Co-Founder and Program Director, Moody Street Circus

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    Melinda Melina Pavlata

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    Melinda coaches Liza on silks.

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    Melinda Melina performs on the lyra with the Fred Elias Ensemble. c. Axie Breen Photography

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    Melinda Melina's one-of-a-kind sword on dagger balancing act.

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    Melina spins at Karoun Restaurant. Photo by Bruce Mount.

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    Melinda hangs upsidedown high atop her Cirque Passion circus tent.

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    Melinda's favorite act is a romantic trapeze duet with her husband Sacha :).

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    Melinda has been performing since childhood. Here she is at the Athens by Night taverna with her mother Rhea in Greece.

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    Melinda Melina wears many hats….even a clown one!

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    Melinda and her daughter Zoe debut their lyra duet at a Moody Street Circus tented show!

Melinda Heywood Pavlata grew up as a child performer in a family of artists, musicians, dancers and circus entertainers. Because her family moved around so much, Melinda attended 16 different elementary and junior high schools while performing on the side. She loved academic inquiry and went on to graduate Wellesley College magna cum laude with Phi Beta Kappa honors in her junior year. She received a Ben Franklin Fellowship to attend graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania and earned a PhD in medieval French literature in 1997. She received awards for outstanding teaching at UPenn and went on to be an adjunct professor of French at Boston College until she somersaulted from the Ivory Tower into a sparkling, full-time life in the arts. Whether she is teaching dance or circus arts, Melinda fosters a down-to-earth, friendly and supportive community and seeks to empower all of her students so that no matter their age, level or ability, they find pleasure in the process of learning and in practicing their skills with positive intention, body awareness and joy.

As a kid, Melinda split her time between Berkeley, San Francisco, New York City, and Athens, Greece, performing in circus, theaters and taverns all the while. At the age of 6 she was turning cartwheels and making human pyramids in the ring as part of the San Francisco-based Pickle Family Circus (where her father Phil Marsh was music director, and her step-mother Cecil MacKinnon was a juggler and acrobat). As a kid, she studied juggling and other acrobatic circus skills with master Hovey Burgess in his famous Saturday morning classes at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. She spent her pre-teen years competing in gymnastics and passing clubs in her family's "Big Juggle" at Sunday picnics in Central Park, a tradition continued at every Thanksgiving gathering to this day. Melinda and her husband Sacha Pavlata -- a 5th generation circus performer and member of the legendary Flying Wallendas high wire team -- performed a romantic trapeze duet around the world.

Melinda was a featured circus artist in
Circus Flora from 1997 - 2011, where she juggled, danced with elephants and stallions, performed high aloft on static trapeze, and choreographed group dances for the show. Melinda has clowned and performed on aerial hoop, aerial fabric, static trapeze. She balances a sword on a dagger while descending into a split. She has appeared in the Pickle Family Circus, Cirque Passion, Moody Street Circus, the Wallenda Family Circus and numerous corporate events around the world.

Melinda's Greek belly dance stage name is “Melina,” and she has performed her signature Greco-Turkish style belly dance, speciality balancing and aerial acts (lyra, silks, static trapeze) at prestigious theaters, venues and circuses around the world, including Singapore's Victoria Theatre, Circus Flora in St Louis, Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, the Wallenda Family Circus in Taiwan, Omega Institute, the Baltimore Museum of Art Theatre and at many luxury hotels for weddings around the world.  Melinda 'Melina' Pavlata is co-founder of her family's belly dance company
Daughters of Rhea, and directs Moody Street Circus studio.
Photos of Melinda Melina in the following video montage are by Alice Gebura, Najmat, and Dreamer's Realm Photography.

Melinda has appeared on NPR's Marketplace and her writing on belly dance, economics and motherhood has been published in the
Gilded Serpent, the Boston Globe, and Brain, Child magazine.  Her scholarly articles on medieval French literature have appeared in the literary journal French Forum. She and her family have been profiled in The New Yorker magazine and the documentaries “So Much, So Fast (2006),” “A Magical Life: Circus Flora (2004)” and “Runaway Circus (2011).” She was a featured dance teacher on the television show “Made” and appeared on the reality show “Bridezilla” when she was contracted to dance at a Bridezilla wedding! Melinda and her husband - Czech circus artist Sacha Pavlata - direct Moody Street Circus, a joyful belly dance and circus arts studio for all ages in Waltham, MA.  

Melina is on the faculty at Kripalu Center of Yoga
and Health and is invited around the world as 'Melina of Daughters of Rhea to teach her empowering, joyful brand of Greco-Turkish style belly dance.
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