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Meet the Staff

Gateway Dance Theatre uses the Arts to engage, communicate, educate and collaborate with diverse  communities to enrich lives.

Leeman Furgerson III, Drums & Percussion


"Leeman": Lee B. Furgerson III came into this world beating rhythms! Lee plays the trap set, and various hand drums/percussion. He has taken classes with renowned percussionists with the Katherine Dunham Performing Arts Center in E. St. Louis, and other artists. Lee has also made recordings including Sam Salamone’s album with Richie Cole. “Leeman” has performed at the 80/35 and 515 music events in the Des Moines area. He has accompanied dancers, musicians, poets and other artists, and can play almost all genres of music. He has a vast knowledge of African music and percussion instruments and is adding to that his knowledge of India percussion instruments.


Lee is a VSA and Metro Arts Alliance Artist, and has been in demand for outreach classes at schools throughout the state. Lee teaches Afro-Caribbean drums at the GDT studio. He has traveled the state for VSA providing percussion workshops for all ages of students, and often accompanies local DJ’s on percussion.

Swarupa Bakre, Associate Director

Swarupa was born and raised in Mumbai, India. She settled in Ames with her husband after their marriage in 2005. She has been immersed in dancing and music since age 4. Swarupa is trained in Bharatnatyam, an Indian classical dance form, and tabla, (hand drums from North India). In early 2008, she joined Gateway Dance Theatre; she continues to be involved in numerous GDT programs, as a performer, instructor and choreographer. Swarupa had her debut has an actor as a principal supporting role of Priyamvada, Spirit and the dancer that opened GDT’s “Shakuntala”.


Swarupa is employed at John Deere in the Marketing Department and she travels extensively in her position. Her experience serves GDT by sharing her expertise with the company. She has been instrumental in coordinating workshops and marketing new events for GDT.

Sanghamitra ‘Sanju’ Pilli, Associate Director

Sanju moved to the United States from India in 2004. She began dancing as a child and later performed at school and college cultural events. She attributes her passion for the arts and dance to this experience. Sanju joined Gateway Dance Theatre in 2004, performing regularly with GDT as a dancer, instructor, and choreographer. She made her debut as an actor, cast as the heroine Shakuntala in GDT’s “Shakuntala”. Sanju also assists with outreach programs for schools, colleges and various organizations.


Sanju is employed at Kum & Go and she has a degree in Fashion Merchandising. All her experience with GDT, her job, is an asset to GDT. She is a great event planner, and brings her enthusiasm and expertise to GDT.

Eric Salmon, photographer & minivan driver

Eric has been a Gateway Dance Theatre photographer and transporter of behind-the-scenes people, dancers, actors, props and costumes for more than 10 years. He enjoys world music, watching and photographing dance, doing yoga and drinking chai tea. He appreciates the contributions of the variety of cultures that make up this country and are reflected in the artistic activities of Gateway Dance Theatre. 


Eric has a bachelor's degree in music, a master's degree in journalism and works as an event photographer for mostly non-profit organizations. 

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