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About Us

Swing State Co-Owners Swing State Collaborators

Swing State Aerial Co-Owners

Swing State Aerial is a collaborative project between Mackenzie, Stephanie, Luella, and Isis, with contributions from our co-founder Karen and other aerial friends. Between us, we have 31 years of aerial experience, a dance degree, a fine arts degree, a masters in public health, massage therapy certification, dance and aerial teacher training, and a focus on creating community through aerial arts. 

All Swing State Aerial instructors have trained with Nimble Arts and/or Born to Fly Teacher Training programs,  maintain first aid/CPR certification and concussion training, and our classes take place in a facility and program that participates in the American Circus Educators Safety Program.



Luella joined Swing State Aerial in early 2018.  Luella is a mesmerizing performer with a long background in modern dance - currently a company member with Li Chiao-Ping Dance, she has a BA in Dance from Beloit College and has performed with Frente de la Danza in Quito, Ecuador, Agnieszka Laska Dancers in Portland, OR and Kanopy Dance Company here in Madison. She has been training and performing aerial dance at the Madison Circus Space since 2011, whenever she isn't home with her 3 young children.

Along with being one of the midwest's foremost aerial performers (especially on corde lisse!), Luella is a talented solo, duo, and group choreographer, regularly producing stunning pieces featured in Skeleton Circus, Madison Circus Space Gala, Circus After Dark, and she produced and directed the empowering circus-themed V-Day show in 2017.

Luella will be focusing on offering family circus playdates and programming for families and children, as well as private lessons on rope and silks.

steph bio pic.jpg


Stephanie began exploring different movement classes in 2010. She joined an intro to aerial arts class with Wild Rumpus Circus at the Goodman Center as part of this exploration, and fell in love. Stephanie expanded from trapeze into silks, lyra, rope, and pole. Beyond a love of flying, Stephanie found that circus offers a warm, supportive community that lifts up all its members. Stephanie began producing acts as a part of the Chiaroscuro Student Showcase with Cycropia Aerial Dance. Later that year, Madison Circus Space opened its doors, and allowed a venue for creative circus arts to really dream big. Stephanie along with Mackenzie and Isis was a founding director of the first Skeleton Circus, as well as Circus After Dark, The MishMash show, and Guerilla Gallery Night open houses. Stephanie has a special talent for PR and collaborative work, and her work with the community has produced incredible results both in individual acts (Stephanie’s silks trio “Crush” has been lauded as the best silks act yet produced in Madison) and in shows with ever-increasing popularity. With day-jobs in arts administration and public health, Stephanie is also very concerned with building community relationships, so that no one with a love of death-defying feats ever has to be turned away. 

Stephanie is the person to contact if you wish to bring Swing State Aerial to your next event OR if you are interested in youth/preteen classes or private lessons. She has a regular youth class and loves bringing the joy of aerial to kids in the Madison area!



Mackenzie was bitten by the dance bug nearly at birth - starting with ballet and tap and expanding into modern dance, tumbling, musical theatre, and clowning. This passion then led to studies in Dance at Macalester College and Iowa State University, working with  artists such as Alan Danielson, Laura Sanda, Janice Baker,  and Vernon Windsor. One day during a dance class after moving to Madison, she wondered how she could fly on the trapezes looped to the State Street Studio ceiling, and when she started trapeze with Wild Rumpus Circus a few months later, a circus love was born.

Quickly expanding into silks, rope, pole, and custom apparatuses, Mackenzie soon  began choreographing pieces and producing shows, beginning with the 2013 Chiaroscuro Student Showcase with Cycropia Aerial Dance. She also began assistant teaching with Wild Rumpus Circus and fell in love all over again, now with the joy of new students taking first flight. When Madison Circus Space opened, she jumped right in, directing, producing, and/or choreographing in shows like Skeleton Circus, Circus After Dark,  V-Day, and Circus on TV and then becoming an aerial arts teacher.  Focusing on technique over tricks, she strives to give each student a supportive, encouraging environment to shine.

Isis backbend


Isis fell in love with dance trapeze in 2011 and has been taking classes, training, and performing regularly ever since, first with Cycropia and then at Madison Circus Space. Trapeze continues to be her main interest, although she has experience with aerial silks, lyra, and several other apparatus. Isis was fortunate to be introduced to aerial alongside several talented dancers who helped her blend aspects of modern dance into her aerial practice. The pieces she has collaborated on and danced in have sought to go beyond the traditional razzle-dazzle of circus arts to encompass a wide range of expression and style. Isis has also been a founding director of popular shows including Skelton Circus and Circus After Dark. Isis believes wholeheartedly in the inclusivity of circus and her driving philosophy is that aerial is for all bodies.



Jess comes from a background of music, modern dance, and aerial arts, beginning with Cycropia Aerial Dance and moving to Madison Circus Space when it first opened. 

Jess  co-choreographs, co-produces, co-owns, volunteers, and generally partners in SSA crime whenever we get up to a project. She's also the very best at making sure we stay on our training and conditioning programs and that we COUNT the music, danggit!!

Jess and her mesmerizing movement style can be seen almost anywhere Swing State is also performing. Don't miss it!


Swing State Aerial Collaborators

In addition to our co-owners, Swing State Aerial works with other aerialists and performers across the city and region to create new works, put on shows, teach students, and show off our talents on social media!



Karen took classes in trapeze, silk, lyra and cloud swing in 2010 at her home circus in Bellingham, WA before settling into cloud swing as her specialty in 2012.  She was a regular member and performer at the Bellingham Circus Guild from 2012-2013.  When all the nieces and nephews started coming, Karen moved to Madison, WI to be closer to family and joined the Madison Circus Space in 2014.  Karen has been a regular performer on cloud swing and silks at various MCS shows since joining, and co-founded Swing State Aerial with Mackenzie in 2016. While other duties have called Karen elsewhere, she still teaches cloud swing and can’t wait to give her students that “wind in your hair” experience that comes with swinging.   Her background as a Physical Therapist informs her ability to work through places where students get stuck, with special attention on preventing injury and helping protect students who may have chronic injuries.



Amalia is SSA's student assistant in silks classes, as well as a PR intern for SSA shows and productions!

A professional soprano and native of Madison, WI Amalia received her Bachelors if Music in Vocal Performance at Oberlin Conservatory and has performed with various theater companies,  including  Four Seasons Theatre, Madison Savoyards, and Middleton Players Theatre. She currently sings as a soloist and soprano section leader with Christ Presbyterian Church and one of Madison’s professional concert bands, Capitol City Band. Amalia came to a silks class for the first time in the fall of 2016 and fell in love just like the rest of us.  Since then she has become a fixture around Swing State Aerial and Madison Circus Space, expanding her apparatus repertoire, beginning choreography projects, and performing in aerial/vocal collaborations. 


Laura Hayden/
Delta Phoenix Fitness

Laura is an ACE certified personal trainer with 10+ years of experience in her field, and a lifetime of practicing artistic movement - including gymnastics, figure skating, and competitive marching band color guard. She is also an aerialist (since 2013) and primarily spends her time on dance trapeze, lyra, sling, and silks.
Over the past few years, Laura has absorbed and implemented a mind-boggling amount of information on training the body to be in optimal condition for participating in circus arts, and combines her passion for general fitness and mindful movement with her passion for movement arts. Her approach combines the art of imperfection (giving yourself grace when you make mistakes, and permission to take imperfect action along your journey) with the art of moving mindfully with excellence, so that you make the most of everything you do and train your mind-body connection to help you move safely and with grace and efficiency both in the air and on the ground.


Wendy Whiplash

There's not much better in the world than a burlesque dancer who is also an aerialist and a roller derby skater. Therefore, Wendy Whiplash is one of our favorite collaborators! Meeting Mackenzie in an intro to aerial class in 2011, they became fast friends when they wound up together in the drive thru of a taco bell. OG Partners in Crime long before Swing State Aerial was created, Wendy and Mackenzie collaborated (along with Luella, Stephanie, Jess, Isis and many others) to choreograph their first aerial piece, in producing and directing the Chiaroscuro Student Showcase, in expanding equipment and learning opportunities in the Madison Aerial arts community, and in bringing Circus After Dark to life. Wendy now resides in Sarasota, Florida where she skates with the Bradentucky Bombers, but she is still a wonderful source of inspiration and comes to visit and act as Mistress of Ceremonies for SSA shows every now and then. 


Laura Rose

The minute Laura Rose  walked into Madison Circus Space after beginning her aerial training in California, Mackenzie, Isis, Stephanie, and Luella were drawn to her skill and movement. Recruited to perform in a moonseye duet and a group silks piece for the very first Skeleton Circus, LR became a beloved performer and instructor in Madison. 

Now located in the San Francisco area, LR still visits and still performs with us, awing audiences and fellow performers with her grace and strength every time. 



Courtney got her first taste of silks on an island in the middle of the Wisconsin River where Laura Rose, Isis,  Stephanie, Mackenzie and Karen were practicing on LR's aerial rig. Shortly after she messaged Mackenzie hoping for lessons and a beautiful circus love was born.  A gifted photographer, she also started producing amazing photos of SSA and MCS shows.

A fabulous sparkle creature that adds life and love to everything she tries, Courtney was soon interning with SSA, helping with classes, PR, photography, choreography, and finally performing as a full-fledged aerialist in her own right. Courtney has taken her silk, Roja, and herself on the road, but every now and again comes back to fly with SSA and sprinkle her magical hairy fairy dust on our aerial community.