The Curtain Climbers Aerial Dance Company is a collective of aerialists from Southern Oregon who enjoy inspiring and empowering their audiences with their passion for aerial arts through artistic performance.

The Curtain Climbers perform at various locations in the Rogue Valley, so gather your family and friends and experience a thrilling show ~ we invite you to join us and explore, play, dance, fly, soar!

The Curtain Climbers Aerial Dance Company

  Susan Chester, Director - Susan first discovered the art of aerial silks at Burning Man and immediately sought out classes, workshops and aerial festivals in order to study the circus arts. In 2006 she began performing and teaching aerial silks, adding it to her lifelong repertoire of varied dance and athletic experience. In 2007 she formed The Curtain Climbers Aerial Dance Company, which performs regularly at various locations in the Rogue Valley and surrounding area. Her passion for performing and empowering students prompted her to open Catalyst Aerial Arts & Dance in 2009. In addition, Susan is proprietor of The Black Sheep Pub & Restaurant in Ashland, Oregon, which she established in 1992, and where The Curtain Climbers perform each First Friday, in conjunction with the Ashland Art Walk. 

  Veronica DeWitt - Raised in Sixes, Oregon, Veronica began her professional training at the University of Oregon when she was eighteen. She graduated with a BA in dance in 2007 and in the same year joined Dancing People Company. In 2010 she studied with Susan Marshall at the SUMAC workshop in NYC. She is also a member of Nutshell Mask and Theater, working closely with director Jamie Peck and touring to Pennsylvania, and has choreographed for two productions of Children's Musical Theaer of Oregon. Veronica joined The Curtain Climbers in 2010, and hopes to create performance art that represents a new generation of expression through the synthesis of multiple artistic disciplines.

Drew McDermott - After a career in competitive sports, Drew has studied dance and aerial arts for the last ten years. He finds the combination of athleticism and art that aerial offers to be both challenging and inspiring.

  Karen Bolda - Karen discovered aerial dance after being advised to seek out more low impact activities after herniating a disc.  Hanging on a wooden bar proved to be just the thing to help heal the back!  But, she also became smitten, and never went back to just dancing on the ground, preferring to fly.  Karen has been working exclusively on dance trapeze for over five years, but with the encouragement and support of her fellow Curtain Climbers, has added silks to her repertoire.

  Vanessa Nowitzky - Vanessa has a singer since age five, a climber (of trees, originally) for as long as she can remember, and a fairy forever. She absolutely loves dancing in the air, and is privileged to be a part of this company. Vanessa learned dance in Ashland: ballet from Suzanne Seiber, modern from Suzee Grilley and trapeze from Peggy Paver. She has a BFA in music from California Institute of the Arts and also completed actor training at Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts. She has performed five seasons with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and has choreographed a musical for Theater Convivio. She was last seen on the big screen in the Ashland Independent Film Festival. Her website is

  Kelly Pettinger- Kelly first became interested in pole dancing while attending graduate school for Veterinary Medicine in Perth, Western Australia. She attended her first pole dance class at a friend's birthday party and was immedieately hooked. Kelly studied pole dance for several months at Bobbi's Pole Studio in Perth, during which time she got the opportunity to work with and take classes from Felix Cane (Miss Pole Dance Australia 2006 & 2008, World Pole Dance Champion 2009, currently performing with Cirque du Soliel's Zumanity). After returning to the US, Kelly continued pole dancing at local studios and began assisting with teaching inversions and intermediate to advanced pole moves. After hearing of an aerial arts studio in the Rogue Valley, Kelly began challenging herself with aerial silks and trapeze classes. She has participated in numerous performances in the area and continues to challenge herself to attain new skills in a variety of aerial arts. Kelly is very excited to be a part of the dance program here at Catalyst, and is eager to pass on her knowledge and love of aerial arts!

  Wil Dillon- Wil has a varied background in athletic sports and upon discovering aerial dance became a serious student and performer. Wil joined the Curtain Climbers in 2011 and enjoys the creative expression aerial dance brings to his performances.

   Cheyenne Windish - Cheyenne has a performance background in tap, jazz, ballet and hip-hop dance.  She is also an accomplished water-skier, tumbler and gymnast.  She teaches at America's Best Kids Gymnastics, and is pursuing a Masters degree in Education.  She began performing with The Curtain Climbers in 2007 and is a strong member of the team at Catalyst Aerial Arts & Dance.

  Erika Bakke- Erika began her dance studies with ballet, tap and jazz, and later became a member of Talented Feet Jump Roping Team. She began performing with The Curtain Climbers in 2007 and enjoys giving back to the community through aerial dance performance.

  Shayne Carnahan - Shayne was an elite gymnast until the age of seventeen and a springboard/platform diver at the collegiate level.  Her main passion these days is dance of the ballet and modern variety, and of course, learning and performing aerial arts.  She is a local Montessori preschool teacher and is currently enrolled in school for nursing.


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