about Secret Circus
Secret Circus is a school for contemporary training in aerial arts. We are located in the North Philadelphia Warehouse district, in a studio with lots of natural light, 30' ceilings, and 13 adjustable (wire rope) points, and 2 static points. Secret Circus's number one goal for our students is safety. All rigging was professionally installed by a certified rigger, and updated and checked by owner and director Niff Nicholls, who has extensive experience and undergone multiple courses in rigging and safety, including a degree of certification from The National Circus School in Montreal.
Secret Circus is all about progression and artistry. We want our students to understand why and how skills work, so you can create your own work. Why take classes at Secret Circus? Because we genuinely love teaching, and all of our coaches are vetted and trained for years. We know what we are doing, and we are excited to see you fly.
To see our class polices check out the details in each class description in Mindbody before you book.
Jackie Zalweski has been training aerials since 2006 and started coaching a few years later. Jackie has a knack for creating fun, interesting, and innovative choreography across all apparatus and levels. She is amazing with kids of all ages and brings out the best in her students with kindness and encouragement.
She specializes in aerial hoop, trapeze, silks, sling, and rope, and has some skills in fire, hula hoop, tight wire, yoga, and flexibility and contortions, and is a brilliant choreographer for solos and large group acts.
Stacey has been studying aerial for 6 plus years, and started coaching with Secret Circus in 2019. Stacey loves big drops, dynamic skills, and making every class fun. Stacey also happens to be a great juggler, so you might pick up some fun skills in her warm-ups! Stacey Specializes in Rope, trapeze, and sling, and if you make her she will touch a lyra and sometimes if we are lucky she will be seen on silks.
SR. AERIAL INSTRUCTOR
Dana has been a coach for Secret Circus for 5 years, and specializes in all things in the air as well as partner acrobatics, strength training, and ballet. Dana Teaches all level aerial classes and is great for that student who wants to get stronger and really progress in the air.
Laurie has been an aerialist for over a decade! She is a beautiful technician and loves developing unique and complex transitions. Laurie is unbelievably kind, patient and thoughtful with her students and everyone around her. Her classes are full of excellent material, and feel welcoming and engaging. Laurie specializes in aerial Silks and Rope, but also can be seen on trapeze and sling but this beast could master any apparatus.
Leah had her first taste of aerial circus at summer camp at the age of 9, and rediscovered the joys of aerials when she moved to Philly in 2013. She has been training on silks, trapeze, rope, and sling ever since, and especially enjoys dynamic drops, and making shapes that are beautiful or quirky (or both!). She is compassionate and encouraging, and very excited to share her love of aerials with her students. Leah is an actor, dancer, and puppeteer by trade, which contributes to her outlook that mastering correct technique will open the door for all types of imaginative self-expression and storytelling in the air.
Ed is an aerialist who also has experience in juggling, face balancing, wire walking, and partner acrobatics. They began circus training at the age of 15, and continued on to a professional training program of 2.5 years at age 18. They specialize in aerial frame but love all aerials. The main goal they have for their students is for everyone to achieve individual personalized growth. Other loves include but are not limited to French toast, saturated colors, and well made garments.
FLEX AND MOVEMENT INSTRUCTOR
Emma is a performing artist, music producer and multi-disciplinary circus artist. Emma has trained all over the world and graduated from NECCA's pro-track program. They currently are into helping students keep their bodies mobile while exploring movement and working on their Meteor act and skills.
JR. AERIAL INSTRUCTOR
Molly has been training aerials for over 8 years. Before starting circus she was an amateur Muay Thai fighter and coached strength and conditioning. She specializes in aerials (primarily rope and trapeze), but also dabbles in Handstands and Cyr wheel. Molly loves finding weird shapes and unexpected pathways in the air.
AERIAL & GROUND INSTRUCTOR
Mae West is an award-winning multidisciplinary artist, advocate, educator, and artistic producer based in Philadelphia, PA. They are a company member of Almanac Dance Circus Theatre and have been working as an internationally touring circus and theatre artist for over a decade. As a coach, Mae's methodology is grounded in safety-focused, consent-centered, and identity-affirming learning environments that support students’ full autonomy over their bodies and minds. Their experience as an athlete, performer, and instructor across an array of disciplines lends itself to providing detail-oriented instruction founded on a thorough knowledge of technique and injury-prevention.
FOUNDER / HEAD INSTRUCTOR
Niff Nicholls has been coaching Aerialists since 2006, and founded Secret Circus in 2015. Niff is an aerial innovator, and a lover of beautiful transitions and creative movement. Her coaching focuses on safety first, while developing strong solid technique and interesting choreography. She is a stickler for technique but always tries to keep class fun and challenging for the body and brain. Niff has a circus teaching certificate from The National Circus School in Montreal, and she specializes in Trapeze, silks, rope, and sling. Strength training and anatomy.
Chi-Wen has been studying coaching for 6 years, originally started in St. Louse, then moved to Delaware where she sought out higher level coaching and found Secret Circus. Chi-wen is an excellent foundation teacher. She is thoughtful, prepared, patient, and flexible. She is a good problem solver, which allows students to be successful. She specializes in Lyra, but can do it all!