MANAGING STAFF

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. 

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Samantha Witthuhn - Director of Education and Communications

Samantha Witthuhn is a 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 transitioned to serving as a senior marketing coordinator for organizations in downtown Chicago. After three years in the office, Sam moved to Thailand to teach English to middle and high school students. Here, her drive for engaging and impacting youth was ignited. After returning to the U.S. in 2016, Sam started working with the McGaw YMCA Children’s Center to plan and provide after school programming, oversee summer camps, and teach a class of her own. Sam champions the positive impact that arts education has on kids and is delighted to bring her program management and communications expertise to Design Dance.

Ali Drumm - Operations Coordinator

Ali Drumm (she/her/hers) is a Chicago based arts administrator, production manager, and event coordinator.  In addition to Design Dance, Ali is also the Producer of Artistic Programs for 2nd Story where she produces 35+ storytelling and community events every season. With a background in theatre, Ali has worked with numerous other arts organizations, including Steppenwolf, The New Colony, the House Theatre of Chicago, the Apollo Theater (with Million Dollar Quartet), terraNOVA at the DCASE Storefront, About Face Theatre, and Pivot Arts.  A proud graduate of Loyola University Chicago, Ali is deeply passionate about uniting communities through art. 

Abby Williams - After School Programs Coordinator

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!

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Stephanie Cantelmo - Community Coordinator

Stephanie Cantelmo is a marketing & design specialist as well as the founder of Project Media. She uses her BA in Digital Arts and MA in Communication Arts to craft visual experiences for Design Dance and The Groove while also assisting in community engagement, web design and office support. Stephanie is delighted to collaborate with the team at Design Dance and The Groove!

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT STAFF

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Gabriella Wiltz - Video Editor

Gabriella Wiltz is a dancer, writer, videographer, editor and multimedia technology and design artist from the south side of Chicago. She graduated from The Ohio State University in May of 2017 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts with Distinction in Dance. In the spring of 2014, Gabriella began her journey as a videographer, director and editor which ultimately lead to her focus of Dance Film and Technology within the Department of Dance her final two years. She has created promotional materials for the Department of Dance, the most notable being a mini-documentary on the traveling repertory company that toured Salvador, Brazil in 2016. As a performing member of that company, her goal was to give viewers the most authentic look into being in a company setting—that authenticity drives her vision as a filmmaker today. Since moving back to Chicago, Gabriella has continued working in the worlds of film and dance while constantly striving to merge the two.

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Christine Reed - Curriculum Development and Teacher Training

Christine Reed is an educator, dancer, and choreographer in Chicago, Illinois who believes in the power of arts education and self-directed learning.  She has taught in a variety of settings including elementary schools, community programs, and dance organizations for over 10 years.  She is on faculty as the Dance Teacher at Ravenswood Elementary in Chicago Public Schools.  While responsible for directing the Ravenswood Dance Program, Christine also writes and implements arts integrated curriculum, connecting dance content with learning in mathematics, language arts and reading, science, and social studies; serves on the school’s Instructional Leadership Team to design and present professional development for staff; and writes district-wide performance task assessments for dance programs across CPS.  In addition to her work at Ravenswood, Christine is a Mentor Teaching Artist at Design Dance and runs a summer day camp at Steve and Kate’s Camp.  Christine holds a Master’s of Art in Teaching with endorsements in Elementary Education, Dance, and Social Studies, and a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration with concentrations in General Business, Dance, and Arts Management.  

 

TEACHING ARTISTS

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.

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.

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 Emma Reeves grew up in Bolivar, Missouri, then went on to receive a Bachelor of Science in Biology with a minor in Dance from Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee 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, she has performed with and choreographed works for J. Lindsay Brown Dance, and performed with Perceptual Motion Inc. Dance Company, Matter of Reaction Movement Project, and Core Project. In 2014 she studied privately with Sam Weber in San Francisco, California for a five-day tap intensive, and recently gained experience as an administrative intern for Khecari.

Megan Rhodes Megan Rhodes is a Chicago based dancer and choreographer currently performing and presenting work throughout the Chicagoland area. She is originally from North Carolina where she received her BFA in Dance Performance as well as her BFA in Theatre Arts from East Carolina University. Her choreography has received awards and recognition from Rebel Arts Publication, Camp Kate, and the North Carolina Dance Alliance. Since moving to Chicago she has shown work at DanceChance, THAWX, and NewMoves. She has choreographed competition dance pieces, musicals such as Little Shop of Horrors, and concert dance works including an evening length piece funded by URCA. She teaches at Beyond Words Dance Center and with Design Dance. She performs with The Kate Jablonski Statement and is a company member of Salty Lark Dance.

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Alisha McMullin is going into her last year at Columbia College Chicago pursuing a BA in dance and a minor in business management. Alisha is trained in ballet, modern, West African, jazz, tap, and contemporary. Performing in various student shows at Columbia as well as shows in the city; Inaside Choreography Showcase, Columbia open house at the Auditorium Theater, and DanceChance Dance Works Chicago at Lou Conte.  She is currently a dance instructor at Little Marvels Early Childhood School teaching creative movement for the 2yr old and pre-school classrooms, and an instructor at Dance to Evolve teaching ballet/tap combination classes for 2 to 5yr olds. This is Alisha’s 3rd year working with Design Dance teaching ballet, jazz, and creative movement classes. Alisha hopes to start her own dance organization one day and continue to pursue her passion of dance and love for children.

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Rachel Benzing, a native of Chicago, began her dance training at Copeland Dance Academy studying the Cecchetti School of Ballet, Jazz, Tap, Hip Hop, and Modern. She established herself as a teacher and choreographer at Copeland Dance Academy and Ambition Dance & Performing Arts while also a member of Xtreme Dance Force, Hip Hop and Jazz companies. She has attended numerous Tap Festivals including the Chicago Human Rhythm Project where she won the Summer World Tap Competition, the American Dance Festival Winter and Summer programs, Ledges and Bones Summer Workshop, and BODYTRAFFIC workshops. Rachel has vigorously trained under the instruction of dance artists in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, and London, England and has been privileged to perform works choreographed by Barak Marshall, Jessica Harper, J.T. Horenstein, Kevin Williamson, Tony Czar, Paige Porter, Denise Leitner, Rosalynde LeBlanc Loo, Jesse Zarrit, and Lillian Barbeito, ranging in various styles.  Rachel attended Loyola Marymount University (May 2014) where she earned both a Bachelor of Arts degree in Dance and a second Bachelor of Arts degree in History.  Rachel is a recent graduate of Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance (December 2016) with a Masters of Fine Arts degree in Dance: Creative Practice.  Rachel currently lives in Chicago, where she teaches dance throughout the Chicagoland area, and continues to pursue her own artistic process and creation of work.

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Allison Grabarczyk is a Chicago transplant originally hailing from Toledo Ohio where she began dancing at the age of three. She was a competitive dancer for 14 years and graduated with her B.S. in Dance Performance from Illinois State University in 2011. Allison has been teaching dance in the Midwest for over 12 years traveling around Illinois, Ohio, and Michigan sharing her love of the performing arts with students of all ages. In February of 2016 she helped to open Top Note Performing Arts Academy where she is currently on staff as head choreographer. Allison is also the co-founder of The Orchid Theory, a community wellness and empowerment program based in Chicago. Current Teaching credits include: ABC Dance Academy, Old Town School of Folk Music, Design Dance, Chicago Loves Dance,Windy City Performs, and Stretch N Grow. Prior to moving to the Chicago area, Allison had the privilege of working with choreographers such as Jon Lehrer, Kim Neal Nofsinger, and Sonya Tayeh as well as having the honor to work with some of the greats Al Gilbert and Frank Hatchett. Currently she is in her third season as a director with Innervation Dance Cooperative and her sixth as a performer. Other dance credits include: Body Movin Dance, IDC S.P.E.A.K.S., The Subconscious Development Motion Project, The Monocle Eclectic Dance Company, and several independent choreographers since moving to Chicago in 2011.  She has most recently performed original works at the Emergence Choreographer’s Showcase, RADFest, Kaleidoscope Choreographer’s Festival, and Dance Chicago in addition to her work with IDC. Allison is also a certified fitness instructor in Zumba and Barre fitness formats. When she is not teaching dance or rehearsing she can usually be found watching through Star Trek for the 100th time or maybe even sleeping from time to time. 

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Britney Wittes is a dance major at Columbia College Chicago. She began dancing when she was a freshman in high school by joining her high school company. Her dance teacher built her confidence by giving her challenging choreography, as well as giving her opportunities to choreograph for her peers. She is excited to have the privilege to work with Design Dance to better her teaching skills as well as learn from her students. Working with Design Dance allows her to learn about the administrative aspect of the business, as well as learn how to work well with children. Design Dance gives Britney so many opportunities to learn and better herself for her future.