Since 1980 Joanna has been creating work that uses natural, architectural and cultural environments as points of departure for movement exploration and narrative. Her stages have included grain terminals, a clock tower, the pope’s palace, military forts, and a mile of urban neighborhood streets in the South Bronx. Her work has been commissioned by many arts institutions, including Dancing in the Streets, Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, Walker Arts Center, the Exploratorium Museum, the National Black Arts Festival, and Festival d'Avignon. She has also been honored with the Guggenheim Fellowship, the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts, the United States Artist Fellowship, and a New York Bessie Award. Haigood is also a recipient of the esteemed Doris Duke Artist Award. Joanna has had the privilege to mentor many extraordinary young artists internationally at the National École des Arts du Cirque in France, the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in England, Spelman College, the Institute for Diversity in the Arts at Stanford University, the San Francisco Circus Center and at Zaccho Studio.
Walter Kitundu is a multidisciplinary artist with a focus on kinetic sculpture and sound installation, composition, public art, and teaching. He builds (and performs on) extraordinary musical instruments, while researching and documenting the natural world. Kitundu has created hand-built record players driven by the wind and rain, fire and earthquakes, birds, light, and the force of ocean waves. In 2008 he received a MacArthur Fellowship in recognition of his art practice, and his capacity to make important cultural contributions. Kitundu was a visiting professor at Northwestern University’s Department of Art Theory and Practice, and in the Sound Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He was a Bay Area resident for 15 years and is honored to be a collaborator on Picture Bayview Hunters Point.
Wayne Campbell has provided scenic design, props and aerial rigging for Zaccho Dance Theatre since 1998, participating in such projects as Invisible Wings, (1998) at Jacobs’ Pillow; Departure and Arrival (2007) at San Francisco International Airport; Dances around the House (2005), at the San Francisco Exploratorium; Ghost Architecture (2004) at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and Al Pozzo Di Sogno (2011) at Oliver Ranch among many others. He spends most of his time in his studio in West Marin making furniture and art.
Sean Riley is a master rigger, engineering enthusiast and set designer with an expertise in suspension and load transfer involving large masses and difficult access. He has risen to the height of his field through creating functional and architecturally sound installations. Riley is the founder and principal rigging designer for Gravity Design Inc., a company based in San Francisco, CA, that provides innovative rigging and force management solutions for a wide variety of clients all over the world — from circus acts to industrial installations. He is always hands-on (welding, constructing, wiring), and though he is no stranger to high-risk responsibility, he has a flawless safety record. His passion for mechanics is matched only by his passion for extreme adventure. He drives heavy machinery, jumps off bridges, rock climbs and is a back-country solo survivalist. Riley studied theatre arts at University of California Santa Cruz and has taught college-level theatrical design.
David Freitag is an aerial rigging designer who is somehow lucky enough to still be based in San Francisco. Dave has spent the past 20 years (and hopefully the next 20 more) striving to perfect his craft as a rigger, and making his peace with Sir Isaac Newton. Along the way, he has held the honor of being one of the lead riggers on a wide range of site specific dance productions performing on walls and theaters both internationally and across the Bay Area, including Sens Productions, Zaccho, Capacitor, Flyaway, and Printz Dance Project. Dave spent 8 years touring internationally as lead rigger for Cirque Mechanics USA, and currently bides his time between aerial gigs as the house rigger at the Masonic Auditorium on Nob Hill. A master's graduate of UC Santa Barbara and SFSU, Dave holds rigging certifications in SPRAT, ETCP, and is a journeyman member of IATSE Local 16. When not holding the other end of the circus ropes, on dark days he can be found pursuing his habits of of off-beat adventure, exploring new places to climb, sea kayak, camp, fish, build treehouses, or soak in a remote hot spring. Currently, Dave is looking up, and always stands under his work.
Visual Artist & Religious Scholar
Yohana A. Junker, Ph.D., is Faculty Associate in Theology, Spirituality, and the Arts at the Pacific School of Religion, in Berkeley, California. Her ongoing research probes the salient intersections among the fields of art history, eco-criticism, decolonial studies and contemporary Indigenous aesthetics. She recently earned her doctorate in art and religion from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. Her dissertation entitled “Unsettling the Landscape: Appropriation, Representation, and Indigenous Aesthetics in the Land Art of the American Southwest” investigated how the Land Art movement of the American Southwest displays a colonial reminiscence and theological vibrancy while the Indigenous artistic production of North America encapsulates a decolonial poetics of resistance. In her writing, art, and activism, she investigates the ways artists create poetic spaces that allow viewers to come together, to reclaim agency, and to work collectively toward what Paulo Freire calls conscientização, which restores our sense of purpose, our thirst for justice, and our desire for transformation.
Veronica Blair has emerged as one of the top Black aerialists in the country, and has taken her high-flying talents all around the world.
Blair, a Bay Area native, began her career at the age of 14 at the former San Francisco School of Circus Arts, now known as the Circus Center San Francisco. Shortly after making her debut at 17, she was noticed by Cedric Walker, the founder of the Universoul Circus. Walker named Blair as a solo trapeze artist, and she was Universoul’s Resident Aerialist for over five years.
Blair has performed in “Afrika! Afrika!,” Germany’s largest circus event, and also worked for Universal Studios Japan. She still works with the Circus Center, and has put on shows featuring other Black aerialists and circus performers for themed events, such as a tribute to recording artist Prince that took place in 2014.
Black circus performers are rarely recognized, and Blair has taken on the task of filming a documentary that puts a new light on those who work in the industry. Blair’s The Uncle Junior Project came about after the death of little-known Black circus animal trainer of the same name. In an attempt to uphold Junior’s legacy and that of the Black circus, Blair has the ambitious aim of bringing those unknown entertainers to the forefront.
Ciarra D’Onofrio is a dancer and aerialist with a passion for art, social justice, and creating community through movement arts. She was born and raised here in the Bay Area where she began exploring dance and aerial arts at age 5. Since then, she has trained in movement arts ranging from circus arts to contemporary and jazz dance. She studied dance and choreography at Lewis & Clark College where she received the 2015 Distinction in Dance Choreography award, an award given to one graduating choreographer each year. As a member of the Circus Project’s Training and Performance Company (Portland, OR), she specialized in trapeze and aerial silks. Her performance background includes work with the Circus Project, Aerial Arts Fairfax, Aerial Dance Marin, Evening Star Presents, Camp Winnarainbow, and Lewis & Clark College. Ciarra has completed 3 aerial teacher training programs with Carrie Heller of the Circus Arts Institute and Camp Winnarainbow. She has taught aerial arts to youth and adults for over 7 years and loves seeing the growth, confidence, and joy her classes bring to her students.
Clarissa Dyas is from Berkeley, CA and graduated from San Francisco State University in 2017 with a B.A. in Dance and a B.S. in Health Education. Clarissa is a company member of Flyaway Productions and ka·nei·see | collective along with being a collaborating member of bananarama. Additionally, she was a company member of Robert Moses’ Kin from 2017-2018 and has performed in works by Talli Jackson, Raissa Simpson, Sarah Bush and many others.
As a life-long dancer, Suzanne Gallo has performed with the San Francisco Opera, the Atlanta Ballet, Ballet West, Ballet Met, Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet, ODC, Dance Brigade, Sonya Delwaide, the Native American Foundation for the Arts, Cielo, and Zaccho Dance Theatre. She is a founding member of vertical dance company BANDALOOP where she has danced for more than twenty years.
At BANDALOOP, Gallo also serves as the Youth Program Director, teaching BANDALOOP’s vertical methodology to adults, teens, and children at the company’s West Oakland studio. She teaches workshops on tour nationally and internationally, serving a diverse constituency of students. She built the curriculum for BANDALOOP’s vertical creatives kids’ intensive, and coordinates teachers and curriculum for the company’s school. Suzanne has a wide range of teaching experience at public and private Bay Area schools and has been on faculty at Zaccho Dance Center and Upswing Dance Studio. For the last 16 years, she has led BANDALOOP’s annual collaboration with Destiny Arts Center, teaching vertical curriculum to Destiny Senior Company and their production of Black Whole 2020.
Azraa Muhammad is an emerging aerial artist, dancer and performer. She received her training from artistic director of Zaccho Dance Theatre, Joanna Haigood, and began flying with the Zaccho Youth Company at the age of 7. After 10 years of training she began apprenticing as a member of Zaccho Dance Theatre. A native of San Francisco, Azraa believes in drawing inspiration from current social and political issues, such as racial profiling, poverty, identity, and ancestry as a way of expression in her choreography. As a member of the Zaccho Youth Company, she has collaborated with and performed for Flyaway Productions, Baycat, Dance Vision Series Festival, California Youth Circus Center Festival, Circus for Arts in the Schools and much more. Her most recent projects include performing for the American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) 2016 New Strands Festival and being featured in a promotional video for the Golden State Warriors honoring Black History Month. Apart from creating and performing, Azraa also enjoys teaching at Zaccho for the Youth Program of Center for Dance and Aerial Arts with a class of Aerial Dance technique for beginners.
Danielle Sandia Sexton
Danielle Sandia Sexton is a San Francisco based aerial artist and instructor. An alumnus of the Circus Center’s Professional Aerial Program, Sandia uses her conservatory training as a foundation for exploring acrobatic and aerial techniques in immersive theater and traditional vaudeville performance, and as a platform for social commentary. Sandia choreographs solo performance as well as collaborates with Bay Area innovators of aerial dance, walking the line between stuntwoman, fine artist, and circus performer. She has performed for Zaccho Dance Theatre, Vau De Vire Society, Flyaway Productions, Treat Social Club, Cielo Vertical Arts, Capacitor Dance, Extra Action Marching Band as well as in festivals and supper clubs locally and internationally.
Helen Wicks is a dance artist and teacher based in the Bay Area. She’s been training in gymnastics, acrobatics, modern dance, and ballet since early childhood. As a dancer, she’s worked with Cielo Vertical Arts, Abby Crain, Leah Cox, and Paul Matteson. Helen currently performs with Zaccho Dance Theatre and El Circo Dia. She received a BA in Dance and Psychology from Bard College, where she had the opportunity to perform works by Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company and Merce Cunningham. Her own choreographic work has been presented at OMNI Commons, Eighth Street Studios, SAFEhouse Arts, and ODC. She teaches creative movement, acrobatics and circus arts in the Young Creative Program at ODC, Zaccho Center for Dance & Aerial Arts, and East Bay Center for Performing Arts.