Synapse Arts creates, performs, and educates to nurture individual identities and challenge social norms by engaging artists and audiences in the making of dance-theater.
Synapse Arts works towards a world where individuals are free to develop their unique talents and express their singular visions using their minds and whole bodies. We specifically encourage individuals whose creativity is not fully supported by the dominant society, most notably women; those who identify as LGBTQIA+, and their allies; families of varying economic, ethnic and cultural origins; and children.
We believe that those who seek arts and arts education should not face undue obstacles due to location or cost. While valuing the development of each individual, Synapse equally values cooperation and affords situations in which people come together in creative work, collective processes, and ensemble efforts.
Based in Chicago, we work locally and think globally, recognizing that our vision can move through social and artistic networks that defy geographic boundaries.
Dance is for everyone, everywhere
Freedom to create
We support the development of new work and the artists themselves, emphasizing under-represented voices
We employ a multidisciplinary approach in all programs
We focus on process over product, because dance becomes truly accessible when we nurture individual identities and challenge social norms at every stage
Culture of respect
We strive to create spaces that are humane and collaborative with clear expectations for everyone
We work with empathy and are driven by artists and stakeholders who represent intersectional identities
We welcome all types of participation and build community through our artwork
Based in Chicago's diverse Rogers Park neighborhood, Synapse Arts is an Arts Partner in Residence with The Chicago Park District, a vendor with Chicago Public Schools, and an ArtsTour Roster Artist.
We rehearse and offer our affordable education programs at Loyola Park, Berger Park Cultural Center, and Lincoln Park. Our performance programs are available to the public for free or low-cost admission in and around Chicago at black-box theaters, public spaces, art galleries, and private homes.
We serve our constituents and uphold our values through the collective processes we use when creating, producing, and presenting original dance-theater works which tackle themes of identity and self-determination; as well as when providing classes that enable children and adults of various abilities and backgrounds to gain new fluencies in their physical expression, thus experiencing autonomy and self-directedness.
Behind the scenes, we provide professional development opportunities so that staff and artistic associates can be viable artists and agents of change in the cultural economy of our city, nation, and world. We extend our impact via occasional touring in the Midwest and to points nationally and abroad.
Founded in 2004 by a dancer, a theater-maker, and a photographer, interdisciplinary projects by our member artists have traveled internationally, from clouds to stages and sidewalks. Acclaimed projects include "Stridulate" the hybrid voice-and-movement piece that was named one of New City's "Top Ten Performances of 2009" and presented at the Roy Hart International Arts Centre, "The First Sound," an installation commissioned by Redmoon Theater, and "Factor Ricochet," an evening-length work on the embodiment of gender which premiered in 2011.
Synapse is home to the works of Artistic Director Rachel Damon, and under her direction the company has created projects that have been supported by the exclusive Chicago Dancemakers Forum Lab Artist Grant, MetLife New Stages for Dance, Experimental Sound Studio: CROSSCUT, Links Hall, The CliffDwellers Arts Foundation, The Illinois Arts Council, The Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago, The Ragdale Foundation, The Chicago Artists Coalition, The Morrison-Shearer Foundation, and The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, among many others.
With a history of performing throughout the Midwest, Synapse has been presented outside of Chicago at The Southern Theater, Intermedia Arts, The Bryant Lake Bowl Theater, and the TEK BOX in Minneapolis.
The Synapse Arts' New Works program fosters artist development through presentation of emerging artists. Five years of this program have succeeded in sharing resources with independent artists, offering each paid dancers, rehearsal space, and a fully-produced show.
Synapse is also a co-presenter of the popular series collision_theory. Curated by Rachel Damon and Dan Mohr, 'blind-dates' between musicians and dancers bring seasoned improvisers from both disciplines together to navigate an unpredictable landscape of spontaneous collaboration — a "collision." collision_theory has provided a platform for the serious presentation and analysis of cross-disciplinary improvised performance for five years.
Synapse Arts is based in a city that is called Chicago by many, on the traditional homelands of the Council of Three Fires: the Ojibwe, Odawa, and Bodwéwadmi (Potawatomi) Nations. Many other communities such as Dakhóta, Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, Kaskaskia, Kiikaapoi (Kickapoo)Peoria, Myaamia (Miami), Ho-Chunk, Menominee, Sac, and Illinois also resided here in the Upper Midwest. Before their lands were forcibly taken under the Treaty of Chicago in 1833, this region was long a center for these diverse peoples to gather, trade, and maintain their kinship and cultural ties. Chicago today is home to one of the country’s largest urban communities of Indigenous Americans. We acknowledge this tragic history, and the many privileges we have gained at great cost, as we also celebrate the vibrancy that Native Americans continue to lead in this city and country.
What is a land acknowledgement?
A Land Acknowledgement is a formal statement that recognizes and respects the original residents and stewards of the lands upon which we live, work and play. It is also a recognition of the enduring relationship – historical and current – that exists between Indigenous peoples and their homelands.
Why do we recognize the land?
The website of the Duwamish Tribe notes that land acknowledgements are not a new practice. Indeed, recognizing the land is a “traditional custom dating back centuries for many Native communities and nations. For non-Indigenous communities, land acknowledgement is a powerful way of showing respect and honoring the Indigenous Peoples of the land on which we work and live.” Furthermore, acknowledgement is a step toward correcting the institutionalized stories and social practices that erase the history and culture of America’s Indigenous peoples. It is also a way to invite and honor the truth. Land acknowledgements can also help begin to redress this history of erasure, a vital first step if we are to build sustained, reciprocal relationships with Indigenous people in our own communities.
Final words…“Acknowledgment by itself is a small gesture. It becomes meaningful when coupled with authentic relationship and informed action. But this beginning can be an opening to greater public consciousness of Native sovereignty and cultural rights, a step toward equitable relationship and reconciliation.” -- U.S. Department of Arts and Culture.
Here are some resources if you are interested in learning more and taking steps toward informed action:
• First Nations Development Institute
• U.S. Department of Arts and Culture
• Native Governance Center
• Partnership with Native Americans
• National Museum of the American Indian
• Mitchell Museum of the American Indian
• We’re Still Here: Chicago’s Native American Community (a WTTW article from Nov 2018)
• Native Land Digital