Eyes of Eau Claire: Michelle Anthony

Striving to empower women through yoga and performing arts



Michelle Anthony lived in Canada, made her own hula hoops and now teaches yoga and circus exercise classes in Eau Claire.

A local yoga and performing arts instructor says a creative power lives, flows and transcends through her when she performs.

One Eau Claire native combines her love for movement with three different initiatives.

Michelle Anthony co-owns and teaches at Moonrise Aerials, leads of the Torch Sisters, a fire spinning group, and runs a group called Wild Women Midwest, a retreat and empowerment program.

Her mission, she said, seeks to empower women and make them believe in their own power.

Anthony and her business partner, Rachel Duffenbach, own Moonrise Aerials together and teach classes there. Their studio, which opened two weeks ago, is in Banbury Place, where they lead classes in yoga, dance, circus fitness and acrobatics.

“It’s inspiring other women to know we’re just a regular group of people who put in work and practice, and anybody can do this,” Anthony said. “We are really encouraging of other people and hold space for a supportive environment versus a competitive (one), which is really unique about our troop.”

Anthony’s participation with the Torch Sisters spiraled off her hula-hooping hobby, which started in 2009. After she graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, she went to Canada and learned to make hula hoops because she could not bring her own on the trip.

Currently, there are approximately 12 members of the Torch Sisters. They perform either once or twice a month by request. Different props are used, depending on the desired effect. Anthony said beginning spinners usually start with palm torches with one small wick and move up toward fire fans with ten wicks and the fire hoop with five wicks.

Anthony got involved with fire because of Kerri Kiernan, the founder of Torch Sisters and although slightly unsure at first, she said she fell in love with the art form.

The Torch Sisters, Duffenbach said, make their own routines for performances, whereas fellow groups may hire a professional to make the routines for them.

“I think what is kind of unique about us is that we’re 100 percent self-taught,” Duffenbach said. “So we have taken a couple of workshops and classes here and there, but for the most part, everything we do, we pretty much choreograph all of our dances, all of our hula-hooping routines by ourselves.”

Anthony guided Duffenbach in her yoga practice and now runs the business with her.

Duffenbach said the experience made her a stronger person and gave her the tools to be successful.

“I’m really just grateful to her for being a great teacher and for giving me a lot of confidence in myself,” Duffenbach said.

The aerial yoga business draws people from all levels who work to improve their skills. Duffenbach said the atmosphere is meant to be like a community, so people can come in and empower each other.

“It’s really fun to watch students in Michelle and my classes blossom,” she said.

The Torch Sisters perform each year at the UW-Eau Claire Fireball, Anthony said, and it is their favorite event of the year.

“They inspire us to get weirder and bigger and showier,” Anthony said. “It is so amazing that something that big comes to Eau Claire.”

To check out the Torch Sisters, more information can be found on their Facebook page. Moonrise Aerials and details about their classes is also available on Facebook or their website.