Past Guest Lectures and Lecturer Bios

Seeking Care from an Artist's Perspective

Rachel Nehmer of Duo Madrona

Rachel Nehmer was introduced to circus arts at French Woods Festival in 1995. Despite her honest attempt to become a "normal person", earning her BS in Biology at Haverford College and taking a job in research at UW, she couldn’t stay away for long. In 2004, she joined Lara Paxton's aerial ensemble The Aerialistas. Not long after she began working with her now-husband Ben Wendel to form a trapeze duet. Known as Duo Madrona, Rachel and Ben have performed thousands of shows all over the world. Highlights include the Cirque de Demain Festival, Circus Monti, Circus Syzygy, Patrick Sebastien's Le Plus Grand Cabaret du Monde, Palazzo, and Teatro Zinzanni. Rachel is also a mom of 2 wonderful kids (Dylan, 5 and June, 2.5), and loves baking, the outdoors, and crossword puzzles. Recently, she became a certified personal trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine and is bringing her own experience as a high level physical performer, circus coach, and mom to help clients get moving! She is particularly passionate about guiding folks through pregnancy and postpartum recovery


April Skelton

April Skelton is a mother of a 4 year old and a 10 month old, and an aerialist and movement instructor of 17 years. She got her start under the mentorship of Susan Murphy (Canopy Studio, the Marsh Studio) with whom she continues to collaborate, and has taught and performed at schools and festivals around the U.S., including as recurring faculty for Aerial Dance Festival and Carolina Aerial and Dance Exchange. She runs the Facebook community, Aerial Mamas and Postpartum/Pregnant Parents Safety & Support, and is passionate about helping others find the healthy intersection of parenthood and aerial arts. She is a physical therapist assistant by training, a Pilates instructor, and a postpartum corrective exercise specialist. Her movement interests are, but her true love is dance trapeze. You can learn more about April at tworopesandabar.com.


Concussions in Circus Artists

Dawn Muci, DPT, ATC, SSC, CSCS

Dr. Muci is a dual credentialed physical therapist and athletic trainer. Dawn has been a physical therapist for nearly twenty years, devoting her time and energy to the performing arts. Dawn started working with performers at Walt Disney World in Florida and was then transferred to Disney’s Lion King on Broadway in NYC where she was the in house physical therapist for the entire Broadway production. After completing her contract at Lion King, she joined Cirque du Soleil working both in Las Vegas and on tour with: Mystere, KA, BELIEVE, Zarkana, and most recently, Drawn to Life (Disney World in Orlando).

After nearly ten years, Dawn left Cirque du Soleil and joined Stanford University’s Orthopaedic Outpatient Sports Medicine Clinic. As a senior physical therapist she specialized in concussion and post-concussion syndrome. 

After 3 years at Stanford, Dawn accepted a Primary Health Care Provider position at the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), touring with professional tennis for 4 seasons. 

Dawn is also active on social media, serving as the Public Relations Chairperson for the Performing Arts Special Interest Group for the American Physical Therapy Association. She is also a social media strategist for a PT clinic in DC. When Dawn is not working, you can find her catching a sunset and enjoying the Florida beach views with her husband and dog.


Psychology of Injury in Circus

Dr. Fleur van Rens

As a lecturer in sports psychology at Murdoch University (Australia), I am passionate about teaching and creating evidence based programs which support the well-being of circus artists trough-out their life-span. I investigate and encourage continuous development of relevant psychological skills and knowledge which will empower them to happily and confidently pursue their ambitions. I hold several degrees in psychology (Bachelor, Master, Master, and PhD), am an accredited Mental Health First Aid Instructor, and have published my research in various international peer-reviewed journals including 'Psychology of Sport and Exercise', 'Journal of Applied Sport Psychology' and 'The Sport Psychologist'. I spend a large part of my free-time training in Circus WA’s big top, where you can find me on the Chinese pole or in the lyra. My juggling skills are still developing, luckily my dog Ollie loves it when I drop a ball.   


Hypermobility in Circus and Performing Arts

Linda Bluestein, MD

Dr. Linda Bluestein has been practicing medicine for over 20 years. Her special interest in treating performing artists (who are at increased risk of hypermobility disorders) stems from her many years as a ballet dancer and shattered dreams of turning professional due to her own EDS. 

An integrative medicine physician with certification in Performing Arts Medicine, Dr. Bluestein takes a unique approach to the evaluation and treatment of this highly specialized population.

Dr. Bluestein is an international speaker on the forefront of research on pain, hypermobility and dance medicine. Professional services include individual telemedicine visits as well as workshops and lectures for groups. Dr. Bluestein received her Doctor of Medicine from the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine followed by the completion of an anesthesiology residency at the Mayo Graduate School of Medicine. She is board-certified by the American Board of Anesthesiology.


Amanda M Blackmon, PT, DPT

Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist

Certified Myofascial Trigger Point Therapist

Mercer University Adjunct Clinical Assistant Professor, MandyDancePT, LLC, Atlanta Ballet, Atlanta Dance Medicine


Amanda (Mandy) Blackmon received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Exercise and Sports Science from the University of Georgia in 2002 and her Doctor of Physical Therapy from Emory University in 2005.  Dr. Blackmon is a board-certified specialist in orthopaedic physical therapy with 15 years of clinical experience treating patients with musculoskeletal conditions. She specializes in treating performing artists and dancers, and is the head physical therapist for Atlanta Ballet. Mandy owns a private practice in Atlanta and is a managing partner for Atlanta Dance Medicine in Roswell, GA.  Dr. Blackmon is adjunct faculty in the  DPT program at Mercer University in Atlanta, GA. Her current research areas of interest include hypermobility, Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S), trigger points and dry needling, and injury surveillance and prevention in dancers and performing artists.  She speaks on these topics at local, state, national, and international meetings.  Mandy is also an instructor for Myopain Seminars in the Janet Travell Dry Needling Training Program. She was certified in 2010 and has been teaching since 2013. She is involved in the leadership of multiple performing arts medicine organizations, including the Performing Arts Special Interest Group for the APTA, Dance/USA’s Task Force on Dancer Health, and the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science.


Setting up shop: Therapy Business Basics

Morgan Meese, DPT

Morgan Meese is a physical therapist, wellness coach, and business consultant. After trying a job in corporate healthcare right after school, she quickly realized that she wanted more out of life than a 9-5 job that only left her with tons of anxiety and depression, and a broken heart over not being able to care for patients in the right way. She moved on to the world of self-employment and found that starting her own business & having a cash-based physical therapy practice where she was in charge of the way she helped her clients made her feel alive again. She jumped into the world of telehealth doing a competition and accidentally became prepared for the pandemic. She was able to continue seeing clients online despite the quarantine and her friends began coming to her asking her how they could do the same thing -- here is where the consulting business was born! When she isn't working with athletes in her garage gym or online, she teaches other clinicians how to set up their own solo cash-based practices so they can start working with clients in a way that serves them too.