SYNAPSE ARTS

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people

 

some of the beautiful humans who make it all happen


Rachel Damon (she/her) 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 an Artistic Director. Her 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, South House, and the Chicago Cultural Center.

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 as an adjunct faculty member at Columbia College Chicago.

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.

photo by Philip Dembinski

 

Timothy Tsang is a queer Chinese American performer, choreographer and arts administrator. He graduated from Columbia College Chicago, where he performed in original works by Paige Cunningham-Calderella, Bob Eisen and Stephanie Paul, as well as repertoire by Merce Cunningham. Tsang has also performed with Ardent Dance Company, South Chicago Dance Theatre, Mordine & Company Dance Theater, Dance in the Parks Chicago, and in works by J'Sun Howard, Hannah Santisaven, and Kaela Norwood. He currently is a guest performer with The Seldoms for their 20th anniversary. In 2016, Tsang was commissioned by Columbia College Chicago to choreograph for its Open House. Additionally, he has set choreography on Esoteric Dance Project, Mordine & Company Dance Theater, Evanston Dance Ensemble, and has presented works at Auditorium Theater, Links Hall, Fulton Street Collective, Studio5, and The Edge Theater.

photo by Leeway Films

Megan Rhyme (she/her) is a dancer, choreographer, and teaching artist. She has performed with Chicago artists such as Synapse Arts, Salty Lark Dance, Renegade Dance Architects, Janet Schmid, 3 card molly, and Khecari. Her work has been produced by the Chicago Park District's Night Out In The Parks, Synapse Arts, and the Chicago Fringe Festival. She is inspired by intellectual subjects such as science and sociology; her mission is to explore the human brain through the lens of physical experience. 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.

 

Amanda Ramirez (she/her) is a graduate of Texas Tech University with a Bachelor of Arts in advertising and minors in English and dance. She is currently dancing with Vadco, Still Inspired (?): A Series of Four, and under the direction of Joanna Furnans in "Genuine Fake." Throughout the last two years she has been choreographing and performing dance works throughout the city of Chicago and most recently premiered her first full evening length work at Hamlin Park Theater titled "Sonder."

Molly Hillson (she/her), originally from Seattle, Washington, is a Chicago-based dancer and visual artist. She began her training with Pacific Northwest Ballet and Colorado Ballet where she graduated from the Vaganova program in 2009. In the same season, Molly received her arts endorsed diploma from Denver School of the Arts and completed her final season with Colorado Youth Dance Theater. In 2013, she graduated Magna Cum Laude from Columbia College Chicago's dance program with a focus in dance education and improvisation. Molly has since performed works with Rachel Damon of Synapse Arts, Sara Maslanka of Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble, Emily Stein, Mags Bouffard, Andy Slavin, Timothy Tsang, Kait Dessoffy, and many talented Chicago artists. She is currently an arts administrator for the Joffrey Ballet and Synapse Arts.

 

Kait Dessoffy (they/them) wears many hats in the dance community, but is primarily a dancer and choreographer. They grew up dancing recreationally in Cleveland, Ohio, studied theater at Loyola University, and somehow managed to (literally) wiggle their way into a bunch of cool dance projects over the last 8 years. Most recently Kait has danced with Synapse Arts, Valerie Alpert (VADCO), LOUD Bodies, and Meadows Dance Collective. Kait is super grateful for the expansive variety of projects they've gotten to work on over the years, and is excited to continue working with Synapse Arts. When Kait isn't dancing they enjoy riding their bike, listening to podcasts, and bringing up feudalism unnecessarily in casual conversation.

photo by Samantha Vosmaer

Dylan Roth (she/her) is Chicago-based dancer. She received a Bachelor's of Arts degree in Dance Performance Columbia College Chicago in spring 2012. Professionally, Dylan has performed with Aerial Dance Chicago, Bodies in Urban Spaces, Carson Reiners, Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre, Deeply Rooted Dance Theater's Emerging Artist's Ensemble, Esoteric Dance Project, Kelly Anderson Dance Theatre, Khecari, We Stand Sideways Dance, and The Space Movement Project. She has participated in various festivals in the Chicago area and has toured throughout the U.S. Dylan is excited for this season with Synapse Arts.

photo by

Lynda Piatt, originally from Des Moines Iowa, Lynda started her dance training at Westside Dance Academy. Performing in regional and national competitions, she also had the opportunity to perform for Disneyland's 50th Anniversary. In college, as captain of the Northwestern Dance Team, she choreographed hip hop, pom, and jazz routines for halftime shows and competitions.  After graduating, Lynda began teaching dance classes at a performing studio, as well as volunteer classes for inner city high school students through a nonprofit organization. Upon moving to Chicago in 2013, Lynda continues to teach and perform. She has had the opportunity to dance in short films, music videos, and stage performances throughout the city. She is grateful to have been able to learn and dance with so many talented artists. Dancing is one of her greatest passions and she's so thankful for the opportunity to share it with her students.

photo by Lynda Piatt

Chartamia "Shay" Turner is a choreographer, dance educator, and arts administrator in the DC Metro Area. A native of Illinois, Chartamia graduated with a BA in dance from Columbia College Chicago. While in DC, she has had the privilege to perform with Nicole Binder and Gabrielle Revlock, BodyCartography of Minneapolis, MN, Katie Sopoci-Drake "Spacetime Suite", Nancy Havlik Performance Group, Miss Jessica Denson, Tihana Johvanic; and Heather Doyle (both nationally and internationally). Chartamia's choreographic works have been presented DC Metro area including; Small Plates Dance Festival, Errant Movement Two of Us: Evening of Duets, and Glade Dance Collective: NACHMO and set work on Errant Movement performed at Hamlin Park Theater(Chicago). While living in Chicago, Chartamia has collaborated with visual artists Jillan Soto and Murat Adash. Chartamia has presented works in the Chicagoland area including; Chicago's Dance Month, LettersTo Obama, BeastWomen Series, Elgin Ties Dance Festival, Delve Showcase, and Joel Hall's: Dances In The Hall.

Asimina Chremos (she/they) is an independent Philadelphia-based artist and sometime grant writer for artist-run organizations and projects.

Maggie Bridger, consultant in disability access

photo by Matthew Gregory Hollis

Catherine "Cat" Hepler

photo by

Mickey Huang

photo by Keith Wood

Jen Stitzell

photo by

Board of Directors

Christina Dunn is a Chicago native who joined Synapse as an advisory board member in 2018 after attending community events and learning about Synapse's outreach initiatives. From her 15+ years in Bio Pharma working as a scientist and project manager, she brings attention to detail and a different perspective to Synapse's creative processes. Christina has always had a passion for the arts; her mother was a creative and taught her the value of artistic expression. The ability to actualize an idea and share that creation with others is something she’s always admired. Her passion for the Synapse vision and dedication to the arts led to her being voted in as Interim Board Chair in 2022.

Elisa Foshay (she/her) is a Chicago-based dance artist and educator.  After finding her passion for dance through competitive ballroom dancing, she earned a BA in Dance from Columbia College Chicago and a MFA in Choreography with K-12 licensure in Dance from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.  Elisa has performed with numerous Chicago-based dance companies and independent artists, including over ten years with Synapse Arts. Her choreographed works and improvisations have been presented at venues throughout Chicago, Philadelphia and North Carolina. With nearly twenty years of teaching experience in studio, community and school settings, Elisa has shared her love of dance with students aged 18 months-90 years. Since establishing the dance program at Jones College Prep in 2015, Elisa has cultivated partnerships with Columbia College Chicago, the Auditorium Theatre, DanceWorks Chicago, Ayodele Drum and Dance, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and other local and national arts organizations.  Elisa serves as an Arts Instructional Specialist for CPS, and is also a 200-hour certified yoga instructor.  She was honored to be the IAHPERD Dance Teacher of the Year in 2020 and the SHAPE America Midwest District Dance Teacher of the Year in 2022.  She presents regularly on topics related to dance education at professional conferences around the country, and loves working to build and elevate access to quality dance education for all students.  

LeAnne Vancil Hynes was born in California and raised on a small farm in Michigan. She received her BFA in Dance and English from Western Michigan University, then moved to Chicago to choreograph and perform. She worked with a variety of dance companies in Chicago including the Anatomical Theatre, Breakbone DanceCo, Concert Dance Incorporated, and Synapse Arts. Hynes earned her MA in Education at St. Xavier University and has been a middle school English and Science teacher for 15 years. She and her husband reside in Chesterton, Indiana, where she enjoys hiking, yoga, exploring, traveling, and spending time with family and friends. Hynes continues to support her love of dance by serving on the Synapse Arts Board of Directors as the Secretary.

Garmez Parks, born in Arcadia, Oklahoma and raised in Topeka Kansas, Garmez Parks attended Jackson State University with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting, then went on to attend University of Minnesota School of Law. He has worked in many industries in his career; including health care, oil and gas, coal mining, auto industry, and entertainment. Garmez has had many interests in life related to entertainment and the arts. While in college, he was on air and involved in creating and writing PSAs and community calendar spots for local television stations. He was also part of the ownership group of Indoor Football teams, where he was a coach, General Manager, and part of the developing and designing team marketing and choreographing in game entertainment. Garmez played football and basketball in high school and college and is currently on the Executive Committee of the Virgin Islands Powerlifting Federation and lifts for the Federation. He has participated for the past 35 years in organizing and putting on a rodeo in Arcadia, Oklahoma.