Liana Alcantara

Studio Manager, Pole Instructor

Liana started pole dancing when Defy Gravity opened in August of 2015, and something happened that had never happened before: Liana realized she might actually like working out. A few years and a career change later, Liana is the Studio Manager of Defy Gravity and teaches a variety of fundamentals and Level 1 pole offerings. Liana's pole style is a combination of classic, sensual-style movements and contemporary flow. Liana is also ElevatED certified for Levels 1 and 2.

Avery Shaffer

Aerial Instructor 

Avery (they/them) has been training pole and aerial at Defy Gravity since September 2015 and rope, silks and duo trapeze at Aloft Circus Arts School since April 2017. Starting their circus training from ground zero and choosing silks as their primary apparatus, Avery has learned through personal experience the best training methods to help students meet their fitness goals.

To assist with keeping their students as safe and healthy as possible, Avery is a Pole level 2 certified trainer from ElevatED. They have also completed several aerial rigging courses ran by leading experts in the field and studies under several certified instructors. 

Mx. Shirley Cean Rogiers

Aerial Instructor 

Mx. Shirley Cean Rogiers (they/them) decided long ago to become a circus and run away with themself. When Defy Gravity opened it's doors, it was to Opportunity's knock! Shirley answered by diving in head first: trapeze, lyra, silks, pole, etc. After a brief dalliance in the desert, training, performing, and then teaching with the Reno Aerial Co-op, they returned to the DG scene and became a passionate instructor. Shirley is more than excited to share their love of aerial arts, fitness, and performance with all, and brings that energy into every class! Come join in on the fun!


Aerial and Flexibility Instructor 

Michelle (she/her) has been training in various aerial apparatuses since 2012, and has been an instructor since 2016. She loves anything that will get her up in the air, but she has a special place in her heart for static trapeze and duo trapeze.

In her free time, Michelle enjoys taking anatomy and kinesiology classes in order to learn how to make training more safe, sustainable, and adaptable. She brings this knowledge not only to her aerial instruction, but also to her flexibility instruction, which focuses on active flexibility (using the strength of your own muscles to achieve flexible positions, rather than relying on gravity or a partner to get you there). Her Bend and Flex classes will leave you feeling strong, bendy, and empowered with knowledge!


Pole, Dance, and Flexibility Instructor 

Jamie (she/her) is an educator and plus-size movement professional who is committed to creating change in the visibility, and education of plus size artist-athletes while nurturing compassionate communities that encourage curiosity, celebrate diversity and prioritize inclusivity. She developed and currently teaches Fluffy Kitty™ Pole, a class for plus sized individuals and has expanded the curriculum to include Fluffy Kitty™ Flow, Fluffy Kitty™ Flex, and Fluffy Kitty™ Flirt. Jamie holds certifications from ElevatED (Levels 1 and 2) and (Pole and Pole Silks), WERQ dance cardio, Liquid Motion 1.0 and has completed a 200 hour yoga teacher training. Her love of movement is most exemplified in Burlesque Basics which she began teaching in 2015 with the opening of Defy Gravity. Outside of DG, she works in social justice and education and performs with Carnivale Debauche, a burlesque and vaudeville troupe she co-directs. She is also a fierce lover of cats and is the guardian of 3 chonky boys.


Aerial Instructor 

Amelia (she/her) is an avid fan of musical theatre and was drawn to trapeze after seeing Pippin on Broadway. With no previous dance or athletic experience, she embraced the challenge of building strength and body awareness. Amelia began training trapeze, lyra, and silks at Ascend Flow Arts in 2014.  She has been an aerial instructor at Defy Gravity since December 2017.

Amelia loves the theatrical elements of aerial arts and encourages students express themselves through aerial dance. She loves finding ways to incorporate skills from pole floorwork and chair dance into aerial routines. 

Robyn Bianconi

Aerial Instructor 

Robyn (they/them) took their first aerial class at Defy Gravity in 2017 to cross-train for a marathon, and never left the studio. They started on silks, branched to all the other apparatuses we offer, and honed their skills on lyra and hammock with training at contemporary circus schools such as Aloft and SOAR Aerial Dance.

They can be found teaching all levels of aerial classes at Defy Gravity, and are especially proud of their work expanding the Aerial Fundamentals curriculum to include plus-size students. They're passionate about working with students to build their confidence and joy in the air, because that's where they are happiest.

Izzy Del Mar

Pole Instructor 

Izzy is an instructor of pole, Bend and Flex, and dance-based classes, like Intro to Center Stage. She started training in pole and aerial arts at Defy Gravity in 2016. She also has several years of dance experience in the areas of ballet, pointe, lyrical, jazz, tap, modern, contemporary and hip hop. Izzy additionally coached competitive dance and poms for two years. Her goal at Defy Gravity is to share with others the creative outlet she finds in performing, so that they can similarly express themselves. When not at the DG studio, you can find Izzy at home, spending time with her pugs.

Jordan Colefornia

Aerial Instructor 

Jordan (she/her) knew it was love at first sight when she saw an aerial silks performance at a dance club in San Francisco. She was ecstatic to finally get a taste for herself at Defy Gravity after moving to Champaign in 2016 and has come to embrace all manner of squishy apparatuses (silks and hammock). As someone who always claimed to have no upper-body strength or flexibility, aerial arts has provided a pathway for making gainz in both departments. Jordan completed Defy Gravity’s aerial instructor certification in spring 2017 and is excited to help more people climb skyward.

Lindsey Ly

Pole and Dance Instructor 

Lindsey (she/her) began her pole journey in 2017 and immediately fell in love with all things related to flow. Since teaching at Defy Gravity in 2018, she has developed a variety of dance-based pole classes. Her brand, Flow & Flourish, aims to empower pole dancers to discover and refine their artistry. In her classes, you can expect to be gently nudged outside of your comfort zone to explore new styles of movement. She places an emphasis on technique, refinement, musicality, expression, embodiment, and stage presence. In addition to teaching pole, she performs and competes regionally in the Midwest and dances with the CU burlesque troupe, Carnivale Debauche. She is also a certified 1.0 and 2.0 Liquid Motion instructor and a 200-hr Power Vinyasa Yoga Teacher. 


Aerial Instructor 

When Liselle (she/her) moved to Illinois, she began looking for a fun, community-based physical activity. Getting into the spirit of Goldilocks, Liselle tried a number of activities in the CU area before she finally found aerial. Liselle loves the playful element of aerial and learning new ways to move her body. As an instructor, Liselle is committed to creating a joyful, explorative space where people can come as they are. Liselle delights in fostering the feeling of community in the studio through positive interactions.  

Maggie Berg

Aerial, Pole, and Bungee Instructor 

Maggie has been involved in some sort of physical activity for her entire life, including figure skating, gymnastics, and distance running. She has been dancing swing and blues in C-U on and off since 2001, and taught swing dancing lessons for 3 years with the Illini Swing Society. Maggie started taking pole and aerial classes at Defy Gravity in November 2016 and was ecstatic to find a new physical challenge, a much-needed creative outlet, and supportive community all in one place! She loves the stage and you can see her perform in Defy Gravity’s Semi-Annual Showcase and occasionally with Carnivale Debauche. Maggie began teaching aerial arts and bungee fitness classes in December 2018 and added pole instruction in August 2019. She believes in celebrating the everyday victories and encourages her students to enjoy the journey to accomplishing their goals. 

Rose Quartz

Pole and Dance Instructor 

Rose Quartz (they/them) began their pole dance journey in April 2018 as a way to reconnect with their body and their mind. Rose believes pole dance is a unique experience for each and every person and encourages their students to find the experience that works for them. They enjoy playing around with many apparatuses including pole, chair, hammock, and trapeze, but their favorite "apparatus" is the floor.

When not teaching or taking classes at Defy Gravity, you can find Rose in the community wearing many different hats including board game enthusiast and cat guardian.


Pole Instructor 

Jess (she/her) has been a long-time student of movement and dance. She first discovered pole and aerial arts during college, and joined Defy Gravity as a student in 2017 and began instructing in 2019. She loves supporting and celebrating her students through their own unique pole and fitness journeys.

Eli Reynolds

Aerial Instructor 

Eli (she/her) wandered into Defy Gravity one day in 2018 and just didn't go home. She fell in love with aerial and pole but became truly obsessed with aerial hammock after just one class! She completed Defy Gravity's aerial instructor certification in 2019 and loves introducing new students to the joy of movement in the air!

Athena Kyle

Pole Instructor 

After taking one pole class on vacation in Atlanta, Athena (she/they) instantly fell in love with pole dancing. When they moved to CU, they decided to attend classes at DG as a way to explore their interest in pole dancing and meet new people, and through that, they quickly found their community. After finishing her Master's of Social Work program, she decided to jump in to instructing. She hopes to help her students connect with pole in a way that is also healing and therapeutic, while still bringing joy and having fun. They will be teaching Pole Fundamentals and Fluffy Kitty Pole. When not dancing, she is likely playing video games, board games with friends, or spending time with their adorable kitty.

Christine Janak

Flow, Inversions, and Arm Balances Instructor

Christine is a dance/circus/yoga instructor and performance artist who is grateful to have been involved with Defy Gravity since 2015. She was one of the studio's first aerial silks instructors and has also taught Yoga, Circus Conditioning, Bend & Flex, and Floor Inversions and Arm Balances classes and private lessons at DG over the years. She currently offers Floor Inversions & Arm Balances series and lessons at DG. She also teaches hoop dance, fan veils, fire dancing, and fire eating lessons and is a Spanish to English translator and subtitler by day.


Pole Instructor 

A theater role - and the search for more personal confidence and strength - actually brought Mimi (she/her) to Defy Gravity in 2019 but pole is what ended up keeping her there 7 days a week. She made it two weeks into the 2020 "situation" before purchasing a home pole and continuing her journey virtually. Her movement style gravitates toward dance and slower flow-based moves, but it's always good to switch it up and try new things.

She's so excited to be joining the team and teaching at the Fundamentals level. Come get basic with her! 

Grace Chong

Aerial Instructor 

Stay-at-home parent by day and aerialist by night, Grace (she/they) is thrilled to bring their love of joyful movement to their classes. Grace wandered into Defy Gravity for a pole class in January 2019. They found their way into the aerial room shortly after, and discovered that they're happiest place is in the air! Grace is passionate about fat liberation and radical self-love. They love to celebrate every victory with their students and strives to make their classes a safe place for growth, learning, and creativity. Outside of the studio, you can find them enthusiastically starting (but never finishing) projects, playing board games, or cooking. You can join them in Plus Size Aerial Fundamentals.

Lacey Lee

Aerial Instructor 

Lacey Lee (they/them) discovered aerial arts in 2014 and has since fallen deeply in love with circus and its community. Before moving to the CU area, they lived in Boston and trained in the Professional Preparatory Program at Esh Circus Arts. Lacey is passionate about movement as a form of self expression and making circus accessible to everyone. When not in the air, you’ll find them programming, advocating for web accessibility, teaching their cats partner acrobatics, and sewing.


Pole Instructor 

Beakie’s life changed when she stepped into Defy Gravity in February of 2019 and she hasn’t looked back since. Beakie is a lover of integrating spin pole and aerial tricks into her dance. Common side effects of coming to class with Beakie may include increased confidence in yourself and your body and feeling like a total badass ready to crush it in the outside world. The confidence, community and connection awarded those in the pole community is infectious and addicting. See you in Spin Pole and around the studio!

Liza Sh

Pole Instructor 

Liza (she/her) began dancing at a very young age and was trained in classical ballet. She hated every moment of it and quit dancing for 12 years. In 2014 she took her first pole class in Israel. That class led her to rediscover her love for movement, on her own terms. Since then, Liza has been pole dancing on and off and she has taken classes in Israel, San Diego and New York. In 2019 she joined Defy Gravity as a student and began instructing later that year after realizing how much joy she derives from guiding students through their pole journeys.

Christen Mercier

Aerial Instructor 

Christen began training pole in 2013 and aerial in 2016. With a background in salsa, swing, and ballroom, she finds the solo element of pole and aerial arts a challenging creative alternative to dancing with a partner. She appreciates the balance between artistic expression and physicality--and especially loves the fact that she can get a great workout without stepping foot in the gym! As an instructor, Christen’s focus is on developing solid technique in her students and creating an environment in which each person is empowered to set and work towards their individual goals.

Morgan Fox

Aerial Instructor 

Even though she spent almost ten years as a stagehand in New York City, Morgan (she/her) somehow managed to combine going to grad school with running away with the circus. After three years pursuing her MFA in Columbus, she moved to Urbana in 2021 and immediately came knocking on DG’s door (almost literally). She’s trained at Aerial Arts and the Muse in NYC, Aerotique and Movement Activities in Columbus, and Aloft and CirquesExperience in Chicago, and has a dance and theatre background. By this point she’s probably trained in at least every apparatus, but her primary favorites are silks, rope, and trapeze. When she’s not upside-down, she’s busy earning dual Masters degrees in Russian/Eastern European/Eurasian Studies and Library Science as well as a minor in Translation, learning more languages than she knows what to do with, editing her novel, and cuddling with her kittyface.

Photo by Scott Ciulei