Chicago Dance History Project appoints Michael McStraw as Executive Director
Chicago Dance History Project, which preserves histories of the Chicago dance community, announces its new executive director, Michael McStraw, who recently stepped down from the executive leadership of Giordano Dance Chicago after 13 years. McStraw begins his duties October 16, 2023.
McStraw will be responsible for directing CDHP’s administration, staffing, board relations, marketing, fundraising, and programming, as well as advocating for CDHP and the dance industry in the Chicago and national arenas.
“I am deeply humbled, honored, and elated to have been selected as Chicago Dance History Project’s next executive director,” McStraw said. “My decades-long involvement in the Chicago dance community as administrator, performer, educator, board member, leader, and rabid fan has allowed me to develop the strategic perspective and community-wide relationships essential for success. My tenure with Giordano Dance Chicago has illuminated and underscored the belief that an unwavering effort by everyone in Chicago dance—past, present, and emerging—is essential to advance our stories, challenges, and successes. Chicago has been and will continue to be a prodigious generator of exceptional dance in all of its forms and traditions. I thank CDHP’s Board of Directors for their trust in me and for fully embracing the opportunity to gather, preserve, promote, and share the histories of all who make our dance community so extraordinary.”
McStraw served as GDC’s executive director from 2010 through 2023. Through his leadership, GDC tripled its budget size, built unprecedented financial reserves and assets, and successfully weathered the ravages of the pandemic. Further, his efforts helped secure the largest individual and governmental contributions in GDC’s 61-year history.
He concurrently served as executive director of the Jazz Dance World Congress, an annual multi-day event featuring educational programs and performances. He previously was managing director of Stage Two Theatre Company and general manager of Mordine & Company Dance Theater. McStraw currently serves as a trustee and co-chair of the DEI Committee for the Harris Theater for Music and Dance board of directors. He is a past board president of See Chicago Dance/Audience Architects and Mordine & Company.
“We are thrilled to have Michael lead us into CDHP’s next chapter, expanding and deepening our efforts to capture the rich history of the Chicago dance community,” said Board President Patti Eylar. “He is a multitalented strategic thinker and enthusiastic about our work, having devoted his life to Chicago dance. He sees this as a natural culmination of his work in Chicago’s cultural community, and we could not ask for a more perfect person at this point in our trajectory and his career.”
McStraw takes the reins after the eight-year tenure of CDHP Founding Executive Director Jenai Cutcher, who relocated to Cleveland to become executive director of GroundWorks DanceTheater. Cutcher’s contributions include 150 interviews and numerous public events, including a day-long interview marathon with 46 Chicago and Chicago-associated dance artists and public figures.
Chicago Dance History Project is dedicated to preserving, with a sense of urgency, histories of the Chicago dance community. The organization has built a digital archive of original and collected research through oral history interviews, recorded public events, digitized materials, and archival performance footage.
For more information, visit chicagodancehistory.org.