Rachel Damon
Director

Rachel Damon (b. 1981, St.Paul, Minnesota) is a Chicago-based theatrical designer, choreographer, and performer whose self-made career bridges onstage and backstage. She uses her multidisciplinary skills to spearhead performance works created through collaboration, improvisation, and teamwork; inviting audiences into environments where emotion and vulnerability are freely expressed, new models of individual agency are explored, and human life is viewed as a creative endeavor.

Damon's artistic voice has evolved through works created under the aegis of Synapse Arts, for which she has served as co-founder and Artistic Director since 2004. Recent pieces include Factor Ricochet, a 2011 experiment in breaking down hardened gender identities, danced by a diverse quartet of improvising dancers with a set of movable walls; Without Pause, a 2012 collaboration with Chicago drummer and composer Frank Rosaly and four dancers, in which the artists explore their animalism with water in large tubs; Swath, a 2013 piece with hand-drawn projections by Manual Cinema's Julia Miller, depicting rural lifestyles in which culture and nature interact in sometimes brutal ways; and 2016's Openwork for an all-female cast, which uses needlework as a source of movement invention, and features a massive textile installation within the performance space, and explores cultural constructions of femininity.

Her many honors include awards from The Chicago Dancemakers Forum, The Illinois Arts Council, 3Arts, The Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, Experimental Sound Studio's CROSSCUT program, and residencies with the Ragdale Foundation, the Morrison Shearer Foundation, and the Chicago Cultural Center. Immersed in theater, dance, music, and visual arts classes and productions as a child, Damon attended the Minnesota state arts magnet high school, The Perpich Center for Arts Education, graduating as a Dance Major in 1999. She later earned a BA in Theatrical Design with a Minor in Dance from Columbia College Chicago in 2005; as a senior she received an Alfred P. Weisman Award, a gift that supports creative endeavors by the College's students.

As an arts educator, Damon has worked with high school, college, and professional performers to develop their dance and interdisciplinary techniques. She has held guest artist positions at Dance Theater New Trier (Winnetka, IL), The Perpich Center for Arts Education (Golden Valley, MN), Knox College (Galesburg, IL), and The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She served as a teaching artist with the ensemble Chicago Moving Company from 2005 – 2010 and is currently an adjunct faculty member at The Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago.

In addition, Damon's production and design work has appeared in world-renowned venues such as the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (Australia), The Fine Arts Center (Mexico City), The University of Texas at Austin; and in Chicago at The NeoFuturarium, The Goodman Theater, and The Museum of Contemporary Art. She served in various technical and administrative positions at the alternative Chicago venue Links Hall from 2004 to 2014 and as the Production Stage Manager and Lighting Director for Grammy-winning ensemble Eighth Blackbird from 2009 to 2015. She is currently a Stage Manager at Blue Man Group Chicago.

Rachel loves to knit while watching action movies, and she eats dessert every day.


Ensemble and Teachers

Kristina Fluty
Teaching Artist, Movement Coach

Kristina Fluty is a movement artist/educator/consultant who has been dancing and teaching all around Chicago since 2002. Her primary creative/performance home has been Molly Shanahan/Mad Shak since 2003, and she is also happy to present her own work at Links Hall, Hamlin Park, Epiphany Church, Stage 773, and many festivals and collaborations with other choreographers. Kristina is full-time at The Theatre School at DePaul University, and also teaches dance at Lou Conte Dance Studio and Dovetail Studios, among other locations and companies. Check out www.kinespark.com for more info on Kristina's background and consulting endeavors.


Elisa Foshay
Teaching Artist
Elisa Foshay loves dancing, making dances and helping other people to dance. A longtime Synapse collaborator, you can currently find Elisa teaching dance for Chicago Public Schools and other folks, raising her daughter and trying to find more time for herself. She holds a BA in Dance from Columbia College Chicago and a MFA in Choreography and K-12 teaching license from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.


Katie Matteson Campana
Teaching Artist, Performer

Katie currently dances joyously with Synapse Arts, Emily Stein, and DanszLoop Chicago. This modern ballerina teaches dance at The Ruth Page School of Dance as well as through Synapse's arts partnership with Loyola Park. She also gets to teach the fanciest jazz squares around in a few Chicago Public Schools, setting pieces for Drama and Musical Theatre. When not busting moves, Katie likes to bust more moves, listen to good music, and practice making fancy cocktails.

Laura Tennal
Performer

Laura Tennal is a Native of Little Rock, AR and holds a BFA in Theatre Arts- Dance Performance from Northern Illinois University. She has been dancing with Synapse Arts since moving to Chicago in 2005, and after a brief hiatus from dance she is beyond thrilled to have the opportunity to continue doing so. Laura has also recently discovered a love for teaching children and is excited about the possibilities that holds.

Gretchen Soechting
Performer

A native of Chattanooga, TN, Gretchen holds a BFA in Dance from Columbia College Chicago. She is in her 5th season with Synapse Arts, and has performed throughout the Chicagoland area in such venues as the Chicago Home Theater Festival, Thaw, Produce, Dance for 9.99, Harvest Contemporary Dance Festival, and in Philip Elson's 2014 Terms and Conditions at Links Hall. She is the joint recipient of a Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events Individual Artist Program Grant in her work with the Dancers Cooperative, a new collaboration that seeks to challenge the current and ongoing struggle for sustainability in dance and the performing arts. When not dancing or coercing her cat into loving her, Gretchen is working towards earning a Pilates certification under the apprenticeship of Kinetic Axis Studio.

Megan Rhyme
Teaching Artist, Performer

Megan Rhyme is a dancer, choreographer, and teaching artist based in Chicago. She has performed as a contemporary dancer with Chicago artists such as Synapse Arts, Salty Lark Dance, Renegade Dance Architects, Nicole Gifford Dance, Janet Schmid, 3 card molly, and Jonathan Meyer. Her choreography has been produced by The Chicago Fringe Festival, The Field Chicago and Links Hall. She has worked with notable art integration programs such as Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education, the Auditorium Theater's ArtsXChange, and Dancing With Class, Inc.

Megan Szajna
Performer

Megan Szajna is currently a sophomore at Columbia College Chicago planning to graduate with honors in May of 2019 with a BA in Dance and a BA in Advanced Management. She has had the opportunity to study dance improvisation, ballet, West African, modern, and other dance forms under Darrell Jones, Jeffrey Hancock, Meghann Wilkinson, Margi Cole, and more. Megan has performed in works on Columbia's Dance Center stage choreographed by faculty members Keesha Beckford, Allen Desterhaft, and Rachel Damon, and has been selected for various student choreographed works. She has also performed at the Auditorium Theater alongside Cerqua Rivera Dance Theater as a part of Columbia College's Open House. She is excited to become more involved in the Chicago dance community through performing, teaching, and collaboration!


Board of Directors


Margaret Reynolds– Chairperson
Proprietor, Dizzy Cow Candy and Curiosity Shop
Retired Owner, Belle Plaine Studio

Megan Zegler – Treasurer
Administration Manager, Cancer Research Foundation

Katherine Dreher – Secretary
Director of Development and Marketing, Bright Promises Foundation

John LaFleur
Director, Strategic Philanthropy

Erica Mott
Director, Erica Mott Productions

Margaret Nelson
Owner, Lumen Siccum Productions

Collaborators


Michelle Burger-Modrzejewski – performer, choreographer
Asimina Chremos – consultant
JulieAnn Graham – performer
Matthew Griffo – composer, graphic designer
Matthew Gregory Hollis – photographer
Christopher Knowlton – performer, choreographer
Sarah Lackner – lighting designer
Chih-Hsien/Joan Lin – performer
Matthew McMunn – performer
Chrissy Martin – choreographer
Julia Miller – visuals designer
Dan Mohr – graphic designer, co-curator
Adam Rose – webmaster
Grant Sabin – scenic design
Brian Shaw – consultant
Sammy Spriggs – performer, choreographer
Jessi Taylor – costume designer
Rustel Weiss – sound designer
Vienna Willems – performer



Photo by William Frederking