top of page

Who We Are

Founded and led by expert aerialist, choreographer, and professional dancer Frances Donohoe, Cirque welcomes students of every age, from toddlers to retirees and everything in between. As you gain strength, balance, endurance, and flexibility, you will proceed to more advanced levels, explore new equipment, and learn new skills, all in Southeast Alaska's premier circus arts studio.

Sitka Cirque is located in the beautiful town of Sitka, on the outer coast of Southeast Alaska. Our pristine studio offers up to 30 feet of vertical height, as well as 16 individual aerial points all spaced 10 feet apart. Sitka Cirque is privileged to have such an incredible space where every student gets to have their own equipment for class.

Student suspended over ocean by aerial silks rigged off the side of a fishing boat..
Laughing student suspended over ocean by aerial silks rigged off the side of a fishing boat.
Student suspended over ocean by aerial silks rigged off the side of a fishing boat.
Student suspended over ocean by aerial silks rigged off the side of a fishing boat.
Student suspended over ocean by aerial silks rigged off the side of a fishing boat.
Student suspended over ocean by aerial silks rigged off the side of a fishing boat.
Student suspended over ocean by aerial silks rigged off the side of a fishing boat.
Performer suspended over ocean by aerial silks rigged off the side of a fishing boat.
Student suspended over ocean by aerial silks rigged off the side of a fishing boat.
Student suspended over ocean by aerial silks rigged off the side of a fishing boat.

Studio Owners

Frances Donohoe and Charles Hart founded Sitka Cirque in 2014.

Frances Donohoe

Director & Lead Coach

Born and raised in Sitka, Alaska, Frances began dancing in Sitka.  At the age of 16, she moved to France to work with contemporary jazz company Vendetta Mathea, touring to places like Martinique in 2000 and China in 2002. 

Frances graduated in 2006 with honors and a BFA in Dance & Choreography from Cornish College of the Arts.  While there, she danced in major works by some of America’s greatest choreographers as a soloist for Cornish Dance Theatre. 

After graduation, Frances taught at La Manufacture University in France for two years. In addition to teaching, she worked as the assistant director to Vendetta Mathea, as well as performing and choreographing for the company.

Frances worked as a freelance teacher, performer, and choreographer in London from 2008 - 2014 and directed three of her own performance groups.  During this time, she discovered and fell in love with the aerial arts, and began incorporating aerial training and performance into her work.  She was commissioned in 2012 to choreograph and direct a multi-media production entitled “The Fish Tales of Alaska" with support in kind from the Yard Theatre and The Barbican Theatre.  She also directed “He Dreamed Himself” by performance collective A Bed Time Story, which performed as part of London's Big Dance 2012 Festival and the Cultural Olympiad.

Frances worked as a dance movement therapist at the Helen Bamber Foundation with high-risk client groups and is experienced at working with vulnerable people from various and diverse cultures.

After years of touring, teaching, choreographing and performing around the world, Frances reached a point in her life where she felt it was important to give back to the communities that nurtured her. In 2014 she returned to Sitka and founded Sitka Cirque, which has since grown into one of Alaska’s premier aerial arts studios.  As a choreographer and teacher, Frances believes in nurturing dancers' bodies and creative minds.

Charles Hart

Assistant Director & Lead Coach

Charles Hart began his aerial journey with Frances Donohoe in 2014. Today he is the co-director of Sitka Cirque and coaches classes for students of all ages. Before joining the circus, Charles worked as a licensed massage therapist in Sitka until 2015, when he became a full-time circus instructor. Charles' teaching is informed by his knowledge of kinesthetic movement and the human body, as well as his background in theater.

Meet Our Faculty

We Love Our Circus Coaches!

Sitka Cirque has an amazing, supportive staff of fantastic teachers.


Jackie Carlos

Adult/Youth Coach

I have been part of the Sitka Cirque for 9 years now. I come from all sorts of dance groups. I have been a New Archangel Dancer for 19 years and was on drill team in middle and high school. I have been choreographing dances since I was 10 years old for school events and town events in the Philippines. I also choreograph dances for our Filipino Dance Group for events here in Sitka. My parents tell me that I was dancing before I could even walk; dancing has been a part of me all my life.

The very first time I saw the silks hanging from the ceiling at the gym where I used to work out, they were calling me, so one day I finally decided to approach the teacher (Franni) to inquire if she was going to offer aerial classes to the public. To my surprise, she said yes! I signed up right away and the rest is history. I have always loved dancing and now I can say I love dancing in the air.

Sitka Cirque has changed me physically and given me confidence. Aerial has shaped my whole body; as a dancer, I've always had strong legs, but as an aerialist my upper body became very strong. I've become healthier and very fit overall. Aerial has hugely boosted my confidence, making me able to do drops and things that I thought were impossible to do at my age. I am so blessed to be a part of Sitka Cirque as a student and as a Cirque coach.


Gina Lusher

Adult/Youth Coach

I discovered aerial in 2019 and quickly found a love and talent for it. I have an extensive background in dance, including ballet, Irish Dance, Russian Dance, and belly dance, and as such, have interest in and knowledge of performance-based arts. I started teaching for Sitka Cirque in the summer of 2022, with past experience teaching children and adults dance and swimming, as well as extensive work in a special education classroom as a paraprofessional. Currently, I am a Registered Nurse in the surgery department for SEARHC by day and a circus instructor/performer/enthusiast/student by night!


Katy Pendell

Adult Coach

Katy Pendell has been teaching aerial arts through Sitka Cirque since 2017. With a ballet and modern dance background, Katy fell instantly in love with the aerial world. Katy learned that her passion for artistry and physical strength could co-exist in one perfect sport when Franni introduced her to aerial as one of the first Cirque students back in 2014. In the years that followed, Katy sought out training opportunities across the country, learning from professional aerialists whenever possible. Katy was fortunate to find a home in the aerial community, both locally and globally. She wants to help build the aerial community in her hometown of Sitka, teaching aspiring aerialists how to excel both physically and emotionally through aerial movement.


Nancy Neel

Youth Coach

Nancy Neel is a mother of 2 and a Coast Guard spouse. She has been dancing for 15+ years and has been a part of the Silks community for almost 3 years with Sitka Cirque. Her most recent performance was with Alice in Wonderland as a Teardrop and a choreographer for the flash mob during the production. She’s thrilled to be a part of the Silks family. If there was one word to describe Nancy, it would be “energetic!”


Rita Christianson

Youth Coach

Rita Christianson has been doing cirque for 8 years. Their favorite piece of equipment is the triple trapeze. Rita loves incorporating musicality into moves, and enjoys the theatrics of aerial performances.  Their favorite part of teaching is witnessing the joy young students experience when they figure out a new move.  In addition to performing and teaching, Rita works with the program's hair, makeup, and costume needs.  She's excited to help students get ready for the next performance!


Naomi Capp

Teacher's Assistant

Naomi is a 14-year-old Sitka High School student who embarked on her circus arts journey at just 6 years old. Now a Level 6 aerialist, she is entering her second year as an assistant coach at Sitka Cirque. Naomi loves teaching, strives to create a positive environment, thrives on witnessing her students conquer their challenges, and celebrates their pride in their accomplishments. Naomi’s favorite circus apparatus is the lyra, recently showcased in 2023's Under the Big Top. In addition to her commitment to the cirque, she participates in theater, with recent roles in High School Musical and SFAC’s Musical Theater production of Cinderella. Offstage, Naomi delights in digital art, audiobooks, music, quality time with friends, and hanging with her dogs.


Ari FitzGibbon

Administrative Assistant

Ari FitzGibbon was born and raised amidst Sitka’s incredible performing arts scene. Growing up, she spent summers at Sitka Fine Arts Camp and acted with Young Performers Theater and the Sitka High DDF team, also dabbling in choir, dance, and concert band. She is delighted to play a small part in helping Sitkans experience the joy and beauty of aerial arts! Ari will be available to assist you at the front desk of the Sitka Cirque studio Monday through Friday from 2:15-6:00 PM, or by phone during those same hours at (907) 623-0751.

If you would like to learn more about our faculty or about a specific staff member, please email us at

bottom of page