NEW Dances 2019 e-Program

NEW Dances A New Generation - A joint project by Thodos Dance Chicago and DanceWorks Chicago


Following a successful premiere partnership in 2018, Thodos Dance Chicago and DanceWorks Chicago are excited to build on last season’s pilot collaboration and continue a shared tradition of developing choreographic talent while serving and supporting Chicago’s dance community by jointly presenting NEW Dances 2019. NEW Dances 2019 continues its over 30-year tradition of providing an extensive in-house choreography incubation program for Chicago’s dance community with Melissa Thodos, Founder and Artistic Director of Thodos Dance Chicago, and Julie Nakagawa, Co-Founder and Artistic Director of DanceWorks Chicago at the helm. NEW Dances was founded by the Chicago Repertory Dance Ensemble in the 1980s and has found a home with Thodos Dance Chicago since 2000. The tradition now continues as a joint presentation of Thodos Dance Chicago (TDC) and DanceWorks Chicago (DWC).

NEW Dances offers opportunities for early-career choreographers to realize and share their creative vision with the community and to grow. It is a project that offers local choreographers the opportunity to craft new work for the stage with no expectation other than the investment in the journey. Few opportunities exist in the United States for emerging choreographers to receive robust artistic, financial, and production support to realize their creative vision for the stage. In addition, Melissa Thodos (TDC) and Julie Nakagawa (DWC) along with a panel of leaders from the Chicago dance community provide mentorship for the artists during and the process and post-production as well. This project invests in the growth of the dancemaker by providing the valuable resource of feedback during the creative process. The panel plays a pivotal role both mid- and post-process by reviewing each work as it develops and also when complete and provides supportive, neutral, and honed individual feedback.


Melissa Thodos, a choreographer, educator, and performer for over 30 years, founded Thodos Dance Chicago in 1992. For 25 years, the company offered dancers a place to perform, a place to create new work and a place to educate the next generation of dancers. Thodos Dance Chicago successfully performed and taught for over one million dance fans in Chicago, across the country in 27 states, and around the world on five continents.

In its 27th year, Thodos Dance Chicago has evolved to undertake projects that provide the greatest impact in the Chicago community beyond as a project based dance organization. Our mission is to engage and enrich the community through dance creation, advocacy, education, and mentorship. TDC is also working with Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Chris Olsen on creating documentaries and film about the development of and the performance of some of the Company’s high profile signature story ballets and dance theater works. In addition, Thodos Dance Chicago continues to host seasonal workshops for the advanced, pre-professional and professional dance artist. For more information, visit


Founded in May 2007, DanceWorks Chicago is committed to building a foundation for early career artists by providing a laboratory from which dancers and choreographers propel themselves and the art form to a new level of artistry through training, collaboration, mentorship, and performance. DWC’s effort to nurture and convene the next generation of artists, audience, and dance citizens, inspires, empowers, and contributes to a sustainable future for dance. For more information, visit


Support NEW Dances artists with a donation.
Thodos Dance Chicago and DanceWorks Chicago’s commitment to our commUNITY and dedication to its talented local choreographers, performers, and designers is made possible through your support of this special project. Your donation helps support studio time for choreographers and dancers, mentorship and production support for choreographers to enhance their professional development, and theater space to connect artists and audiences.

Make your tax-deductible contribution HERE:     ||


$2,500 AND ABOVE
Compliance Program Management, LLC
Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation


Lesli L. Babbs
Parke & Lena Ballantine
Heiji Choy & Brian Black
Paula & Greg Bork
Mary Claire & Doug Allvine
Anna Giannoulias
Donald Hunter & Lew Lampiris
Jeehyun Lee & John Pak
Diane & Paul C. Reilly


Up to $499
Cindy Fluxgold
Arthur & Lee Herbst
Gail J. & Robert B. Loveman
Adelina & Mark Markarian
Brita Miller
Nancy & Thomas Patterson
Ratas Wholesale Liquor Company, Inc.


Coda Di Volpe
Ashley Rockwood & Dancers Awareness Project: DAP


Ashley Rockwood, DAP: Dancer Awareness Project
Lizzie Rolston, Athletico
Leizl Basilio, Coda di Volpe
Leslie Babbs, TDC Board Member
Jackie Kling, See Chicago Dance
Patricia Blair, Ballet Chicago
Dan Duell, Ballet Chicago
Sue Oros, Ballet Chicago
John Schmitz, Dance Chicago
Beth Bullock, Athenaeum Theatre
Allan Chambers, Athenaeum Theater
Jeff DeLong, Athenaeum Theatre
Kevin Scott, Athenaeum Theatre
Jim Lai, Lawyers for the Creative Arts
Aayushi Patel, Lawyers for the Creative Arts
Keila Hamed-Ramos
The Saints, Volunteers for the Performing Arts

TDC Board of Directors

Kim Vatis, President
Shannon Raglin, Vice President
Lesli Babbs, Secretary
Rick Johnston
Christine Nappo
Diane H. Reilly
Melissa Thodos

DWC Board of Directors

Leah Kaiser, President
Lauren Vitale, Treasurer
Katherine Hynan, Secretary
Jane Acker
Lena Ballantine
Parke Ballantine

TDC Advisory Board

Sonia Cooke
David Hall
Don Hunter
Darlene Johnson
Robert W. Karr, Jr.
Robert Loveman
Elaine Margulis
Michael Nugent
Chris Olsen
Ann Reinking
Liz Sharp

DWC Mentorship Council

Andreas Böttcher, Co-Founder & CEO Emeritus
Lou Conte
Pam Crutchfield, Co-Founder & President Emeritus
Allan Drebin
Mazen Ghalayini
Sarah Solotaroff Mirkin
Deidre-Ann Perry
Vin Reed
Tim Robinson



Choreographer: Jana Bennett
Music: Arash Akbari, Hans Zimmer, Berurier Noir, Ali Phi, Osheyack (feat. Milky He), Boys Noize and Virgil Abloh; Shakespeare monologue voice over performed by Sophie Scanlon. Sound by InspectorJ; music mixed by DJ iLLEST in collaboration with Jana Bennett.
Dancers: Quincie Bean, Jade Hooper, Elijah Richardson, Tori Rumzis, Jack Taylor, Imani Williams
Description: A life full of grey.


Choreographer: Lauren Blane
Music: Hugues Le Bars
Dancers: Abby Ellison, Sarah Jones, Cameron Lasater, Erin Quigley, Simone Stevens, Kallie Tierney
Description: Sometimes we have to make room at the table for others to have a seat.

Even lovers drown

Choreographer: Katie Carey
Music: kangding ray, flume, Nomvdslvnd, and Johann Johannsson
Dancers: Tara Charvat, Kristen Donovan, Sarah Fluegel, Racquel Mar
Description: "you will never tame her, for she is the sea"- JmStorm


You can sleep when you’re dead

Choreographer: LOUD BODIES
Music: "Groove Is in the Heart" by Deee-Lite, "When A Fire Starts To Burn" by Disclosure, and "Rest" by Rival Consoles
Dancers: Kristen Donovan, Abby Ellison, Sarah Fluegel, Elijah Richardson, Imani Williams
Description: Our work explores both the beauty and exhaustion of overworking oneself and the humanity of effort. It is our goal to show these themes through rhythmic club dancing, contemporary dance forms, and dance theatre.

Another Side of Dream

Choreographer: Rigoberto Saura
Music: Zunftiger Schuhplattler by Schuhplattler Hitparade, Landfall by Kronos Quartet and Laurie Anderson, and Dime Adios by Lecuona Cuban Boys
Music Editing: Wilson Hicken
Dancers: Quincie Bean, Erin Quigley, Racquel Mar, Tori Rumzis, Simone Stevens
Description: Let’s think for a moment how dreams can change our lives and how much we can learn from them.

Idiosyncrasy Frequency

Choreographer: Francesca Baron (in collaboration w/ dancers)
Music: Divan Gattamorta, Matt Benyayer, and Tom Edward
Dancers: Tara Charvat, Jade Hooper, Sarah Jones, Cameron Lasater, Jack Taylor, Kallie Tierney
Description: How many eye-catching moments captured you? 😉

Discussion with the Choreographers Follows Immediately


Francesca Baron, ND ‘19 Choreographer, (Morton Grove, IL). Francesca Baron is a Chicago-based choreographic and performing artist who is drawn to creating because it allows expression through a myriad of worlds. She enjoys the collaborative rehearsal process and is always in awe of what the dancers have to offer. Her work has been shown at the American College Dance Association, College of Dupage Choreographer’s Showcase, A New Light Festival, Emergence Summer Festival, and Lindenwood University. Additionally, she has created original works for Esoteric Dance Project and Inaside Chicago Dance. Francesca looks forward to growing within the dance community and connecting with others through the joy of dance.

Jana Bennett, ND ‘19 Choreographer, (Chicago, IL). Jana Bennett is the Founder and Director of SkunkWorks Dance, a ground-breaking Chicagoland dance studio and professional project company. This past February, Jana produced the beloved SkunkWorks’ dance film Minimum Wage and is currently in the creation process for two new works. Jana danced professionally for many years as an original member of Cocodaco Dance Project. She has performed in pieces by renowned choreographers including Francisco Avina, Kanji Segawa, Ronn Stewart and Sam Watson. Jana holds her B.F.A in Dance with honors from TCU. Keep up with Jana by following her on Instagram @dancebyjana and @skunkworksdance!

Lauren Blane, ND ‘19 Choreographer, (Glendale Heights, IL). Lauren began at the Faubourg Ballet Academy under Watmora Casey, and graduated from Grand Valley State University with a degree in Dance. Lauren was a scholarship student at the Lou Conte Dance Studio under Claire Bataille, danced with Giordano Dance Chicago’s Second Company, and performed with Beyonce on Oprah’s Farewell Episode. Lauren’s been featured in multiple shows at The Marriott Theater and Drury Lane, and has taught for Chicago Dance Connection, Dance Masters of Wisconsin, and Chicago National Association of Dance Masters. Lauren is the founder and AD of the Main Street Ballet Company in Lake Zurich. For padre.

Katie Carey, ND ‘19 Choreographer, (Schaumburg, IL) co-director of Purus Motus, found her love for dance at the age of 8 at Marjorie Jones Schools Inc. She studied at Ballet Met and Interlochen Center for the Arts. Katie attended The Ohio State University, later moving to Chicago to train at Giordano Dance Chicago. Katie has performed with Nomi Dance Company, in DanceChance, Dance Chicago, Arts Midwest, New Voices, j e l l o and competed at World Of Dance. Katie has choreographed for Nomi and Dansteps Costa Rica.

LOUD BODIES, ND ‘19 Choreographer, (Chicago, IL). LOUD BODIES is a co-creative dance company founded by Yariana Baralt Torres and Maria Blanco. LOUD BODIES looks to create meaningful work inspired by social issues that will evoke emotion and provoke change. LOUD BODIES uses dance and choreography to fight for social justice, to bring awareness to oppressed topics or communities, and to call for unity, understanding, and most importantly, action. LOUD BODIES has presented work at the Greenhouse Theater, Collaboraction’s Peacebook Festival, Archie’s Cafe, Links Hall, and Jello. This winter, LOUD BODIES was selected as Synapse Arts – New Works Artists of 2019.

Rigoberto Saura, ND ‘19 Choreographer, (Chicago, IL) graduated from Havana’s National School of Art and the Higher Institute of Art with a degree in dance, where also he served as a professor and choreographer. He danced as a soloist with Danza Contemporanea de Cuba (2008-2012). Mr. Fernandez Saura moved to Ecuador in 2013 where he danced as a soloist in the National Ballet of Ecuador and served as a composition master and choreographer in the Metropolitan School of Ecuador and Ecuador’s Urban Ballet. He recently moved to Chicago where he is a dancer, teacher, and choreographer for Hedwig Dances and Concert Dance Inc. He teaches contemporary, modern, and repertoire at the Ruth Page School of Dance, where he is developing his skills as a choreographer, too.


Quincie Bean, ND ‘19 Company Dancer, (Chicago, IL) early training was at Provo Civic Ballet in Utah. She spent summers training at Gelsey Kirkland, Complexions, NW Dance Project, and Modas. She studied at Modas Dance Program at Santa Fe University of Art and Design, overseen by Layla Amis and Duncan Cooper. In Chicago, she has danced with Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre, Cocodaco Dance Project, and NOW Dance Project, among others. Performances include Dance for Life – Chicago, Chicago Ideas, Harvest Dance Festival, and Prisma-Festival Internacional de Danza Contemporanea in Panama. Quincie has danced original pieces by Garrett Smith, Victor Plotnikov, Brian Reeder, Alex Ketley and David Maurice.

Tara Charvat, ND ‘19 Company Dancer, (Chicago, IL) graduated Summa Cum Laude with her BFA in dance from Western Michigan University (2018) where she was honored to perform works by renowned choreographers including Paul Taylor, Antony Tudor, Frank Chavez, and Brian Enos. She attended summer programs with BODYTRAFFIC LA, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, The Big Muddy Dance Company, and DanceWorks Chicago. Charvat trained on scholarship at Lou Conte Dance Studio, taking a weekly class with HSDC artists, and performing a work by Alice Klock. Tara accepted an apprenticeship with Eisenhower Dance Detroit for the 2019-20 season. She is thrilled to be performing with the NEW Dances 2019 Company!

Kristen Donovan, ND ‘19 Company Dancer, (Chicago, IL) originally from Pinckney, Michigan, began her dance training with Performing Arts Dance Theater. She attended the University of Michigan, where she received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in dance and studied with faculty members such as Peter Sparling, Rodger Belman, Julie Tice, and Amy Chavasse. Kristen currently dances with Now Dance Project, Cocodaco Dance Project, and serves as the company’s Rehearsal Director. She has been performing with a 90’s hip hop cover band, Too White Crew, for the past 4 years. Kristen is inspired by sensuality, grit, and generosity.

Abby Ellison, ND ‘19 Company Dancer, (Lake in the Hills, IL) is originally from Crystal Lake, IL where she began her dance training at the Summers Academy of Dance. Abby graduated from Webster University in May 2014 with a BFA in Dance. She joined Thodos Dance Chicago in 2014 and danced through the companies final season in 2017. Her performances include choreography by Melissa Thodos, Garfield Lemonius, Ann Reinking, Kevin Iega-Jeff, and Shannon Alvis. Abby has also had the opportunity to showcase her own choreography within the Midwest. Abby is excited to be a part of NEW Dances 2019!

Sarah Fluegel, ND ‘19 Company Dancer, (Chicago, IL) is a graduate of Loyola University Chicago with degrees in dance and advertising/public relations. She has performed and choreographed for Loyola Dance Theatre, Collaboraction Encounter, Going Dutch, Jello Refresh, and ACDA Conferences. She’s worked with Rena Butler, Sarah Cullen Fuller, Alex Ketley, Alice Klock, Ben Wardell, Amy Wilkinson and more while furthering studies at Hedwig Dances, The Cambrians, and The San Francisco Conservatory of Dance. She is an executive board member for the In/Motion International Dance Film Festival and is grateful to launch her professional career with NEW Dances 2019.

Jade Hooper, ND ‘19 Company Dancer, (Chicago, IL) from Riverside, CA, began her training at Bre Dance Studio under Clifford Breland. As an attendee of the Alonzo King LINES Ballet Summer Program, she received the Homer Avila Scholarship Award, given to one dancer in the program. Jade attended California Institute of the Arts, graduating with a BFA in Dance and Minor in Maths and Sciences in 2015. After graduation, Jade moved to Chicago to join Hubbard Street 2. She has had the honor of working with choreographers including Shanon Alvis, Joshua Manculich, Robyn Mineko Williams, and more. Jade joined DanceWorks Chicago in October 2017, and was a part of NEW Dances 2018.

Sarah Jones, ND ‘19 Company Dancer, (Chicago, IL) from South Lyon, MI, earned her B.F.A. from Western Michigan University where she performed in Gerald Arpino’s Viva Vivaldi, Lew Christensen’s Con Amore, Ohad Naharin’s excerpts from Kyr and Anaphase, and Antony Tudor’s Continuo, among others. Sarah has studied in New York at The Joffrey Ballet School and with Complexions Contemporary Ballet. She has danced with DanceWorks Chicago where she toured internationally and had the pleasure of working with Shannon Alvis, Christian Denice, Joshua Manculich, Manuel Vignoulle, and others. Sarah is currently a co-founder and dancer with project based company, Ensemble180.

Cameron Lasater, ND ‘19 Company Dancer, (Chicago, IL) from Austin, TX, started his training at the Ballet Austin Academy’s Boys Scholarship Class. Cameron attended The Ailey School (New York City) as part of the Scholarship Program and Certificate Program. In 2016, he graduated from the Alonzo King LINES Ballet Training Program (San Francisco), where he was a scholarship recipient. Cameron danced with dawsondancesf, under direction of Gregory Dawson, for the 2016-2017 season Les Vérités. He just finished his 2 years at Danceworks Chicago under direction of Julie Nakagawa.

Racquel Mar, ND ‘19 Company Dancer, (Chicago, IL) from Clarkston, MI, began her training in southeast Michigan at studios including Spotlight Dance Works under the direction of Liz Schmidt. In 2017, she graduated with a B.F.A. in Dance Performance from University of California, Irvine. Racquel had the tremendous honor to study with legendary Donald McKayle as a member of his Etude Ensemble, as well as being selected to work with Lar Lubovitch. She has expanded her artistry and training through summer programs with Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, San Francisco Conservatory of Dance, b12 Berlin Workshop, and chuthis. Racquel joined DanceWorks Chicago in October 2017.

Erin Quigley, ND ‘19 Company Dancer, (Chicago, IL) from St. Louis, Missouri, began her training at the Center of Creative Arts (COCA). Erin went on to earn a BA in Dance Pedagogy at Butler University, graduating in 2018 with Departmental Honors. She recently made her professional debut in Chicago, performing in Ensemble180’s Limb from Limb. Quigley is grateful for the wonderful dance community she has found in Chicago and she is thrilled to be a part of NEW Dances 2019.

Elijah Richardson, ND ‘19 Company Dancer, (Chicago, IL) from San Jose, California, grew up with versatile training in figure skating, musical theatre, and classical choir. In 2018, he graduated cum laude from Chapman University with a BFA in Dance Performance and a minor in History. Elijah has also spent summers on scholarship at San Francisco Conservatory of Dance and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. Elijah joined DanceWorks Chicago in September 2018, performing works by Shannon Alvis, Hanna Brictson, and Joshua Manculich. Beyond his fulfillment as a dancer, he is grateful to utilize his skills as a mentor, teacher, choreographer, adjudicator, and stage technician with the dance community.

Tori Rumzis, ND ‘19 Company Dancer, (Chicago, IL) began her training at the age of 14 at Dancenter North in Libertyville, Illinois. She pursued her studies in dance at Point Park University where, in three years, she earned her BFA, graduating magna cum laude. Additionally, Tori has received training at Movement Invention Project, ODC, Salt Contemporary Dance, and Axis Connect. She has had the privilege of performing professionally with Aerial Dance Chicago, Dance in the Parks, Hedwig Dances, and most recently with Ensemble180. Along with performing, Tori has enjoyed working as a dance teacher and certified yoga instructor in the Chicago area.

Simone Stevens, ND ‘19 Company Dancer, (Chicago, IL) an Atlanta native, received her BA in Dance and Anthropology Minor from Kennesaw State University in July 2017. Following graduation, Stevens performed with professional dance companies FlyOnAWall and Staibdance before relocating to Chicago this past September. Here, she has had the opportunity to be a company member with the newly formed Ensemble180, train as a Scholarship Student at the Lou Conte Dance Studio, and now build community with the NEW Dances company. Following NEW Dances, Stevens will attend Northwest Dance Project’s LAUNCH. Grateful for this season of growth and transition, Stevens is looking forward to what lies ahead.

Jack Taylor, ND ‘19 Company Dancer, (Chicago, IL) from Southern California started dancing at the age of nine where acclaimed tap dancer, Alfred Desio, discovered Jack’s potential. Jack trained as an actor, singer, and dancer at Debbie Allen Dance Academy. Jack is most notably known as Dandruff Danny on the series Hannah Montana. He continued training at the Orange County School of the Arts, where he majored in Musical Theatre & Commercial Dance. Jack performed with Westside Dance Project for 6 years, while obtaining his BFA in Dance & BA in Dance Science from California State University, Long Beach. Last summer, Jack moved to Chicago and currently dances for Ensemble180.

Kallie Tierney, ND ‘19 Company Dancer, (Chicago, IL) from Sauk City, Wisconsin, received her training in classical ballet, Jazz, contemporary, and modern in Madison Wisconsin. She also spent summers training at Joffrey Ballet, River North Dance Chicago, and Alonzo King LINES Ballet. Kallie graduated high school in 2016, and moved to Chicago to be apart of Lou Conte’s Scholarship program at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, under the direction of Claire Bataille. Kallie is excited to be a company member of NEW Dances 2019!

Imani Williams, ND ‘19 Company Dancer, (Chicago, IL) Raised in Atlanta, Georgia Imani started dancing his junior year in high school. After graduation, Imani moved to New York to train on a full scholarship at the Joffrey Ballet School. While in the program he trained intensely and danced work by Bradley Shelver, Matthew Powell, Jennifer Archibald, Kevin Wyn, and Nathan Trice. He has worked with Tony Award-winner Chet Walker, and choreographer of the musical Rent, Marlies Yerby. Since Joffrey Imani has danced with Florida Dance Theater, Girodano 2, Disney, Norwegian Cruise Lines, and is currently dancing with DanceWorks Chicago. Imani is excited to be performing with NEW Dances for the second time.


Kristina Fluty, ND ‘19 Panelist, (Chicago, IL) is thrilled to be back with New Dances to serve on the feedback panel. She is a dancer/choreographer/educator/consultant based in Chicago. Kristina’s main creative home since 2003 is Molly Shanahan/Mad Shak, where she dances in the ensemble, provides administrative support and serves as a board member. She is an Assistant Professor of Movement for Actors at The Theatre School at DePaul University and teaches modern at the Lou Conte Dance Studio of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Dovetail Studios. She has also worked in Nashville and New York, as well as with many other choreographers and companies in Chicago such as Lucky Plush Productions, Rob Welcher, and Asimina Chremos. Kristina holds a Masters in Dance/Movement Therapy and Counseling, a graduate certificate in Laban Movement Analysis, and is a registered Movement Pattern Analyst. She is also honored to be at the forefront of an emerging theatrical field: she has worked as an intimacy choreographer/consultant at Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Victory Gardens Theater, TimeLine Theatre Company, Remy Bumppo Theatre (and Chicago), and Center Theatre Group (LA).

Jeff Hancock, ND ‘19 Panelist, (Chicago, IL) MFA performs, teaches, choreographs and designs movement and clothing that moves all over the US and abroad. Since 1990, dancing for River North, Hubbard Street, Same Planet Different World and others, his dance and design life collided, supported and informed each other, and shaped his path as a teaching artist. Curiosity about the semiotics of movement and clothing and their mutual influence has fueled his long history of research and exploration. Recent performance collaborations: “Of Whales, Time and Your Last Attempt to Reach Me…” with Molly Shanahan/MadShak, “Sword-fighting and Other Things to Do With Your Manhood”, “Volledig” with Rob Welcher, “And We Shall Be Rid of Them”, with Molly Shanahan/MadShak. Recent solo work: “Verge: at the gilded edge of loss…” Hollins University,“Verge: the edge of chaos and becoming” Northwestern University. Recent design: Qudus Onikeku – Iyami, Peter Carpenter – When Bodies Ring, Margi Cole – Surfacing, Wini Haun – This Is (Not) My Body.

Zachary Whittenburg, ND ‘19 Panelist, (Chicago, IL), Colorado native, spent ten years as a professional dancer with companies including Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, BJM Danse Montréal, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and North Carolina Dance Theatre, now Charlotte Ballet. His subsequent freelance career in Chicago included performance, teaching, and choreographic work with, among others, Lucky Plush Productions, Molly Shanahan / Mad Shak, DanceWorks Chicago, Luna Negra Dance Theater, Mordine & Co. Dance Theater, River North Dance Chicago, and Thodos Dance Chicago. As Associate Director of Marketing and Communication at Hubbard Street, he represented the company on the Chicago Dancemakers Forum consortium, and he was most recently Communications and Engagement Director at Arts Alliance Illinois. Whittenburg contributes regularly to Dance Magazine, is a panelist and guest speaker, and tweets @trailerpilot about contemporary culture, politics, and the performing arts. He is a founding board member for the Chicago Dance History Project and a member of the artistic advisory council for High Concept Labs.


Brendan P. Behan, DWC Executive Director, (Chicago, IL). Originally from San Diego, California, Brendan is a nonprofit professional, dancer, and choreographer. Brendan began his nonprofit experience working at the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee in 2005. Brendan served as the organization’s deputy and later executive director before leaving to pursue his MFA in dance at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which he received in 2016. Brendan has performed with dance companies including punkkiCo (San Francisco), Loose Change (San Francisco), and Laurie Cameron & Co. (Los Angeles) and has shown his own choreographic work across the U.S. and Colombia.

Julie Nakagawa, DWC Co-Founder & Artistic Director. From Evanston, IL, Julie was a featured dancer with Christopher D’Amboise’s Off Center Ballet, Cleveland Ballet, and Twyla Tharp Dance. At the invitation of Lou Conte, Julie joined Lou Conte Dance Studio in January 1994 and rose to the position of Associate Director. In addition, she led Hubbard Street 2 from its inception in 1997 through February 2007, nurturing young dancers and establishing the National Choreographic Competition to provide opportunities for emerging dancemakers. Julie is a Co-founder and Artistic Director of DanceWorks Chicago, an artistic incubator focused on the holistic development of young creatives.

Ashley Rockwood, Creative Media and Strategic Partner, (Chicago, IL). Ashley discovered a love for dance at the age of 2 in her hometown of Toledo, Ohio. She studied dance at Point Park University. She is a member of Actor’s Equity Association, AGMA, and AFTRA. Performance credits include Giordano Dance Chicago, Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, C5, and Beyonce. Currently, she serves on the Ambassador committee of Dance For Life, the associate board for Urban Gateways, and is a member of the Chicago Ideas Radical Creators. She is the founder/artistic director of Dancers Awareness Project, which is on a mission to create opportunities for dancers to connect and make meaningful content for our community; the world. Ashley owns and operates Free Mvmt Shop – a new movement and creative studio in Lincoln Park.

Jacob Snodgrass, Lighting Designer and Production Stage Manager, (Chicago, IL) Jacob has been designing lights and working within the performing arts community since 2000. His works have been seen with Giordano Dance Chicago, Aerial Dance Chicago, Chicago Human Rhythm Project, BONEdanse, The Dance COLEctive, Khecari Dance Theater, Breakbone Dance Company, Peter Carpenter Performance Project, Same Planet Different World, instruments of movement, Chamber Opera Chicago, Cuba’s Escuela Nacional de Ballet, REIDance, Havana Cuba’s DanzAbierta, Soham Dance, Concert Dance Inc. with whom he traveled to China in 2009, Joel Hall Dancers, Hedwig Dances, the Other Dance Festival, the Ruth Page Foundation, the Space Movement Project, Canada’s lbs/sq”, NEIU Repertory Dance, and NEW Dances. Jacob is the Lighting Director at the Dance Center of Columbia College and has been the technical director at the Ruth Page Theater, Links Hall, and Hamlin Park Dance Theater.

Melissa Thodos, TDC Founder & Artistic Director, (Chicago, IL). At the age of six, Melissa Thodos wanted to really MOVE….so she did, by training at the Evanston School of Ballet, choreographing in High School, and doing both at Skidmore College. Following academia, she became a featured performer educator and choreographer with The Chicago Repertory Dance Ensemble performing works by Paul Taylor, Lar Lubovitch and Ze’eva Cohen among others until founding Thodos Dance Chicago in 1992. Thodos Dance Chicago served as a platform for her own choreography and for other American choreographers from the national dance landscape. Melissa also collaborated with such noted artists as Ann Reinking, Yoko Ono, and architect Jeanne Gang to bring blended vision and voices to the stage. For a quarter of a century, the Company performed in over 25 states and 6 continents, and beyond the stage Melissa created a professional environment that not only trained dancers, but also nurtured them as choreographers, and activated them to grow as educators. NEW Dances was part of the Thodos Dance Chicago’s fabric and structure since 2000 and it is thrilling that this special project continues today in collaboration with DanceWorks Chicago.

Kristen Vasilakos, TDC Artistic Associate, (Chicago, IL). Minnesota native, Kristen, attended the University of Iowa where she received a B.F.A. in Dance and a B.A. in Health and Human Physiology. After graduation, Kristen joined Thodos Dance Chicago as an Intern/Trainee for the 25th Season. She is currently performing with Cerqua Rivera Dance Theater. As an Intern/Trainee at TDC, she gained valuable skills on the administrative side of running a dance company and became the Artistic Associate for TDC in March 2018. Kristen is honored to continue with Thodos Dance Chicago, and thrilled about the continued partnership with DanceWorks Chicago in producing a second season of NEW Dances!

Kelly Wren, TDC Managing Director, (Chicago, IL). Kelly is dedicated to developing the cultural landscape of Chicago with her interdisciplinary background in performing arts. In May 2018, she joined TDC’s leadership team where she develops and promotes opportunities for emerging dance artists and young professionals along with Melissa Thodos. You may also know her from the work she does for Chicago Park District’s Night Out in the Park’s program where she helps bring free performing arts events to ALL of Chicago’s 77 wards. Kelly earned her M.A. in Performing Arts Administration from Roosevelt University in July 2017, learning from established leaders of the nation’s top performing arts organizations.


Posted on

June 18, 2019