Rachel Damon

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

Katie Matteson Campana
Teaching Artist, Ensemble Member

With a dance performance degree from NIU and a boatload of other life experience, Katie Matteson Campana has danced professionally in Chicago for more than ten years. She is always joyful to dance with Synapse Arts. Katie not only loves to dance with the company, but also enjoys her time as a teaching artist with the Arts Partnership Program between Synapse Arts and Loyola Park. She also loves to teach the movers of the future at The Ruth Page Foundation, A&A Ballet, and works with CPS at Blaine Elementary School's Drama Club. Katie has also been lucky enough to dance with DanszLoop Chicago, Emily Stein, The Civic Ballet of Chicago, Mordine & Company Dance Theater, Hedwig Dances, Lauren Warnecke/ Art Intercepts, Joel Hall, as well as running away with a mysterious circus years back. When not dancing, Katie enjoys wandering the beach, stomping to good music, pilates, and thrift stores.

Laura Tennal
Teaching Artist, Ensemble Member

Laura Tennal is a native of Little Rock, AR where she grew up dancing with The Arkansas Youth Ballet Company under Antonio Mesa as well as barefoot in the dirt. She has been rocking out in Chicago since 2005 and nearly all of that time has included dancing with Synapse Arts. Laura holds a BFA in Theatre Arts with a concentration in dance performance from Northern Illinois University where she graduated in 2004. Besides dancing she enjoys working with children in various capacities and loves music and time spent outdoors, particularly in or near large bodies of water.

Gretchen Soechting
Ensemble Member

Gretchen Soechting, a native of Chattanooga, TN, holds a BFA in Dance from Columbia College Chicago. She is in her 6th season with Synapse Arts Collective where she's had the pleasure of appearing in numerous iterations of textile dances! Gretchen has performed professionally throughout Chicago with MaryAnn McGovern, Philip Elson, and Megan Rhyme/Epsilon Delta Labs, appearing in the Chicago Home Theater Festival, Thaw, Produce, Dance for 9.99, Harvest Contemporary Dance Festival, Pivot Arts Festival, and most recently with Chicago-based choreographer and filmmaker, Monica Thomas, at the Crystal Bridges Art Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas. She was the joint recipient of a Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events Individual Artist Program Grant for her work with the Dancers Cooperative in their 2016 mounting of "Scratch" at Beauty and Brawn Gallery and Thinkspace. In addition to dancing, Gretchen has a nascent career in Pilates and can be found teaching and training at Kinetic Axis Pilates and Bodywork.

Megan Rhyme
Teaching Artist, Ensemble Member, Administrative Associate

Megan Rhyme 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.

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.

Catherine Hepler
Ensemble Member

Catherine Hepler is a Chicago based dance performer and activist. Originally from Oakland, CA, she began dancing at age three and gained a rich and varied dance foundation. Her background includes a variety of styles, such as ballet, contact improvisation, Bharata Natyam, and Polynesian dance to name a few. She has also performed with various companies in Oakland, CA, Middlebury, VT, and Chicago, IL. As a dance artist, Catherine is currently interested in using dance as way to deconstruct or critically think about various social constructs. She is happy to be joining Synapse Arts for their 13th season as they further explore textiles and light.

Amanda Ramirez
Ensemble Member

Amanda Ramirez 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."

Dylan Roth
Ensemble Member

Dylan Roth 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.

Margi Cole
Teaching Artist

Margi Cole, founder and Artistic Director of The Dance COLEctive, received a BA in dance from Columbia College Chicago and an MFA in dance from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. As a teacher, she has taught for many educational and professional organizations nationally and internationally. As a performer, Margi has danced with many well-known choreographers and companies. In 2011, Cole traveled to Findhorn, Scotland to join 19 international performers participating in the Deborah Hay Solo Commissioning Project. Margi has received two Illinois Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowships, a 2005 Chicago Dancemakers Forum Lab Artist Award, a 2015 Individual Arts Program Creative Project Grant and a 2017 Professional Development Grant from the City of Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events Grants Department and an American Marshall Memorial Fellowship. She was named one of The Players in New City's "Fifty People Who Really Perform in Chicago" in 2012 and recognized by Today's Chicago Woman among its 2014 "100 Women of Inspiration." Margi is active in the Chicago dance community, having served as a Chicago Dancemakers Forum Consortium Member, on grant panels and in public forums as an arts administrator, dancer and choreographer. Currently Cole is on faculty at Columbia College Chicago, where she has served as a Lecturer and Associate Chair. She is also the Series Program Manager of the Dance Center Presenting Series. You can find more information at www.margicole.com

Synapse Staff

Director - Rachel Damon
Administrative Associate - Megan Rhyme
Administrative Assistant - Molly Hillson

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

Christina Dunn

LeAnne Vancil Hynes

Kathy Watts


Michelle Burger-Modrzejewski – performer, choreographer
Asimina Chremos – consultant
JulieAnn Graham – performer
Matthew Griffo – composer, graphic designer, recording engineer, videographer
Matthew Gregory Hollis – photographer
Ryan Ingebritsen – composer
Christopher Knowlton – performer, choreographer
Sarah Lackner – lighting designer
Nadine Lollino – costume designer and creator
Chih-Hsien/Joan Lin – performer
Matthew McMunn – performer
Chrissy Martin – choreographer
Julia Miller – visuals designer
Dan Mohr – graphic designer, co-curator
Leyla I. Royale – cellist
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