Joanna Haigood
Artistic Director
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.
Lisa Burger
Managing Director
A licensed attorney and life-long lover of the arts, Lisa has over 10 years experience in nonprofit operations and financial management. Lisa is also Board President and Executive Director for Independent Arts & Media, a San Francisco nonprofit that provides fiscal sponsorship and development support to non-commercial art and media-related projects. Since 2010, Ms. Burger has served on the Advisory Council for The Crucible, an Oakland nonprofit industrial arts education center. As an attorney with San Francisco public interest law firm the Lexington Law Group, Lisa's legal practice has been devoted exclusively to representing plaintiffs in environmental enforcement and consumer protection litigation.
Ann Berman
Finance Director
Ann Berman is a dancer, choreographer, and visual artist. She received her BA in Dance from Washington University in St. Louis, MO, and her MFA from Mills College in Oakland, CA. She was the Artistic Director of Bibliodance, a modern dance company that investigated the relationship between dance and books. Ann has worked as the Events Manager of the Hampton Recital Foundation and as the Chief Operations Officer of Tekton Development Company. She has worked for Zaccho Dance Theatre since 2000 in many different capacities including Dancer, Assistant to the Director, Office Manager, and Business Manager. She also works as an independent financial consultant for artists and arts organizations. When not crunching numbers, she is generally covered in sawdust and glue, working as an artist assistant for internationally acclaimed sculptor, Shawn Smith.
Veronica Blair
YPAP Associate Artistic Director
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.
Afiya “Fi.” Williams
Assistant to the Artistic Director
Afiya “Fi.” Williams is a renaissance woman -- producer, educator, and artist working for racial and social justice at the intersection of art, education, and community. She has over fifteen years of experience working for social change in non-profit arts and education, nurturing community, and producing programs, events, and films. A world traveler, Fi has built connections and community around the world, working to understand and minimize the barriers and divisiveness caused by perceived differences. Fi believes art, joy, rest, and storytelling have vital and irreplaceable roles within activism, and through these, she seeks to fuel the movements for racial justice by fostering ways of thinking and being that create healthy lifestyles and thriving communities.
Jessica Bailey
Artist-in-Residence Program Manager
Jessica Pearl Asteria Bailey (she/they) is a multi-disciplinary artist and arts administrator born and raised on the westside of Chicago. Her primary mediums are dance, aerial arts, and theater. She graduated from Princeton University in 2019 where she majored in Sociology and received certificates in African American Studies. After graduating, Jess worked in Princeton University’s Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students as the Inaugural Arts Program Coordinator, a role that required her to build artistic programs and strategic initiatives dedicated to serving the 80+ student-led arts groups on-campus. She currently attends Antioch University New England where she is working on a Master of Arts in Dance Movement Therapy: Couple and Family Therapy. As an aspiring Dance/Movement Therapist, she hopes to provide group therapy spaces that use dance and movement to create more life-sustaining, embodied practices for those who have been oppressed and deemed disposable by our society.

Jess's dance background is rooted in African American social dance, hip-hop, and musical theater. While at Princeton, they were a member of Bodyhype Dance Company, where she choreographed all 4 years and served as Assistant Artistic Director for 1 year. As an aerialist, they trained at Chicago Aerial Arts and Lifted Aerial Dance Company. They are also a member of the BIPOC Circus Alliance Midwest with whom they performed at the 2022 Chicago Circus and Performing Arts Festival. As a dancer and company member of Hawkins House of Horton and Red Clay Dance Company, they made their professional debut in Rest.Rise.Move.Nourish.Heal, a site-responsive dance ritual created by Founder and Artistic Director Vershawn Sanders-Ward. Jess hopes to continue her passion for the arts and community here in the San Francisco Bay Area as Zaccho’s Artist-in-Residence Program Manager!
Lizzy Spicuzza
Youth Performing Arts Program Manager & ZYC Production Manager
For more than 35 years Lizzy Spicuzza has been involved in the arts in San Francisco. First as a performer and them as a production manager, stage manager, lighting designer, producer, teacher and technical consultant. For the past 25 years Lizzy has worked with Zaccho Dance Theatre in many different capacities. Lizzy is also a long time member of Project Artaud and served on the Board of Directors for Theater Artaud Inc. for 18 years.
Erik K. Raymond Lee
Director of Dance Club
Born and raised in Oakland, California, Erik K. Raymond Lee began his dance journey UC Berkeley where he trained and earned a BA in Dance & Performance Studies and Art Practice with a concentration in painting [2010]. Erik since has Joined Dimensions Dance Theater under the direction of Deborah Vaughn, as a company member and choreographer; debuted choreographic work as a participant in the Artist in Mentorship Program (AMP) with Black Choreographer’s Festival (BCF) directors Laura Elaine Ellis and Kendra Kimbrough Barnes (2015) earned his MFA in Dance from Mills College. Erik also volunteers in dance ministry with the Worship in Arts Ministry (WAM) at Covenant Church for now 10 years functioning as Artistic Director/choreographer since 2014. His work whether within the realm of dance theater or faith-based events aims to inspire, give hope and uplift the community.
Saharla Vetsch
YPAP Community Engagement Coordinator
Saharla Vetsch (she/her) is a Somali American multidisciplinary artist rooted in the Bay Area. Her focus is on movement storytelling using elements of vertical dance, drag, and spectacle. Saharla earned a degree in Performing Arts and Social Justice with a focus on dance from the University of San Francisco, her academic journey has been marked by a profound commitment to the transformative power of movement. She has cemented this commitment in her previous role as the Development Associate for Luna Dance and Creativity (FKA Luna Dance Institute).

Saharla's creative spirit takes on a new form with the emergence of her drag persona, Major Hammy (he/him). As Major, Saharla strives to be a beacon of self-expression, harnessing the liberating power of dance to ignite the same sense of freedom in others. In addition to performing in Bay Area Queer nightlife Saharla was a Radiate fellow with RAWdance and has had the opportunity to choreograph for and in collaboration with many performing artists. In addition she has collaborated and performed with Bay Area based companies such as: Flyaway Productions, OX Performance Group, Detour Dance, CounterPulse, Oaklash, Zaccho Dance Theare & Oasis Arts.
Maia Walker
Studio Manager
Maia has been a multidisciplinary circus artist since 2009 with a background in gymnastics and has received the bulk of her training in the Bay Area. Maia is a certified medical assistant, RYT- 200-hour certified vinyasa yoga teacher, as well as a RYT-30 hour certified aerial yoga teacher. Additionally, she was the founder of Aerial Artique, an aerial and acrobatic fitness studio located in San Francisco that operated from 2012 to 2020. Maia has led circus retreats internationally (Costa Rica, Mexico, Hawaii, Cuba) and continues to teach aerial and flexibility classes and workshops locally in San Francisco and finds herself happiest in an administration environment amongst like minds.
Charlie Formenty
Graphic & Web Designer
Charlie Formenty, (she/they) a Franco-American artist, explores contemporary themes such as access to culture, feminism, the representation of the LGBT+ community, social justice, and environmental activism, all while striving for a compelling narrative and visual expression.

During her 15 years in California, she served as the artistic director of the Carte Blanche company, collaborating with various artists and performing arts organizations, including the Burning Man Festival, Theatre of Yugen, SFJAZZ, the International Body Music Festival, Fort Mason Center for Arts and Culture, SoundCave, and more.

Leveraging her extensive experience, Charlie introduces an innovative approach to directing actors, emphasizing narrative development, ensemble work, and theatrical exploration through dance, with a steadfast commitment to interdisciplinary creative freedom.

Charlie takes pride in her work as a graphic designer at Zaccho Dance Theater, appreciating Joanna Haigood's dedication to social justice and the remarkable quality and relevance of her art.
David Freitag
Master Rigger
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.
Brechin Flournoy
Grant Writer
Brechin Flournoy has been active in the Bay Area performing arts scene since the early 1990s. She came to San Francisco after graduating from Antioch College (Yellow Springs, OH) with a degree in Dance and Arts Administration. Brechin’s early career as a dancer and choreographer led to her forming the influential San Francisco Butoh Festival, an international dance festival that investigated the complexities of Butoh through symposia, performances, and classes. It was the first ongoing American dance festival dedicated to Butoh, for which Brechin was awarded the San Francisco Bay Guardian GOLDIE Award/Dance, and a Sustained Achievement in the Arts by the IZZIEs. Brechin was the guest dance curator at Yerba Buena Gardens Festival for several years; and she worked as a publicist and fundraiser for all performing arts genres for many years. Brechin taught professional development workshops for non-profit organizations and funders, including the Center for Cultural Innovation (CCI), and participated in panel discussions at Americans for the Arts and National Arts Marketing conferences. For the past few years, Brechin has been the Development Director of Flyaway Productions; a freelance grant writer for other non-profit organizations; and served on grants panels for the SFAC and Oakland Cultural Council. In her creative life, Brechin is a professional photographer specializing in portraits of preschoolers, street photography, and conceptual art and design.
Inez Schynell
Teaching Artist
San Francisco native, Inez Schynell is a choreographer, social justice facilitator, dance educator, and beauty-prenuer working at the intersection of justice, identity, and dance.

Inez is currently a dance educator and choreographer with Zaccho Dance Theatre’s Youth Performing Arts Program (YPAP). Inez began training and competing in gymnastics at 7 years old. She furthered her studies in Dance performance with D-Fuse West African and Nigerian Folklore dance company, GRRRL Brigade dance company with emphasis on Ballet, Modern Jazz, Belly Dance, and Hip Hop along with studios from the Bay Area to New York. As a Notre Dame De Namur University dance scholarship recipient, Inez deepened her studies in Dance. Inez uses dance to reclaim identity and justice.

In 2020, Inez was a host and member of the comedy ensemble for Bakanal de Afrique, a Global international arts and culture festival that highlights Dance, Art, Film, and Culture across 10 different countries.

Inez is a facilitator for restorative and environmental justice working to advance equity in California and beyond. She currently leads weekly sessions at FLY (Fresh Lifelines for Youth) for young people impacted by the juvenile justice system, encouraging them to unlock their potential, disrupt the school to prison pipeline, while learning the current laws that impact them and their rights to advocate for themselves.

In 2018 Inez founded Ctrl Galore; a platform for young women to cultivate, create, and explore ways to take control of their beauty narrative. As a signed model with Rae Agency, she has taken the message to the commercial and global markets.
Jo Kreiter
Teaching Artist
Jo Kreiter is a San Francisco-based choreographer with a background in political science. She thrives at the intersection of social justice and acrobatic spectacle. Through dance she engages imagination, physical innovation and the political conflicts we live within. She founded her company, Flyaway Productions, in 1996. Flyaway Productions is an apparatus-based dance company that advances social issues in the public realm and explores the range and power of female physicality. Under Kreiter’s artistic direction, Flyaway creates dances on both architectural and fabricated steel objects, which are typically off the ground, with dancers suspended anywhere from two feet to 100 feet above the ground. The company creates a sense of spectacle to make a lasting impression with an audience, striving for the right balance of awe, provocation, and daring. Kreiter’s tools include community collaboration, a masterful use of place, a feminist lens and a body-based push against the constraints of gravity.
Over the past 20 years, she has developed a nationally recognized expertise in creating and presenting site-specific performance work. Since 1996, the company has presented or co-presented numerous large scale works, including the award winning Niagara Falling (2012) and Multiple Mary and Invisible Jane (2014). Kreiter/Flyaway is a recipient of four Isadora Duncan Dance Awards, as well as awards from the Center for Cultural Innovation, New Music USA, the Artist Investigator Project of the California Shakespeare Company, CHIME, the NEA, CA Arts Council, Creative Work Fund, Meet the Composer, MAP, the Wattis, Rainin and Gerbode Foundations, the SF Arts Commission, and the SF Bay Guardian GOLDIE. Her articles have been published in Aerial Dance, Contact Quarterly, In Dance, STREET ART San Francisco, Site Dance — the first book written on contemporary site specific performance. In the 2015 book, “Moving Sites: Investigating Site-Specific Dance Performances”, Jo Kreiter’s work is highlighted in the chapter, “Civic Interventions: Accessing Community” using her work as an example of “the politically-driven work of the experienced and prolific site dance artists”. Kreiter is one of a few women worldwide to have gained expertise in the art of Chinese pole acrobatics.
Azraa Muhammad
Teaching Artist
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.
Meche Perez
Teaching Artist
Meche is a native San Franciscan, singer-songwriter, music educator, aerialist, and aerial instructor. She feels fortunate to have been trained in aerial dance since she was 12 years old with Zaccho Dance Theatre’s Artistic Director Joanna Haigood and is an alumna member of the Zaccho Youth Company. Since graduating from Berklee College of Music in 2018, Meche has also been a teaching assistant with Zaccho’s youth education programs. Meche has a multidisciplinary approach to her artistic work. As a performer, Meche has collaborated with and performed for Flyaway Productions, Youth Circus Center Festival, and BAYCAT. She is also co-founder of The Humxn Collective, a creative consulting company for queer and BIPOC musicians. Over the years, Meche has contributed her songwriting, singing, and acting talents to Zaccho performances. She especially loves working with Zaccho because of the social justice aspects of their work. Through dance, choreography, and music, Meche hopes to inspire youth to learn more about themselves and their communities.
Teaching Artist
Goldie and Izzie Award winner Shakiri has been a performer and choreographer in the San Francisco Bay Area for over thirty years. Her improvisational style developed by performing to live music and by working with the great Ed Mock helped her to become one of the Bay Area’s most exciting and energetic performers. 4’7 Shakiri learned her stature would not allow her to go the traditional route. As a result Shakiri, who has studied African Haitian, various styles of African, modern, and jazz has performed in all genres, and used her experience to develop work of her own. Shakiri has written, directed, and choreographed several dance and theater pieces including, With My Face On Their Face, Breathe, Barnstormin’, and And Their Children’s Children. Her work has a reputation for confronting difficult issues and has been listed twice on the “Best Ten” of the year by the San Francisco Bay Guardian. Shakiri is a member of the internationally acclaimed Zaccho Dance Theater Company touring around the country and abroad since 1988. Shakiri has choreographed for Berkeley Repertory Theatre, danced and toured with Dance Brigade, Ellen Sebastian, Hassan Al Falak, and with her own company Shakiri/Rootworkers. She was a principle performer in famed Revolutionary Nutcracker Sweetie, and enjoyed dancing the part of Nutcracker for several years.
Shakiri is proud to be an arts educator and has taught kindergarten age children to adults at recreation centers schools, Colleges and Universities. She’s also a visual artist and has shown in local galleries, as a part of Art in Public Places, and taught at the Crocker Art Gallery this past summer. As a writer she has short stories published in Zica anthologies, and her latest novel 14 Years Later can be purchased from Amazon. She continues to work on her one woman show Lottie’s Ghosts premiered at Brava For Women in the Arts in San Francisco, and a piece dear to her heart titled Crazy Black Women addressing grief over murdered children. Shakiri is presently collaborating with Bay Area dance company NAKA on a project titled RACE, and an audio book in collaboration with singer composer Melanie Demore.