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Michael McStraw
Executive Director

Executive Director Michael McStraw is a member of and an outstanding advocate for the Chicago performing arts community. As a professional dancer, semi-professional musician, arts administrator, dance educator, board member, and arts patron, Michael has been a positive and constant influence in the community for nearly 40 years. Raised in Western Pennsylvania, his life includes a BS degree in Geology from Allegheny College, a Master of Fine Arts degree in Modern Dance from the University of Michigan, and a stint as an agricultural extension agent in the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone, West Africa. He danced extensively with the area’s premier contemporary dance companies, including Mordine & Company Dance Theater, an organization he also managed, Jan Erkert & Dancers, and DanszLoop Chicago, of which he was a founding member. Prior to joining CDHP, Michael was honored to serve as Giordano Dance Chicago’s Executive Director for 13 years.  He is an experienced marketing, operations, and project management professional with special skill in developing strategic long-term solutions for complex business issues. Michael has twice served three-year terms on the Illinois Arts Council Dance Panel, is past President and Board Member for See Chicago Dance, Chicago’s dance marketing and advocacy organization, and has mentored young artists/administrators within Pentacle’s Help Desk program. After serving six years as an ex-officio member of the Harris Theater for Music and Dance’s Board of Trustees, representing that organization’s Resident Companies, Michael was appointed as a full Trustee in June 2022.  Last year, Michael was celebrated as the Chicago Tribune’s “2022 Chicagoan of the Year in Dance.”

Sean Rafferty
Digital Media Production Manager & Production Coordinator

Sean Rafferty has been filming and editing interviews and events for the Chicago Dance History Project since 2017, and also acted as Technical Director for the 2021 CDHP Interview Marathon. In addition to his work with CDHP, he has also produced videos for arts organizations including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, South Chicago Dance Theatre, and Brevard Music Center. In 2021, his dance film Press On, Regardless featuring Winifred Haun & Dancers was presented at Dance For Life in Chicago’s Millennium Park.

Kristy Rawson
Operations and Collections Manager

Kristy Rawson handles day-to-day operations at Chicago Dance History Project, including the management of the collection's accessibility and discoverability, grants management, board relations, and institutional partner relations and communications. Kristy holds a PhD in Cinema and Media Studies from the University of Michigan. She brings to CDHP an informed engagement with digital material culture preservation and public history, forged in her cultural history scholarship on ethnic and racial representation in classical Hollywood film and musical theater. Kristy’s dedication to bridging the gap between academically held knowledge and public discourse is guiding CDHP's collections strategy toward broader, more robust online public engagement.

Maddie Counsell
Communications Manager

Maddie Counsell is a 2020 graduate of James Madison University with a double major in Dance and Media Arts and Design. Maddie had the pleasure of working with Abraham.In.Motion, DanceWorks Chicago, Rubén Graciani, and Matt Pardo. She has presented work at the Going Dutch Festival and Emergence Festival. Maddie is currently entering her second season with South Chicago Dance Theatre, directed by Kia Smith, as an Emerging Artist. In addition to dance, she enjoys teaching yoga, working in retail, and coordinating social media for Chicago Dance History Project.

Jenai Cutcher
Past Executive & Artistic Director

Jenai Cutcher was CDHP's first Executive and Artistic Director of the Chicago Dance History Project, serving from 2015 to mid-2023. Under her leadership, CDHP has interviewed 177 individuals, produced 37 public events, and digitized over 8 terabytes of archival material including programs, photographs, and performance footage from the past seven decades. Cutcher is the 2019 recipient of Chicago’s esteemed Ruth Page Award. She has a BA in English and MFA in Dance, both from The Ohio State University.

Board of Directors

Michael Anderson, Cheryl Cornell,

Patti Eylar, Judie Green, Kim Grigsby,

Gail Kalver, Audrey Peiper

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