Synapse Arts

Synapse Arts (Chicago, IL) was founded in 2004 by three Columbia College students: dancer Bethany Betzler, theater-maker Rachel Damon, and photographer Kristin Helfrich. In 2007, Betzler and Helfrich relocated to pursue their endeavors in other cities. These departures catalyzed the crystallization of the company’s current structure: Damon was elected as Director, and in this capacity she established staff roles, developed a board of directors, and set a cycle of programming in motion.

Synapse Arts-New Works is a creation-and-production program that was instigated by colleagues who approached Synapse for support in 2007. In subsequent annual cycles, a public application process was instated, a shift made in response to the dance community’s request for wider access to the program. New Works buoyed both Damon and Synapse ensemble members as well as the guest artists, and has helped launch some of Chicago’s most intriguing young artists including Christopher Knowlton, Ni’Ja Whitson, and Lauren Warnecke.

The company’s first evening-length piece was made possible with support from a CROSSCUT grant from Experimental Sound Studio and Links Hall. The piece “Stridulate” blended vocal and choreographic expression and was named one the Best Dance Performances of 2009 by NewCity and the work went on to tour to France. As a 2010 recipient of The Chicago Dancemakers Forum Lab Artist Award, Director Rachel Damon created “Factor Ricochet”, an ensemble work which laid the groundwork for her methodology. A 2012 award from the MetLife New Stages for Dance Program introduced the company to the national dance community with a commission by The Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago. The company has since been presented at venues such as The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, The Athenaeum Theater, The Chicago Cultural Center, and venues throughout the Midwest such as the TEK BOX, The Southern Theater, and Intermedia Arts. The company celebrated its 10th season with the 2015 premiere of “You’re So Stubborn”, a DCASE Storefront Theater commission. 2016 was largely dedicated to the development and presentation of “Openwork”, a project that blends dance and textiles, created with support from 3Arts.

In 2012, Synapse began professional development with Pentacle and was recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Synapse Arts became an Arts Partner in Residence at Loyola Park in 2014. Through this symbiotic relationship, Synapse maintains a rehearsal home and provides high-quality dance classes and free arts programs to the public. A new Board of Directors was ushered in beginning in 2014, with support from The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation and training through The Arts and Business Council’s On BOARD program. Fortified by the recent growth of the Board to six members, the company enters 2017 with commissions from Pivot Arts Festival, Make Music Chicago, and composer Tim Daisy.

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Rachel Damon is a designer, choreographer, and performer whose career bridges onstage and backstage. As a co-founder and the Artistic Director of Synapse Arts, she has been honored to receive awards from organizations such as the Chicago Dancemakers Forum, the Illinois Arts Council, MetLife, The Saints, 3Arts, and The Department of Cultural Affairs for works that have been presented throughout the Midwest and in Europe. Currently a Stage Manager at Blue Man Group and an Adjunct Faculty member at The Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago, Rachel loves to knit while watching action movies, and she eats dessert every day.

Matthew Gregory Hollis (duet) William Frederking (solo)