Meet Our Instructors

Our teachers have a passion for helping others learn and succeed! Not only are they highly trained and accomplished in their individual art forms, they are also leaders and creative pioneers in the circus arts community. Bringing students together with a sense of cooperation and creating a safe environment for everyone to explore and achieve is what we are all about!

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Ben Madoff

ACRO YOGA & STANDING ACROBATICS INSTRUCTOR

STUDIO OWNER

Ben has a teaching certification from Acro Revolution and has additional trainings from New York City, Portland, Montreal, Boston, Chicago, Mexico City, Thailand and wherever good teachers can be found.

Ben has also practiced and performed fire spinning & aerial fabric. He is completing a RYC-250 Yoga Teacher training from the Downward Dog studio in Toronto.

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Christina Vega-Westhoff

DANCE TRAPEZE & AERIAL ARTS INSTRUCTOR

Nina Vega-Westhoff began her modern dance, dance trapeze, and improvisation studies with ZUZI! Dance in 2008 and 2009 in Arizona. Her practice today includes inverted apparatus, silks, static trapeze, lyra, aerial rope, and aerial sling.

She has taught in both Spanish and English in Mexico, the U.S., and Panama to children and adults alike. She was one of the primary instructors at Buffalo Aerial Dance from 2015-2016.

Nina’s movement studies include certifications in Hatha Yoga (2013), MomentOm Arts Aerial Yoga (2014), and Nimble Arts’ Intro to Aerial Arts (2016); intensives in Luigi Jazz Dance, Yoga Therapy, Skinner Releasing, Modern, Improvisation, & Aerial dance; and Site-specific Performance.

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Andrew Kutnyak

AERIAL SILKS INSTRUCTOR

Andrew is an Aerial Silks teacher and has completed the Nimble Arts Introduction to Teaching as well as the Foundation Level Teacher Training. He began his aerial journey in 2009 and as a co-owner of Canopy Aerial Arts, has been performing in Buffalo ever since.

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Jay Mpelezos

ACRO YOGA & STANDING ACROBATICS INSTRUCTOR

Hand Balance InstructorJay has received trainings at LIFT School Of Acrobatics & Pitch Catch Circus. Jay has studied under the teachings of Rebel Circus Arts, The Muse, Cosmic Fit Club, Pitch Catch, Aerial Arts of Rochester, and Lift School of Acrobatics. Jay has completed Module 1 of the Acro Revolution Teacher Training Program.

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Larris Acker

AEIRAL SILKS & ACTIVE FLEXIBILITY INSTRUCTOR

Larris has received his 1st & 2nd Aerial Yoga Teacher trainings at Aircat Aerial Arts in Boulder, Colorado in 2014 & 2015. Larris has four years of experience teaching aerial yoga, silks, aerial rope, lyra, and active flexibility classes.

Larris has been trained in several movement arts including hand balance, contortion, and ballet. He has received training at both Aircat Aerial Arts and Frequent Flyers; Danza Aerea in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico; and under internationally renowned fabric instructor Fred Deb at The Collective Space in Toronto, Ontario.

Sarah Caputi

POLE DANCE INSTRUCTOR

ACRO YOGA, DANCE ACRO, & STANDING ACROBATICS INSTRUCTOR

Sarah began learning pole dance in 2014. Her movement repertoire has since expanded to include yoga, acro yoga, partner acrobatics, dance acrobatics, aerial silks, contact improvisation, and more.

Sarah is an X-Pert X-Pole certified pole instructor and has been teaching since 2016. She has trained under renowned teachers such as Marion Crampe, Colleen Jolly, Sergia Louise Anderson, Marlow Fisken, Natasha Wang, and others. She has also sought training for partner acrobatics and acro dance from Niko Douwes, Hobs Hobotus, and Elio Blox. She has been to LIFT School Of Acrobatics Advanced Immersion, Pitch Catch Circus H2H Intensive 2018, the Icarian Intensive with Acro Bear and Squirrel.

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Samm Haney

AERIAL HOOP (LYRA) INSTRUCTOR

Samm is a Buffalo native. Samm comes from a strong ballet and musical theatre background, and has been training and performing on Lyra since 2015. She is constantly furthering her education in the aerial arts by training with instructors abroad and at home.

Samm enjoys combining flexibility and strength in her training, and takes a special interest in spinning choreography in her acts. She looks forward to helping students increase their strength and body awareness, as well as their self-confidence as they discover the graceful beauty of the aerial hoop.

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Benjamin Berry

HULA HOOP INSTRUCTOR

Benjamin has been teaching since 2015, when he participated in Hooping Idol Season 5 and the Electric Forest Hoop Troupe contest. He has won Hooping.org's "Male Hooper of the Year 2015," and nominations for "Tutorial of the Year," "Instructor of the Year," and "Video of the Year." He enjoys helping his students become more confident, embodied, and expressive. Recently, he offers hoop dance programs in areas such as after-school, libraries, and community events.

Check out more at www.benjaminberry.com.

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Karen Dennis

ACRO YOGA, STANDING ACROBATICS, & YOGA INSTRUCTOR

Karen began teaching yoga in 2012 and fitness training in 2013 where she fell in love with handstands and movement arts. She discovered acroyoga in 2014 and has taught acroyoga at BAMF, evolation yoga, Soma Cura, and out of state acro camps. Karen's certifications include: RYT 250 with Evolation Yoga and Fitness Trainer with ISSA.


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Elizabeth Czapski

YOGA & ACRO YOGA INSTRUCTOR

Liz began her movement journey in 2011 with the discovery of yoga. Her caring and playful teaching style provides her students the space to embody confidence, manifest strength and develop the foundation necessary to grow their practice.

Liz is a certified 250 RYT through Downward Dog Centre in Toronto. She has taught workshops and classes with Acroyoga Buffalo since 2013.

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Meghan Arnold

MARKETING & OUTREACH COORDINATOR

ACRO YOGA, POLE DANCE INSTRUCTOR

Meghan our Marketing and Outreach Coordinator and is a substitute instructor in various disciplines.

Meghan's athletic background includes 17 years of gymnastics, including 8 years at competition level and 3 years coaching and judging. Meghan’s formative passion for fitness has led her to seek training in disciplines such as ballet, yoga, active flexibility, and partnered acrobatics, and pole fitness.

You will also find Meghan performing and representing The Bird's Nest at local special events. Check out our Special Events page to see where The Bird's Nest will be next!

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Kristen Bloom

DANCE TRAPEZE INSTRUCTOR

Kristen is a trapeze teacher here at The Bird's Nest. She began her aerial training in 2014, and started teaching in 2018. Kristen trains and takes classes locally in Buffalo, but often travels to learn from other instructors in Toronto and NECCA. Kristen enjoys combining strength and creativity in her training. Her training currently focuses on trapeze and lyra, but she also enjoys practicing on the silks.


Birds Nest Alumni

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EMILEE PHILLIPS

Acro Yoga & Standing Acrobatics Instructor

Yoga Instructor

Emilee holds a RYT-200 Cert. from the Himalayan Institute; & has completed both the Yogis in Service 95-Hr Children’s Teacher Training (YISCTT), and the SeattleAcro Teacher Training.

She has since moved on to be Delaware North’s Health & Wellness Coordinator at Sequoia National Park, California.

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JULIANA BURKHART

AcroYoga, Standing Acrobatics, & Handstand Conditioning Instructor

Class Programming and Website Design

Juliana spearheaded The Bird's Nest's crowd funding initiative on Indiegogo to raise over $16K to help open our studio. She has since moved to New York City where she teaches Handstand Conditioning and Partner Acrobatics at Warrior Bridge, Cosmic Fit Club, and The Muse.

Juliana has completed the SeattleAcro Teacher Training.

You can find her on Instagram as @thetallflyer, or on her website www.JulianaBurkhartWrites.com