Giordano Dance Chicago Names Erica Lynette Edwards Executive Director

Giordano Dance Chicago Names Erica Lynette Edwards Executive Director

Giordano Dance Chicago (GDC) is pleased to announce that Erica Lynette Edwards assumes the position of Executive Director. Michael McStraw, who has served as GDC Executive Director for 13 years, will be stepping down Aug. 31.

“As Michael McStraw’s incredible commitment and leadership to GDC as Executive Director comes to a close, I look forward to the company’s 61st year with great excitement,” says GDC Artistic Director Nan Giordano. “The appointment of Erica will be transforming in many ways. She has deep connections across Chicago’s dance community. Her breadth of experience and past leadership roles will be critical in leading GDC forward into the future. Having known and worked with Erica in multiple capacities over the years, I am certain she is the right choice to lead our organization.”

“As a longstanding member of Chicago’s dance community, I have witnessed GDC’s captivating energy both on and off stage,” says Edwards. “As the Executive Director I am thrilled to support the exceptional artistry and dance education that fulfills GDC’s legacy.”

Erica Lynette Edwards is an accomplished change leader with demonstrated success as an arts administrator, consultant and public speaker. As a ballerina with The Joffrey Ballet, she performed lead roles throughout a rewarding 15-year career, dancing in hundreds of performances in the United States and abroad. During that time Ebony Magazine declared her a “Young Leader in the Future of the Arts” and the Chicago Tribune gave her the title “Black History Maker.”

When Edwards retired from the stage, she became an artistic and administrative senior leader as Joffrey’s Director of Community Engagement. Under her visionary leadership, the department grew to support the city of Chicago through a focus on community partnerships rooted in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).

At the beginning of 2020, Edwards independently expanded her DEI services to engage a wide variety of clients with authentic and innovative consultation. She is a certified mediator and has a bachelor’s in human resource management. Her career promoting engaging conversations and creating inclusive environments has earned her many honors, including giving a TEDx talk, speaking on national and international panels, and being selected as a member of Crain’s Chicago Business “40 Under 40.” She is passionate about creating workplaces where everyone can flourish.

Coinciding with the new season, GDC has elected new Board President, Chris D’hondt. D’hondt, is a Managing Director at Accenture where he has worked for 35 years. He has held numerous leadership positions over his career and continues to leverage his experiences to best serve the GDC Board and Company. For the past two years D’hondt has served as GDC Vice President while chairing several key committees. He succeeds previous Board President Kip Helverson who will continue to serve on the GDC Board.

“I’m so thrilled to welcome Erica to the GDC team,” says D’hondt. “Her experience and her passion for the community make her the perfect successor to Michael McStraw. I am confident she is the person who can lead the company as we continue to grow and evolve.”

Also new to the GDC team is Diana Nielander who recently joined as GDC’s first-ever Director of Development. “I’m excited to join this exceptional team just as the organization is poised to level up,” says Nielander. “Nan and the board have a strong vision for the Company’s future and the addition of Erica strengthens our position to assemble the resources and execute the strategy to get us there.” Nielander is a veteran fundraiser with more than 30 years of experience with organizations in Chicago and Chicago’s north suburbs including United Way of Lake County, The National Lekotek Center and most recently as a nonprofit consultant.

Upcoming events for GDC’s 61st “Unlimited” season include Dance for Life Aug. 19 at the Auditorium Theatre; Harris Theater Resident Company Festival Sept. 9 on the Pritzker Pavilion Stage; Dancing With The Giordano Stars competition benefit Oct. 5 at Park West and Oct. 27-28 performances at the Harris Theater in Millennium Park. For more information about these and other GDC’s events visit