BRENDA WAY (Artistic Director) received her early training at The School of American Ballet and Ballet Arts in New York City. She is the Founder and Artistic Director of ODC/Dance and creator of the ODC Theater and ODC Dance Commons, community performance and training venues in San Francisco’s Mission District. Way launched ODC and an inter-arts department at Oberlin College and Conservatory of Music in the late 60’s before relocating to the Bay Area in 1976. She has choreographed more than 80 pieces over the last 41 years. Among her commissions are Unintended Consequences: A Meditation (2008) Equal Justice Society; Life is a House (2008) San Francisco Girls Chorus; On a Train Heading South (2005) CSU Monterey Bay; Remnants of Song (2002) Stanford Lively Arts; Scissors Paper Stone (1994) Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater; Western Women (1993) Cal Performances, Rutgers University and Jacob’s Pillow; Ghosts of an Old Ceremony (1991) Walker Art Center and The Minnesota Orchestra; Krazy Kat (1990) San Francisco Ballet; This Point in Time (1987) Oakland Ballet; Tamina (1986) San Francisco Performances; and Invisible Cities (1985) Stanford Lively Arts and the Robotics Research Laboratory. Her work Investigating Grace was named an NEA American Masterpiece in 2011. Way’s work was selected by the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2010 to represent the US in a tour of Southeast Asia, sponsored by the State Department. She is a national spokesperson for dance, has published widely, has received numerous awards including Isadora Duncan Dance Awards for both choreography and sustained achievement and 40 years of support from the National Endowment for the Arts. She is a 2000 recipient of the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. In 2009, she was the first choreographer to be a Resident of the Arts at the American Academy in Rome, and in 2012 she received the Helen Crocker Russell Award for Community Leadership from the SF Foundation. Way holds a PhD in aesthetics and is the mother of four children.
KT Nelson, Co-Artistic Director, joined ODC in 1976 while attending Oberlin College. She danced with the company from 1976 to 1997. Since 1976, Nelson has choreographed more that 54 works as well as composing and commissioning numerous scores. Her work as choreographer, dancer, and educator has been widely recognized. In 1986, she choreographed and directed ODC’s first full-length family production, The Velveteen Rabbit, which has since been performed annually in the Bay Area as well as touring nationwide, reaching an audience of over 350,000. She has been awarded the Isadora Duncan award (San Francisco’s highest dance honor) four times: in 1987 for Outstanding Performance, in 1996 for Outstanding Choreography, in 2001 for Sustained Achievement and in 2012 for Outstanding Choreography. She has received 10 Isadora Duncan nominations in all categories, including a triple nomination for her 1993 work, River. Nelson’s collaborators have included Bobby McFerrin, Geoff Hoyle, Kim Turos, Gina Leishman, Rinde Eckert, Marcelo Zarvos, Zap Mama and Linda Bouchard. She has been a guest choreographer for Mikko Nissinen when he danced with San Francisco Ballet, Diablo Ballet, Ballet Met and Maximum Dance. She founded ODC’s youth company, the ODC Dance Jam, and presently co-directs the Jam (ages 12-17) with ODC School Director Kimi Okada. As Director of ODC’s Educational Outreach Program, Nelson has done extensive community work including partnerships with: Kohler Arts Center, where she created the evening-length work Raising the Roof with ODC dancers, the local Carpenters Union and Kohler Arts Center; University of Florida at Gainesville where she choreographed a concert with deaf children, local youth and ODC; Everett Middle School, creating Rites of Passage along with the San Francisco Mine Troupe and San Francisco’s Writers Union; and Thunder Road Drug Rehabilitation. In 2002, Nelson received the California Dance Educators Association’s Artist Award for outstanding artistry, creativity, outreach, and dedication to the field of dance. She ran the dance department at Center for Creative Youth at Wesleyan University for 2003-2005. She is currently an Advisory Board member of Center for Creative Youth and Nexmap and sits on the Board of ODC.
Kimi Okada, Associate Choreographer/School Director, is a founding member of ODC and Associate Choreographer for ODC/Dance, for whom she has choreographed some 25 works. Her work includes commissions and collaborations with Geoff Hoyle, Bill Irwin, Julie Taymor, Robin Williams, Edward Barnes, Camden Richman and Keith Terry. She has choreographed theatrical productions for Yale Repertory Theater, The New Victory Theater in New York, The Children’s Theater Company for Minneapolis, Theatre for a New Audience in New York, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, The American Music Theater Festival, The Santa Fe Opera, Los Angeles Music Center Opera, Los Angeles Theatre Center, Portland Center for the Performing Arts, The Pickle Family Circus, and the San Francisco Mime Troupe. She was nominated for a Tony award for the Broadway production of Largely New York, which she co-choreographed with Bill Irwin, originally produced at City Center in New York, with subsequent productions at the Seattle Repertory Theatre and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. She was also the recipient of a Bay Area Critic’s Circle Award for Best Choreography for The Caucasian Chalk Circle. In addition to choreographic work in television and film, she was a member of the group Commotion, a performing arts consultancy group for computer animators. Okada has been the past recipient of National Endowment for the Arts Choreography Fellowships, a panelist for the Endowment, the California Arts Council, and the Seattle Arts Commission, and was recently honored with a California State Legislature Assembly Resolution citing choreographic and community contributions. She is also the Director of the teen dance company, the ODC Dance Jam.