artists 

instructor and the founder and artistic

Artistic Director

HALEY MCELWEE

Haley is a Chicago-based dancer/choreographer/instructor and the founder and artistic director of Simantikos Dance Chicago. She graduated from Indiana University in 2015, where she performed and understudied works by Paul Taylor, David Parsons, Dayton Contemporary Dance Ensemble, Eisenhower Dance Ensemble, and more. Haley has attended numerous workshops and masterclasses, including those through CNADM, Interlochen Arts Academy, Thodos, River North, and Dance Italia. Haley has collaborated and presented work throughout Chicago, New York, Canada, and Italy. Haley began teaching at her home studio, Debbie Werbrouck's School of Dance, and continued to pursue her interest in dance education  throughout college by teaching at Windfall Dance Studio, traveling to teach in Panama with Movement Exchange, and spending a summer teaching at Soul Arts Academy in New York City. Haley founded and directed Pre-College Dance Exchange - South Bend in the summer of 2014 and is continuing to build programming for yearly sessions in other cities. Haley currently teaches dance at NKO-UChicago Charter School and is very excited to be growing educational programming at the Simantikos Dance Chicago studio and through partnerships with Galileo Scholastic Academy, Perez Elementary, Kidz Creative Corner, Lakeview Preschool Academy, and Twinkling Stars Preschool.

Aguilar Headshot.jpg

Company Member, Fundraising Assistant

ALEXIS AGUILAR

Alexis Aguilar, originally from St. Charles, Illinois, received her BFA in Dance with a Certificate in Entrepreneurship from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2015. She has had the honor of performing “Continuous Replay” with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, in addition to the works of, Kate Corby, Raja Feather Kelly, Li Chiao-Ping, Danielle Russo, and Jin-Wen Yu. The recipient of various awards, Aguilar’s choreography was performed at the ACDA 2015 North-Central Conference in Ames, IA. Following her college tenure, Aguilar worked with Li Chiao-Ping Dance performing in Wisconsin, Iowa, TN, and Hawaii before she moved to Chicago in 2016. Now living in Chicago, Alexis has performed the works of Earlyn Whitehead, Stefany Cotton, Kim Baker, Amanda Ramirez, Tiffany Dow and Alexis Crump. Currently, Alexis continues to work as a freelance dancer, is employed at Francis W. Parker School as the Human Resources Assistant, and is thrilled to be in her second season dancing with Simantikos Dance Chicago.

RRGPhotography-9853.jpg

Company Member

Leana Allen

Leana was born and raised in Michigan and received her formal dance training from Hope College where she trained under Sharon Wong and Crystal Frazier. During her last year of study she traveled to New York City and worked with Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion, Jennifer Muller/The Works, and Alpha Omega Theatrical Dance Company. Since moving to Chicago, Leana has taught dance around the city in disenfranchised communities and completed a 200-hour yoga teacher training. She is currently dancing with Red Clay Dance Company and Simantikos Dance Chicago and wants to thank her dance community for their unwavering support on her life journey!

RRGPhotography-0035 (1).jpg

Company Member, Assistant Director of Education

Kalina Bartlett

Kalina Bartlett graduated from Wichita State University Summa Cum Laude with a BFA in Dance. She performed with Ballet Wichita for 11 years, working her way to principal and returning to dance such roles as Snow Queen and Sugar Plum Fairy as a guest artist. Then she danced with Modern American Dance Company (MADCO) in St Louis for their 40th season. Currently Kalina resides in Chicago and enjoys teaching dance and barre as well as performing with Simantikos Dance Chicago and Ardent Dance Company.

Introducing our other new company member

Company Member

Erin Berl

Erin Berl is a Chicago-based dancer, Robotics & Dance researcher, travel industry researcher, and certified personal trainer, originally from Champaign, IL. She received her degree in Psychology, with a Certificate in Dance, from Princeton University in 2017. While there, she performed works by Bill T. Jones and Zvi Gotheiner, and she originated new works by Francesca Harper, Marjani Forte, Brian Reeder, Tina Fehlandt, Rebecca Lazier, and Malcolm Low. Through dancing professionally in Chicago and simultaneously researching at the Robotics, Automation, and Dance (RAD) Lab in the Mechanical Engineering department of the University of Illinois, she is passionate about bridging the gap between the arts and the sciences, honoring the opportunities and challenges that come with this interdisciplinary work. She is thrilled to be dancing with Simantikos Dance Chicago for her first season!

Meet performing apprentice Tina Hernande

Company Member, Fundraising Director

Tina Hernandez

Tina Hernandez is from downtown Chicago, Illinois and began studying dance at a young age. Tina has been trained in ballet, pointe, jazz, modern, and contemporary. Tina trained at Chicago Multicultural Dance Center under Homer Hans Bryant, including multiple summer intensives and has also had the privilege of training with Ballet West. Other training programs include DanceWorks Chicago, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and Visceral Dance Center. She graduated from Northern Illinois University with a degree in Dance Performance and is currently perusing a Masters degree in Early Childhood Education. 

Meet Marissa, one of our new company mem

Company Member

Marissa Kaufmann

Marissa Kaufmann is a dancer, choreographer, and dance educator originally from Dresher, PA. She received her BFA in Dance Performance and Choreography from Towson University in 2017 where she performed works by Darrell Grand Moultrie, Kim Bears-Bailey, Runqiao Du, and Vincent Thomas. Marissa has performed with Philadanco, Philadanco Second Company (D2), SynthesisDance, Carnival Choreographer's Ball, Six Flags Great Adventure and Koresh Dance Company's Come Together Dance Festival with Project Moshen. Marissa is currently a member of Alluvion Dance Chicago along with working as a dance educator and a certified Barre3 instructor. She is so excited to be dancing with Simantikos Dance Chicago this season.

Meet Nikki Renfroe - Dancer _To learn ab

Company Member, Rehearsal Director

Nikki Martinez

Nikki Renfroe Martinez, a native of the Chicago area, began studying dance at the age of three. Since then, she has gone on to receive her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Dance from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, as well as a Minor in Psychology.  She has had the privilege of training through workshops and intensives with Point Park University, Deeply Rooted Dance Company, L.A. Contemporary Dance Company, Inaside Dance Chicago, Aerial Dance Chicago, and continues to study at Lou Cante Dance Studio, Visceral Dance Center, and Joel Hall Dance Center. She has had the opportunity to perform in many local Chicago projects such as Delve Arts Festival, Renassiance Black, and Activate! Chicago and has performed as a company member with Noumenon Dance Ensemble for four seasons.  Nikki teaches dance at Intuit Dance Studios and she is the instructor/choreographer and director of the dance program at Trinity High School. In addition to teaching dance, Nikki also teaches yoga at various Chicagoland yoga studios.  Nikki is extremely excited to be with Simantikos Dance Chicago for her fifth season and happy to have the opportunity to choreograph this season in the company.

IMG_2832 (1).jpg

Company Member, Social Media Director

Sara McKinney

Sara McKinney grew up dancing at the Brattleboro School of Dance in Brattleboro, Vermont. She furthered her dance education in high school at the Windham Regional Career Center in partnership with Brattleboro Union High School. In 2006-2008 she had the opportunity to work with Bessie Award winning choreographer, Yasuko Yokoshi through the Vermont Performance Lab and performed the work, “Reframe the Framework DDD” at the Baryshnikov Arts Center, Judson Church, St. Mark’s Church, with a final premiere at The Kitchen in New York City.  Sara continued her dance studies at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York and earned two Bachelor of Arts degrees in Dance Education and Arts and Education. Sara studied the tango in Mendoza, Argentina during her study abroad program through HWS and the salsa in Cali, Colombia where she taught English in 2016. Sara moved to Chicago in 2017 to serve as an Americorps Volunteer with City Year Chicago for the ‘17/’18 school year. In February 2018 she danced in Chicago Dance Ensemble’s production of “A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant, A Prayer.” Sara joined Simantikos Dance Company in 2018 and has thoroughly enjoyed dancing with this group of strong women.

Meet the Company Monday is BACK! Why_ Be

Company Member, Non-Profit Coordinator

Megan O'Toole

Megan O’Toole is extremely excited to be dancing with Simantikos Dance Chicago for a fourth season! Originally from Toledo, Ohio, Megan began dancing at the age of five and has been groovin’ ever since. She moved to Chicago to continue her dance education and graduated with honors from Columbia College Chicago with degrees in Dance and Musical Theatre Performance. Megan is currently auditioning, teaching, and choreographing around the Windy City, and is enjoying sharing her love of dance with the next generation.

Simantikos Dance Chicago

1835 S. Halsted St., Chicago IL 60608

  • White Instagram Icon
  • Facebook Clean