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Synapse Arts Board


some of the beautiful humans who make it all happen

Rachel Damon


Talk to me about Crosswalk Dances, New Works, performances and mentorship

Rachel Damon 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.

Megan Rhyme


Talk to me about dance classes, sponsorship, joining the Board

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.

Photo by Matt Griffo.

Lucas Greeff

Administrative Coordinator

Lucas Greeff is a dancer, choreographer, and circus artist whose work focuses on expanding the scope of queer & neurodivergent performance, engaging inherent energies, and challenging physical extremity through movement experiment.

Luke received their BA in Theatre from Florida State University, where ze performed and worked for the FSU School of Dance. Luke’s past works include Missile Kid, Bo(ix)y(e) Division, Carnal Inferno, Spectrum, and the Trapping Butterflies Project (artists against domestic violence).

Former dancer for St. Petersburg Ballet Company, Fletcher Dance Project and Joel Hall Dancers; Luke’s ongoing artistic affiliations include Yes Ma’am Circus, Reminiscent Circus, Lucid Banter Project, Synapse Arts, Kenwood School of Ballet, Aloft Circus Arts, and Dance Avondale. Recipient of the 2023 Twisted Windows LGBTQIA+ Artist Award presented by the Chicago Circus & Performing Arts Festival, Luke is the co-founder and co-director of Such Creatures and leads movement practices tailored for queer and neurodivergent movers.

Learn more by following andro_x_alien on Instagram.

Photo by William Frederking.

Nadya Zeitlin

Marketing Coordinator

Nadya Zeitlin is a choreographer based in Atlanta, GA. Her main passions are public art and organization.

Before stepping on the dance path, she has worked in marketing and advertising for 7 years.

She was a recipient of many grants and was selected to participate in several residency programs like Hambidge Cross-Pollination Lab, Dance Canvas and Atlanta Contemporary Choreographic Residency. In addition to traditional venues, she has presented her works in various Atlanta venues including parks, fields, galleries, and public playgrounds.

She's currently an artist in residence with Core Dance.

Photo by Jordan Young.

Dylan Roth

Digital Marketing and Media Coordinator

Dylan Roth is a Chicago-based Dance Artist and Licensed Massage Therapist. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Dance Performance from Columbia College Chicago in spring 2012. Professionally, Dylan has performed with Aerial Dance Chicago, Banks Performance Project, Bodies in Urban Spaces, Carson Reiners, Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre, Deeply Rooted Dance Theater, Esoteric Dance Project, Kelly Anderson Dance Theatre, Khecari, Meadows Dance Collective, Ramble Dance, Synapse Arts, Sildance/AcroDanza, We Stand Sideways Dance, and The Space Movement Project. 

Photo by William Frederking.

Chartamia "Shay" Turner  

Teaching Artist, Collaborator

A native of Illinois, Chartamia is a choreographer, dance educator, and arts administrator. She graduated with a BA in dance from Columbia College 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.

While in Washington D.C., 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 in the 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).

Photo by Eddo Photography.

Vanessa Maxwell

Teaching Artist
Vanessa is a teaching artist all around the Chicagoland area.

She has her BFA in Dance from Columbia College Chicago. She grew up in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Vanessa currently teaches with Tutu School, Dance to Evolve, and is the Artistic Director of Riff Raff Dance Crew at the Mount Prospect Park District. She also is a Work Study at Dovetail Studios.

Photo by Vanessa Maxwell.

Catherine "Cat" Hepler

Collaborator, Teaching Artist

Catherine 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 as they further explore textiles and light.

Amanda Ramirez

Collaborator, Teaching Artist

Amanda 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."

Photo by Sarah Glover.

Timothy Tsang

Collaborator, Teaching Artist

Timothy is s 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.

Self-portrait by Timothy Tsang.

Molly Hillson


Originally from Seattle, Washington, Molly 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 training 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 as a founding member. In this time she has performed leading roles in various ballets such as Don Quixote, Giselle, Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, and The Little Humpbacked Horse as well as restaged Martha Graham works such as Panorama, Steps in the Street, Seraphic Dialogue, and Diversion of Angels.

In 2013, she graduated Magna Cum Laude from Columbia College Chicago’s dance program with a focus in dance education and improvisation and choreographed several original works.

Molly has since performed with Rachel Damon of Synapse Arts, Sara Maslanka of Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble, Emily Stein of Secret Experiments in Ballet, Mags Bouffard, Andy Slavin, Timothy Tsang, Kait Dessoffy, Charlotte Kahler, and many other talented Chicago artists.

Delving into her first self-choreographed work in over a decade, Molly is keen to explore physical and psychological recovery, craft as ritual and care, and the delicate recreation of safe community spaces for individuals at various stages of their own recovery.

Photo by William Frederking.

Kait Dessoffy

Collaborator, Teaching Artist

Kait 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 Matt Griffo.

Lynda Piatt

Teaching Artist

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.

Laura Tennal

Collaborator, Teaching Artist

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.

Photo by Frank Konrath.

Reign Drop

Teaching Artist

Reign Drop is a trans dancer, choreographer, and Co-Founder of We Are Collective. Over the last seven years, they have grown roots in the Chicago dance community focusing on creating sustainable and accessible dance spaces for all ages.

They research contemporary movements that demonstrate autonomy, liberation, and connection. In the community, they have led an Improvisers’ Jam for Chicago Dancemakers Forum, performed for Alix Shilaci and Erin Killmurray, presented work at j e l l o dances, created work for Synapse Arts New Works, and have choreographed for New Dances and the iconic Chicago drag queen Shea Coulee’s "Rewind" music video.

Their newest role includes being Dance Captain for Queer Dance Freakout, the largest trans dance organization in Chicago which aids them in their mission to be heard—to share their story—to honor the stories of all magical trans people.

They are so excited for the opportunity to be working with Synapse again through Trans Dance Connect and are so grateful for their facilitation of this gathering of artists.

Photo courtesy of Reign Drop.

Maggie Bridger

Accessibility Consultant

As an accomplished dancer and PhD student at the UIC Department of Disability and Human Development, Maggie’s distinctive voice and unique artistic vision explore the generative potential of pain in creating movement.

Photo by Matthew Gregory Hollis.

Asimina Chremos

Grantwriting Consultant

Asimina is an independent Philadelphia-based artist and sometime grant writer for artist-run organizations and projects.

Photo by Asimina Chremos.

Janice "JJ" Jennings

Volunteer Bookkeeper

JJ is handling internal record keeping, such as ensuring our transactions are up to date in our Quickbooks, as well as coordinating and streamlining invoices and income streams from various sources.

JJ has 20+ years of bookkeeping experience from her work as the treasurer of the board of the Green Bay Curling Club. She has lots of experience with Quickbooks and in preparing reports for board meetings and we’re delighted to have her help!

Photo by Marcia Sewell.

Jen Stitzell

Accounting Consultant

Jennifer graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and earned her CPA license while working in public accounting. She has experience in a broad variety of industries, with expertise in corporate audits, financial reporting, payroll, taxes, and bookkeeping.

Photo courtesy of Ledgers Inc.

Board Members

Christina Dunn


Christina 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.

Self portrait by Christina Dunn.

LeAnne Vancil Hynes


LeAnne 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.

Photo by Steve Hynes.

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.

Self portrait by Garmez Parks.

Katie Matteson Campana

Artist Representative

Katie is a fully midwestern modern ballerina. She holds a BFA in Dance Performance from the cornfields of NIU. She has performed professionally throughout Chicago in various capacities; with many Chicago modern dance companies, a mysterious traveling circus, acting and tapping in the Tennessee Williams Theater Festival, and Ruth Page's The Nutcracker.

As an instructor, Katie was assisting her mother (also a dance teacher) as soon as she was older than the students. She started her own teaching career more than 20 years ago. Though she has taught the wide range of ages, Katie holds a special place in her heart with young beginners and aims to help create a dance culture that is warm and accepting. Most often, you can see her in the halls of Ruth Page Center making faces at adorable pre-dancers and teaching beginning levels of ballet, modern and jazz.

In 2016, Katie joined the administrative staff at Ruth Page Center. As Community Engagement Coordinator, Katie oversees the In-Residence, Studio & Theater Rental Programs as well as administrating for the Ruth Page School of Dance.

With her copious free time, she hangs out with her gorgeous & very silly family.

Photo by Vin Reed.

Elisa Foshay

Artist Representative

Elisa 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.

Photo by: Jean-Paul Masuda.