Performer • Creator • Educator
Johnny Blazes (they/them) is a movement an social-emotional educator and performer based in the Boston, MA area. Their performances push the boundaries of genre and gender, highbrow and lowbrow, tradition and subversion. Their mission as an educator is to share themself authentically with students, teaching from a foundation of love and humility, while constantly striving to listen and learn as much as teach.
Their current work has two main branches:
• teaching dance and circus arts to students who have historically felt unwelcome in movement spaces, particularly folks who are queer, transgender, autistic, POC, self-identify as fat or plus-size, have disabilities, chronic illness, and chronic pain.
• using music, circus arts, theater, and dance to teach social-emotional learning to elementary school kids, with a focus on conflict resolution, identity formation, and recognizing structures of privilege and oppression with pre-adolescents.
photo credit: Adrienne Mathiowetz
Inclusive Circus and Dance Instruction
All bodies are dance bodies. All bodies are circus bodies.
If you’ve ever felt unwelcome or unsure if you belong in a movement class: you belong in my class! People who are plus-size/fat-identified, older, disabled, chronically ill, post partum, people of color, folks who are trans, queer, neurodivergent – we’ve been told implicitly and explicitly that we don’t belong in movement and fitness spaces. My work as a movement teacher focuses on creating spaces where every body is valued for its unique talents and ways of moving. I’ve spent years un-learning and re-learning dance and circus technique with non-normative bodies at the center, questioning: “Why should a tendu have to look a particular way?” “What is the core skill we want to learn in a gazelle?” “What does this shape look like on your body?” and learning from my students as we reinvent dance and circus for our own bodies, in our own time.
photo credit: Jon Beckley
Gentle Aerials is an aerial arts class at Esh Circus Arts aimed at students who want to move at a slower pace. Everyone is welcome! This class is awesome for folks who have a fear of heights, experience chronic illness or pain, feel uncertain about movement or have historically felt unwelcome in fitness spaces – especially older folks, plus-size/fat-identified folks, and anyone else who wants to try to get upside down for the first time!
This online ballet class is Ballet for Every Body! The class focuses on the fundamentals of ballet: basic positions, shapes, and movement pathways that you can do in your own living room. This class is digitally hosted by Esh Circus Arts.
Private Circus and Dance Lessons
I provide one-on-one and small group lessons in dance, clowning, and accessible circus arts.
With over 15 years of circus stage direction experience, I’ve helped over 100 circus acts come to fruition. I’ve helped students successfully audition for Circus Smirkus, École Nationale de Cirque, École de Cirque de Québec, and NECCA. I especially love working with recreational adult students on their first ever circus, drag, burlesque, or dance act!
I also teach theater/dance to the Professional Preparatory Program at Esh Circus Arts, as well as an intermediate-level dance class that rotates in its focus from contemporary to ballet, improv to choreographic techniques. Contact me for more info!
Through the Arts
As a teacher, I’m passionate about giving young people the opportunity to learn more about how their own minds work, and develop their sense of identity and pride. Social-emotional learning helps create a more just world by teaching children how to connect with each other with empathy, and by building awareness of how power and marginalization affect all of us.
I use theater, music, circus, and conversation to help students uncover who they want to become, and how they want to show up in the world. Intersectionality and liberation are at the center of what I do, with an eye towards cultivating culturally responsive experiences that work for students of all neurotypes, without privileging one way of communicating over another.
My work takes place in the classroom, on the playground, and on the stage. Students practice taking perspective, developing their own voice, and creating art that illuminates their unique experiences of the world.
photo credit: Moses Mitchell
My choreographic process is informed by my practices as an SEL teacher, circus director, and former career as a clown and performance artist. I create works that are collaborative and narrative. I see myself as a facilitator and director rather than choreographer, soliciting movement ideas from my dancer-collaborators and weaving them together to tell a collective story.
photo credit: Jon Beckley
Pluto Return is a collective of dancers who met at Esh Circus Arts in Somerville, in an adult “return to ballet” class. These former former-dancers create work together that celebrates our bodies as they are, not as they used to be, “should” be, or could be. Deprogramming outside messages about size, gender, dis/ability, pain, and perfectionism is core to our process — all while finding joy inhabiting our perfectly imperfect selves.
photo credit: Ezra Varley
photo credit: Jon Beckley
As a soloist, my work is autobiographical and deeply personal. As a disabled dancer, I’m interested in exploring both the limitations and opportunities that my body offers. I’m currently investigating and redefining “virtuosity” for myself, and learning what it means to return to dancing with a body that has undergone many transformations – and has many more to come in the course of aging and living with disability.
Classically trained as a mezzo-soprano and currently re-learning how to sing as a post-HRT bass-baritone, my voice has traveled far and wide: opera, choral music, pop, soul, funk, musical theater – and more to come! Here are some past projects that may one day see new life as I develop my new, uniquely non-binary sound.
Johnny Blazes and The Pretty Boys
a bombastic, horn-filled funk machine that has glittered Boston stages for over a decade
stripped down covers that are clever and soulful
John Surette’s Tomorrow the World
A punk rock opera about a superhero who may or may not have been in the punk band BOYS LIFE