Niff Nicholls


"Niff's teaching is very thoughtful and deliberate. So, it's not just circus school. There's a definite philosophy." - Patricia, student


Niff thinks of teaching as an art form of it's own, and because of this philosophy she has become a sought after coach in the American circus community. She began studying circus a decade ago after realizing how empowering and life changing circus is.

In 2006 Niff started teaching aerials at The Philadelphia School of Circus Arts, and soon after became the Adult Aerial Coordinator and head coach, as well as Teacher Training Coordinator. Niff spent 5 years developing a teacher training program now recognized and certified by the American Circus Educators Association. In 2014 she started teaching Aerial Dance at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Niff  also is a graduate of The National Circus School's (Ecole Nationale de Circque- in Montreal) Teacher Training program, earning her instructor certification.

Niff has performed dance trapeze on the rooftop of the Kimmel Center in the city's first ever Philadelphia International Festival for the Arts. She has performed for multiple Pride events, directed multiple circus soiree's, and performed in 3 successful Philadelphia Fringe shows, as well as all over the city of Philadelphia for grand events and free city performances.  





Niff loves teaching people of all ages, sizes, and backgrounds how to defy their own expectations.  She has taught students from around the globe, and had the opportunity to instruct and learn from the top performers and coaches in the nation. 


Niff started Secret Circus in 2015, after her peers and students asked her to create a place where they could make a community that felt inviting, safe, and fun, while giving exceptional instruction in circus arts.  Her goal is to make a community that sees people for who they are, and what they offer. For people to feel appreciated, and to help each person find a home away from home.


Her future goals include starting an artist in residency program, and a performance company to further the use of circus as art and help develop awareness of circus to all of Philadelphia through a professional circus company with monthly public performances.

Jackie Zalewski

Instructor/Youth program director

"Jackie teaches with unwavering encouragement & genuine excitment at her student's personal victories. Her belief in her students ability, combined with her gentle and positive coaching, makes us accomplish things we never considered possible."

- Laurie , student


Jackie is always there with a friendly loving ear, to encourage and help in any way she can. This is what makes her an exceptional instructor, not only for kids, but for people of all ages.

Jackie started studying circus in 2006 (right alongside Niff) and hasn't looked back.  With a background as a professional dancer; she has performed internationally, but has discovered in her travels that nothing has brought her more joy than teaching others.


In 2008 Jackie became the Yough Aerial Program Coordinator at the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts, and grew the program to be the strongest program in the region. 






Jackie has led youth programs from tots to teens and has taught at numerous summer camps, including most recently Circus Smirkus in Vermont. She also currently teaches at Circus Place in NJ as a master coach,  as well as leading pilot summer camp programs. She not only studies aerials, but is also a gifted yogi and contortion instructor, and for this reason is a highly regarded teacher for all ages in the Philadelphia region.  


Her hope is to develop a strong program for Youth to learn all of the aspects of circus arts.  She would love to see the Philadelphia circus community continue to evolve and grow, with more opportunities for people to express themselves through the medium of circus.

Dana D'Ulisse

Jr. Instructor

Dana’s love of the performing arts began at the age of five when she was in enrolled in dance classes. While in college she continued to pursue her ballet education at the Academy of International Ballet. In 2008 Dana began aerials training at the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts, and later continued her training with Secret Circus. She has trained various apparatuses including static trapeze, duo static trapeze, aerial fabric, corde lisse, and Spanish web as well as partner acrobatics. 






Nicole Greenbaum

Jr. Instructor

A lifelong stage performer, Nicole Greenbaum didn't find her element until she started training aerials in New York City. Since then, she has taught, trained, and performed around the world; from Brooklyn, NY to Melbourne, Australia. 


Though she originally worked solely on aerial silks, Nicole has since expanded her repertoire to include many other aerial elements. She learned first-hand how beneficial multi-apparatus aerial training is, and applauds Niff's approach to building her students' strength and skill.


Nicole is grateful to Secret Circus for being her Philadelphia home! When she's not dangling from the ceiling (or helping others do so) she can be found doing science communications, contemplating the plural of "apparatus" (apparatuses? apparati?), or reading a book in a patch of sunlight.






Peter Smith

Instructor/Rigging Coordinator

Resident dare devil, Cyr wheel coach, actor, director, just all around talented guy.

Pete is a huger, and loves showing adults and kids of all ages how to have fun.

Peter holds a BA in Theatre, and Technical Theater from Muhlenberg College and has studied physical theatre and mask at the Accademia dell’Arte in Arezzo, Italy.

Peter Started studying circus in 2011, and took to it like a duck to water. 

Peter favorite thing is working with kids, from clowning and prat falling, to hoop diving and tumbling. 





Kaeti Frady 

handstand Instructor

Kaeti Frady is a multidisciplinary movement artist, bodyworker, and educator.  Leading with a profound passion for transformative art and radical authenticity, she delights in utilizing poetic movement as a tool for promoting social justice, transcending cultural barriers, empowering communities, and expanding our concept of possibility.

Kaeti holds a BA in cultural anthropology, has been a licensed massage therapist since 2012, and has recently returned to school to become a physical therapy assistant. She discovered her love of high places and an inverted perspective within contemporary circus arts in 2011, and eventually graduated from the New England Center for Circus Arts' professional track program in 2017.  Kaeti's coaching style draws from her overlapping passions for science-based training practices, the innate wisdom of the body, and the art and language of expressive movement.






Brendan Brolly 

Aerial Instructor

Brendan has been teaching circus arts for over 20 years. He began his involvement as a juggler and specialized in incorporating movement and flow into his performances. In latter years his focus has switched more to aerials which he has now been doing for over 10 years, and become a sought after and innovative rope coach.Brendan has studied at Circus Space in London, Circomedia in Bristol and NECCA in Vermont, and many more amazing places with creative coaches.






Stacey Morris

Jr. Instructor

Stacey has been studying aerials for over 6 years, and has always had a talent for circus skills like juggling, hooping, and having great costumes. 

Stacey loves rope and trapeze, but hates silks but still does it anyway.






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428 E. Erie ave (on D Street) Philadelphia