Debra Giunta - Founding Director

Debra Giunta is the Founder and Director of Design Dance.  Debra grew up dancing in the south suburbs of Chicago and has over 25 years of dance experience.  She became director of her first dance education program in her hometown at the age of 16 and has been teaching, choreographing, directing and mentoring ever since.   As a dance educator for over 16 years, Debra has trained students ages 2-70 in a variety of dance disciplines including tap, jazz, ballet, hip hop and creative movement.  In 2008, Debra founded Design Dance as a way to bring dance education to children in all communities regardless of age, experience level, background and income through partnership with schools and community centers.  Debra is passionate about new ideas and continues to be grateful for the opportunity to explore new ways to collaborate with her peers in the field of arts education. 

Maggie Ferrell - Operations Manager

Maggie Ferrell is an educator and performer with a passion for spreading dance to all communities. Originally from Carmel, IN,  the majority of her dance training occurred at Performers Edge Dance Theatre.  Maggie continued onto The Ohio State University where she received a B.F.A in Dance with a focus in Pedagogy and a Minor in Business Administration. Her passion for teaching young students led to the creation of Duxberry Park After School Dance technique program in Columbus, OH. Maggie is excited to be living in Chicago and assisting in bringing dance to more students! 

Melissa Landfield - School Programs Coordinator

Melissa is a educator, administrator, curriculum designer, and multimedia artist dedicated to arts education outreach and working to make the arts accessible to all students. She holds B.A. in Philosophy in Allied Field with a specialization in art theory and criticism from the University of Chicago, and an M.Ed in Curriculum and Instruction from National Louis University with a focus on creating successful classroom teacher-teaching artist collaborations. She has worked with the Mudlark Theater, the Auditorium Theatre, American Theater Company, Writers Theater, Redmoon, Changing Worlds, Ingenuity, and the Chicago Arts Educators Forum as a teaching artist, curriculum designer, administrator, and in development. Outside of work she is a mixed-media visual artist who works in everything from basketry to painting to photography, and an animal lover who is unfortunately allergic to everything with fur.

Samantha Witthuhn - Community Engagement Coordinator

Samantha Witthuhn is a marketing and communications specialist with a unique background in youth education and development. After earning her B.A. in communications from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2012, Sam began her career working with The Coca-Cola Company’s digital marketing team in Atlanta, GA., and eventually with SmithBucklin’s corporate marketing team in downtown Chicago. After three years in the office, Sam made the decision to take her talents overseas. Moving to Thailand in 2015, Sam taught English to middle and high school students for nearly a year in the Thai school system. Here, her drive for engaging and impacting our youth was ignited. After returning to the U.S. in 2016, Sam set out to bring her communications skills to organizations that served Chicago’s youth. She started working with the McGaw YMCA Children’s Center to plan and provide after school programming, oversee summer camp programs and even teach her own class of part-day preschoolers. Sam believes and champions the positive impact that arts education has on kids and couldn't be more excited to bring her communications expertise to Design Dance!



Jonathan Lazatin - Community Impact Designer

Jonathan Lazatin is an engineer, designer and educator who focuses on the intersection of creativity and learning. Jonathan has a BS in Aerospace Engineering from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. There he was coordinator of the Pilipino Cultural Exchange's hip hop dance group and has choreographed for Cal Poly's Spring Dance Show. After working in engineering, he took a leap to spend a year of learning with Experience Institute where he studied Engineering + Design Education, surveying educational programs across the country, teaching design to students and industry professionals and learning about the intersection of design and education.  



Ariel M Dorsey is a native of Chicago, she began dancing at the age of 7 at Southwest fine Arts Academy now known as Premier One Dance Academy. There she remained for seven years performing in countless recitals and dance competitions. She began her formal training at Chicago Academy for the Arts under the direction of Ana Peskevska and Randy Duncan. Ariel went on to further her studies at SUNY Purchase College in New York where she graduated with a BFA in dance. Throughout her four years of study she worked with choreographers such as Nelly Van Bommel, Pam Tanowitz, Jonathan Alsberry, and Ori Flormen. Miss Dorsey was award the Jules Stone award in 2009 at Dance Olympus National Finals in New York City. Ariel currently resides in Chicago where she teaches Ballet at PDA, Hip Hop at Xilin Arts Academy, Mixed Movement and Hip Hop with Design Dance, while also dancing for Winifred Haun and Dancers.

Mack Oliver began teaching at the ripe old age of 17, when she founded and directed a dance program for the elementary schoolers in her rural Michigan hometown. After attending Southwestern Michigan College as a dance major, Mack moved to the Windy City and performed as an apprentice with Joel Hall Dance Company. A certified Zumba and Music Together Instructor, she is currently completing a 200-hour Hatha yoga certification and is passionate about continuing her education in order to best serve her beloved students. Though Mack enjoys teaching a wide variety of movement disciplines, her first and greatest love will always be classical ballet.

Taylor Chwae Taylor Chwae grew up dancing in Madison, Wisconsin, where she performed with Madison Ballet and was a member of the Madison Contemporary Vision Dance Company. While still in high school, Taylor trained with the Academie Américaine de Danse de Paris and Ballet Chicago. Taylor received her BFA in Dance and a Minor in Arts Management (summa cum laude and valedictorian) from Columbia College Chicago in 2016. At Columbia College, she performed in many student works, including one performed on the Auditorium Theater stage alongside Cirqua Rivera Dance Theatre. She was also selected to perform in pieces by faculty Taisha Paggett, Pam McNeil, and Peter Carpenter, and presented three of her own choreographic works on the Dance Center stage. Taylor is very passionate about providing students all over Chicago with a well-rounded dance education and give them the tools to succeed in many aspects of their lives.

Jessica Miret was born and raised in the always-sunny city of Miami, FL. She is of Cuban-American decent, fluent in both English & Spanish. She took her first dance class at 3yrs old and from then could not stop. She has been teaching and dancing professionally for 7-yrs, training in Ballet, Jazz, Tap, Modern, Lyrical, and Hip-Hop. She started her college studies at The Florida School of the Arts with a full scholarship where she graduated with her Associates in Science. She then attended The Theatre Conservatory of the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University where she graduated with Honors with her Bachelors in Fine Arts. After her first year in Chicago she knew this is where she wanted to be. Living in Chicago she is teaching dance while performing in musicals, plays and dance shows. She is thrilled to be working with design dance and teaching your little ones. 

Gloria Mwez is an artist who choreographs, teaches, and performs dance primarily in Chicago. She's currently a choreographing company member of Matter Dance Company. MDC has been voted Best Dance Company in the Chicago Reader's Best Of for 6 years. Chicago Untitled Project is the name of her cross-genre collaboration collective. She's toured with TapMan Productions and performed with Second City, KK Tyler Producitons, Movement Revolution Dance Crew, and David Dorfman Dance as well as several other groups. She's worked with and studied many genres of dance but her focus is contemporary jazz and contemporary hip hop.

Katie DeSalvo currently dances and choreographs with the Reveries in Motion contemporary dance company, a non-profit group which explores universal themes and non-traditional forms of dance in order to advocate and raise money for various causes. However, Katie began her dance training in the rural town of Coal City, IL. where she grew up dancing ballet, jazz, tap, and hip hop with the On Broadway Dance Company (OBD). Her love of performing and expression blossomed with the OBD group as they danced in multiple street festivals, half-time shows for college basketball games, as well as the Taste of Chicago. Her childhood was full of musical theatre and Katie took every opportunity to be a goof ball on the stage. Continuing in that spirit, she completed the Second City comedic improvisation conservatory and now infuses improv into her educative pedagogy. She then went on to study Interpersonal Communication, Theater, and Spanish at DePaul University, continuing on after her undergraduate studies to receive her Masters degree in Early Childhood Bilingual Education. Spanish opened up a door to Mexico City for her where she lived for a year working with children (3-8 years) through art. In her curriculum, she used authentic literature to inspire children to freely express themselves through original music, drama, and dance alongside their families. Additionally, she has choreographed numerous musicals for St Patrick’s High School as well as the third graders’ musical rendition of 101 Dalmatians at an elementary school in Mexico City. Katie believes that the very gifts that dance bestows upon us are those characteristics that benefit a society such as empathy, self-awareness, and an open mind.

Charlet Dupar’s passion for dance and fitness come from her love of performance and dance starting from the young age of 3. Music/movement and fitness were a big part of her upbringing. Sh grew up in her parent’s dance and martial arts studio; Academy of Arts in Louisiana. She moved here from Dallas, TX in 2011 and has continued her love of dance and fitness through theater performances and fitness programs. She has extensive training in ballet, jazz, modern, contemporary and Latin and World dance styles and has trained at Millennium Dance Studio :A, The Centre for Dance TX and Dance Connection Chicago. She holds her Associates Degree in Acting performance from Kim Dawson Conservatory in the Southwest and has performed all over the state of Texas for corporate events, Cirque Children’s Theater, C&C PRoductions Body Art Ball, Bravo and Eclipse Entertainment companies and LoneStar Cirque School in Dallas TX. She is Zumba and Zumba Kids/Zumba Kids Jr. certified and certified in CPR/AED.

Julie Ferrell is originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma where she trained under Debi Myers and Tulsa Ballet. She graduated from the University of Kansas with a Bachelors of Fine Arts in dance, where she studied with and performed works by Melissa Thodos, Autumn Eckman, Talia Beck, James Moreno, David Justin, Lane Gifford, Patrick Suzeau, Muriel Cohen, Jerel Hilding, and was a member of the University Dance Company for eight semesters. Julie also attended intensives under The Cambrians, Elements Contemporary Ballet, Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, and the Strictly Seattle Dance Festival, working under Pat Graney. She choreographed several works on members of the University Dance Company in 2015 and 2016. In Chicago, Julie works as a company member for The Modern Marvels Dance Group, a performing apprentice with Noumenon Dance Ensemble, and as a freelance dancer and choreographer. Additionally, she teaches at Kaleidoscope Dance Studio in Skokie.

Annalissa Hartsell is a dancer, choreographer, and teaching artist hailing from Kekaha, HI.  She first found her light in a bumblebee tutu at the ripe old age of 5 and never looked back-- studying ballet, tap and jazz with Janie Crane at Kauai Dance Theater before pursuing her B.A. in Dance at Northwestern University.  While at NU, Annalissa worked with faculty including Amanda Lower, Billy Siegenfeld, Jeff Hancock, Jocelyn Garner, Laura Wade and Susan Lee, studying dance technique and composition as well as performing, choreographing and directing for multiple student and department productions.  In 2014 and 2016, Annalissa participated in the American College Dance Festival, and performed pieces by Jeff Hancock at both regional concerts and the National Gala at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Currently, Annalissa can be found dancing on scholarship at Lou Conte Dance Studios, performing with Noumenon Dance Ensemble and choreographing for the Wirtz Center for Performing Arts at Northwestern.  She is so excited to be joining the Design Dance family this year!

Stephanie Kilper grew up dancing in Stow, Ohio and moved to Chicago, IL just this past July. She attended Lake Erie College in Northeast Ohio for her undergraduate degree as a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance. After graduation she joined the faculty of Dance Evolution in her hometown teaching musical theater, ballet, jazz, and lyrical classes along with creating choreography for competitive students. At her Ohio church, Stephanie led a thriving dance program involving children ages 3-16 dancing together for special performances and encouraging each other as they grew in ability. Stephanie is currently a graduate student in the MFA Dance/ Movement Therapy and Counseling program at Columbia College Chicago and thrilled about the opportunity to continue to teach dance classes!

Emma Reeves grew up in Bolivar, Missouri, then went on to receive a BS in Biology with a minor in Dance from Belmont University and graduate Cum Laude in 2013.  After graduation she moved to Chicago to attend Deeply Rooted Dance Theater's 2013 Pre-Professional Summer Intensive.  Since moving to Chicago, Emma has performed with and choreographed works for J. Lindsay Brown Dance, performed with Perceptual Motion Inc. Dance Company, and performed with Matter of Reaction Movement Project for Chicago's Night Out in the Parks.  Most recently she studied privately with Sam Weber in San Francisco, CA for a five-day tap intensive.

Megan Rhodes graduated summa cum laude from East Carolina University where she received her BFA in Dance Performance as well as her BFA in Theatre Arts with a concentration in Professional Acting. She began her dance training at the age of three and began her acting training as a sophomore in college. She has trained in ballet, jazz, modern, tap, and gymnastics. She has performed at the American College Dance Festival Association and the Jazz Dance World Congress. This past year she produced an original evening length dance theatre show funded by URCA. She has choreographed for musicals such as Little Shop of Horrors and has worked as the assistant choreographer and dance captain for Kiss Me Kate for McGinnis Theatre. Her choreography has received multiple awards from the Rebel Arts Publication and her piece Darlin’ was selected to be shown at the American College Dance Association Mid Atlantic Conference. She was also invited to show work at the North Carolina Dance Alliance. In 2014 she won The Camp Kate Choreography Review. She is now living in Chicago and dancing with The Kate Jablonski Statement in their 2015-2016 season.

Originally from Knoxville TN, Abby Williams earned her BFA in Dance Performance and Choreography, a BA in Arts Administration, and a minor in Communications from Elon University. In addition, she also trained at LehrerDance Summer Intensive, Parsons Choreography Intensive, Hedwig Dance's Intensive and Bates Dance Festival. She has been teaching since 2008 in studios in Tennessee, North Carolina, and now in her new home of Illinois. Her choreography has been featured in Core Project’s Going Dutch 2015, Inaside Chicago Dance’s Choreographic Sponsorship Event 2015, Dance Chicago’s New Moves Series 2014, North Carolina Dance Alliance 2013, Tennessee Children’s Dance Ensemble Repertoire among other events. Williams has also had the privilege of performing with The Coincidentals as well as performing works by Jon Lehrer, Randy Duncan, Eleo Pomare, Michael Mao, and Regina Klenjoski.Williams is so excited to be a part of the Design Dance family!