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about us

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SONJA SMITH-NOVAK

Sonja has had movement at the forefront of her life for as long as she can remember - growing up as a competitive figure skater in Austria, she later moved on to compete in show dance with her group Royal Jokers Dance Crew. Subsequently she's expanded her interests to include her current obsession with handstands which has brought her to travel the world in order to learn from several renowned teachers. She shared her journey, including many interviews with handbalancers all around the world, through her work at Handstand Diary. Acting as the Founder, CEO, and Head Coach at nook.

 

Sonja currently resides in the beautiful foothills of the Alps with her husband and now business partner, Ivo. She has found her purpose in showing up daily for her students to guide them to their full potential and in building a community of movers from all around the world through nook.

Experience:

  • since 2013: Personal Trainer

  • 2009-2016: Master of Science in Sports and Nutrition Science, University of Vienna, Austria

  • 2010-2012: Certified Personal Trainer, Austrian Academy of Sports

  • 1996-2009: International Competitive Figure Skater under Coach Elena Romanova

  • 2009: Certified Dance Instructor, University of Sports Vienna, Austria

  • 2009-2015: International Competitive Dancer at the Royal Jokers Dance Crew, sponsored by Boris Nebyla e.u.
    Ongoing education through attendance of several workshops, courses or training one-on-one, including Ido Portal, movnat, Yuri Marmerstein, Emmet Louis, Mikael Kristiansen, Ulrik Ask Fossum, Yuval Ayalon, Miguel Santana, Handstand Factory, Coach Bachmann, Harry Williams, Mau Jara (INAC Circus School, Portugal), Kiyv Academy for Circus and Variety Arts

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JOSH NOBLEMAN

Josh is a certified personal trainer, certified Movement Flow instructor, enrolled in the Instructor program at École Nationale de Cirque, graduating this summer, and an all-out obsessed hand balancer. He loves to help people overcome their fears about moving. 
Josh also wrote the bar exam, articled, and practiced law. Our passions can combine in unexpected ways. Students have found Josh's analytical approach, calm demeanor and clear communication style effective for mastering difficult skills.

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IVO NOVAK

Ivo is originally from Austria and has long been fascinated with not only the art, but the science of photography and film. Several years ago he began working as a photographer and videographer, shooting for Handstand Diary as he and Sonja traveled the world. It was during that time that he realized film was the amalgamation of his appreciation for not only capturing the moment, but also sharing it with others.

 

Similarly, Ivo loves optimizing processes and has a natural affinity towards all things tech and numbers. He is therefore perfectly suited to be the one behind the scenes (and behind the lens) at nook, making sure that the website and video platforms stay up-to-date. Ultimately, he strives to provide you with an excellent quality interface and digital experience so you can stay focused on what's truly important.

Experience:

  • 2013-2018: Managing Technical Ingenieur in Constructions at Sozialbau AG

  • 2018-2019: Trip around the world; shooting & editing countless interviews for Handstand Diary

  • 2018-2019: Freelance Photographer and Videographer shooting for clients, such as Handstand Factory, Montée, Bali Handstand Retreat and several weddings

  • 2019: Inventory Manager, Photographer and IT Manager at Sarah's Silks

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JULIETTE FRENAY

Juliette was studying Fine Arts in Paris when she was introduced to circus. She started taking contortion classes with Weiwei LIU and Lin YUNG BIAU at the School of Chinese Performing Arts in Paris in 2014, parallel to her art studies. Gradually, contortion became more than a hobby for her when she realized how it helped her understand the body. What she learned technically at school during morphology classes and anatomical drawings could be experienced during contortion and helped heighten her body awareness further.

During an Erasmus exchange between art schools in Iceland in 2016, Juliette added dance, yoga and balances to her contortion practice and trained with the members of Sirkus Islands. She obtained her Master in Fine Arts in 2018 in Reykjavik and Paris with a diploma based on performance, and the image of a moving body.

In 2018 she went to China to study with the acrobatic troupe in Tianjin alongside other students and Weiwei, her contortion teacher. She followed the professional training of comedy Faun in Montreuil, School of Circus and Movement Arts, taking classes in classical and contemporary dance at the same time which were a very valuable contribution to her education. All of her different experiences sparked her interest in sharing what she learned and caused her to start teaching flexibility with a focus on building a healthy and sustainable practice.

In September 2021 she decided to settle on the Nice coast, where she was born and raised and is currently attending an Ashtanga Yoga Paris training with Gerald Disse & Linda Munro in the studio in Golfe Juan, which she started in April 2022.

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