus Center for Performing Arts, their goal has been to create, inspire, and change the mold of what can be physically seen in artists showcases. At twenty-two, Neimo produces circus sideshows and participates in shows as time allows. This leaves time to build a visual art into the fashion of their creations. Neimyiah is honored to be placed where time has placed them. While everything comes with a relative learning curve, Neimo is still aiming the bow.
February 2021 - Kaisha Dessalines Wright
Kaisha is from England in the UK, where she discovered her love for sports at a very young age. In school, she would participate in many school clubs, including football, hockey, dance, and competed for her region in Athletics. She discovered acrobatic gymnastics at the age of 3, which quickly escalated into competing internationally by the age of 10, where she competed in over 7 countries, winning 5 international cups and finishing her 15-year career as a British Champion in 2016.
She then studied at the National Centre for Circus Arts at the age of 18, specializing in Hand to Hand and Dance Trapeze, as well as training in handstands, contortion, and Acro dance. In her time in London, she’s had the opportunity to participate in many circus jobs, including festivals, clubs, and was able to perform for Dior at Fashion Week in 2019. She completed her 3 years and gained her Foundation Degree and her Bachelor Honours Degree in Circus Arts in July 2019. She decided to extend her training and is currently studying the same disciplines in her 2nd year at the National Circus School in Montreal, Canada. She hopes to graduate in 2022.
Kaisha is thankful for the support from her close family and friends, and for the continuous support in her choice of a career path as a circus artist.
In her spare time, Kaisha enjoys singing and listening to music, watching films, traveling, and being with her close friends.
January 2021 - Jasmine Gonzalez
Jasmine Gonzalez is a sixteen year-old and a member of Circesteem's advanced performance troupe! She's been practicing circus for about 6 or 7 years now, and has been a part of this performance troupe for about 5 of those years. Circus is her absolute favorite thing to do; whether it's practicing partner acro with her team, passing juggling clubs with a coach, or just stretching her splits and chin-stand. It's been quite the adjustment these past few months for Jasmine with the pandemic and a recent knee injury, and she's still getting used to not being able to train as much as before.
With that said, Jasmine is hoping to use this grant as a resource to help find ways to train in this unusual time. Hopefully this entails, getting circus equipment that she can use at home, taking a class or two at gyms that are still open, and if her team goes back to meeting in-person (hopefully soon) then using this grant to buy costumes for thier upcoming show! Jasmine says she could not be more thankful to have been selected for this grant, and can't wait to use it to get back to doing what she loves!
December 2020 - Lenise Jackson
Lenise is an international Pilates instructor as well as an aerial yoga/fitness instructor. She lives in Los Angeles by way of Dallas, Texas. She has a bachelors from the University of Texas at Arlington in Business, health, and communications. She has been doing aerial arts for the past 4 years and has experience as a professional dancer in the stage play "Diary of Black Men" and Six Flags over Texas.
She has her own boutique studio in LA called Fly Fit Lenise. She is also the founder of the Fly Black Aerialist, a community of men and women of black descent in the circus/aerial arts industry. She has been featured in Voyage LA magazine, a scholarship recipient of the Paper Doll Militia company and AIR Fit aerial fitness Inc. Her sponsors include companies such as Tavi Noir, Club Pilates, and Iconi Leggings. She is also the featured aerialist in singer's Kevin Hawkins music video "The One Thing" as well as produced and performed in a few aerial virtual shows.
Her goal is to continue to give back to her community and increase the exposure of aerial arts to the black community, not to mention, she has always wanted to run away with the circus! She has completed science prerequisites with inspirations to add nursing to her skill set. She loves to skate, her dog, and her prius!
November 2020 Ages 14-21 - Shekinah Williams
Thanks to the additional funds raised by the circus community, CSAW was able to provide two Microgrants for the month of November. One to ages 21+ and one for youth ages 14-21.
CSAW is proud to present Shekinah Williams as the youth Microgrant recipent. Here's more about Shekinah:
"My name is Shekinah William's, I started circus without knowing that was my true calling in this world, when I discovered circus arts into my life it made a dramatic change in the person I was and the person that I wanted to be. I started in Trenton circus Squad @trentoncircus and got to travel and meet new people and make marks on their hearts. That's my true passion about circus, giving people hope and a reason to smile.
I've decided to create my circus organization around young African American ladies and guide them through life with circus, my main entry I want to make into their lives is Peace, Love, and positivity regardless of where life takes them, I want to be that strong women that young ladies look up to in life."
November 2020 Ages 21+ Cuream Jackson
Cuream Jackson will be using his $1,000 grant to invest in a duo trapeze and here's why:
"I am always wanting to adapt and try new things to improve or better my art. In this case I need to invest in learning a bar apparatus that I can create an act on for the show I would like to create. Investing in a duo trapeze is key because it's an act I intend to create showing the relationship between two men. More often than not, the heteronormative role is the role casted for and portrayed in a circus relationship piece. Man fawns over women and dominates her. The roles reverse in some shows but there's barely any representation of what other people identify with. I think its important to create this number as we need to see more representation and diversity in the circus world. This would hopefully create more acts celebrating queer artist and artists of color."
Whether it's tumbling, dancing, or spinning from the ceiling, you’re bound to find this 29-year old with a smile on his face. Over the past 13 years, Cuream Jackson has dedicated his body to the performing arts. As a former collegiate cheerleader, he adapted quickly and seamlessly to the aerial arts. His love for circus, art, teaching, and people lead him to become a successful aerial straps artist, an admirable teacher, and a creative organizer. Each project he curates or collaborates on promotes the performing arts and creative education. You can find Cuream performing in the Pacific Northwest with the Boise Circus Guild, Red Light Variety Show, The Fox & Beggar Theater, and several other events.
October 2020 - Kyran Walton
Kyran Walton will be using the CSAW Microgrant toward
his tuition for École nationale de cirque in Montreal!
Kyran was raised in St. Louis Missouri and has been a very energetic child since he could walk. He played a few sports before the age 8 but none of them were engaging enough for him. Circus Harmony performed at his school around the time that he was 8 and he immediately begged his mom to sign him up for classes. Since then Kyran has been in the circus for 11 years now along with dancing for 6 of those years. Around age 11, Kyran was made a member of the circus Harmony’s advanced troupe : the St. Louis Arches. During the next 7 years, Kyran became fairly advanced in Contortion, Hand-balancing, juggling, Acrobatics, Trapeze, Unicycle, wire, Banquine, hand to hand. Over these 11 years Kyran performed in over 1000 shows from St. Louis to Monte Carlo, Israel, Puerto Rico, New Orleans Jazz fest, Washington D.C, New York and many more.
Ever since he was 13 years old, Kyran dreamt of going to Ecole National De Cirque in Montreal. When he was 18, he auditioned, and luckily got in. Kyran is currently in his second year specializing in Hand to Hand which combines all his favorite disciplines (Hand-balancing, Acrobatics, Contortion). Kyran is very happy to have made it this far thanks to support from his family and his circus family. Outside of Circus, Kyran enjoys Filming, Photography, sleeping, and questioning the unquestioned.
September 2020 - Abigail Williams
Abigail Williams is a Dancer, Aerialist, Aerial Instructor, and Producer based in NYC. She will be using the CSAW Microgrants for training and travel expenses as well as for her production company SHOWTIME! We'll be keeping up with Abigail and how she uses the grant and you can too! Follow @superflybrowngirl on Instagram.
Born in Miami, Florida, Abigail begun her performing arts training and took an active role within the community at a young age. After graduating in the spring of 2014 from Florida A & M University in Tallahassee, Fl with a B.A. in Theatre Performance and a minor in Dance, she relocated to New York City where she worked as a studio apprentice at the Ailey Extension Department of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre and Body & Pole. Living in NYC afforded Abigail many opportunities to connect, collaborate, and create with various local artists and choreographers. Through her time as an apprentice at Body and Pole, Abigail developed a deep love and passion for the circus, specifically Aerial. She trained on various apparatuses and became proficient on Lyra (Aerial Hoop) and Single Point Hammock. It wasn’t long before she was performing Aerial all over the city.
Along with gracing more than a few stages within the city, Abigail has also produced several small stage productions. Showtime: An Urban Circus, done in partnership with her team members of Showtime NYC (Donna Carnow and Mariangela Ciccone), is production featuring local performers with skills varying from vocalists and musicians, to contortion, aerialists, pole performers, dancers etc. “Showtime” features the best talent that the city has to offer, all the while telling the stories that are indicative of New York and the people who live there and ride the subway.
Abigail is working on a few artistic projects and collaborations that will be taking shape in the near future.