New York City as the middle child of seven children, Donna Wood was raised
in Dayton, Ohio, where she began studying dance with the Dayton
Contemporary Dance Company at the age of five. She trained extensively in
ballet under Josephine Schwartz of the Dayton Ballet. Wood moved to New
York in 1972 and joined the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in
September of that year. Five years later, she became a leading dancer with
the company, noted for her lyrical musicality, supple extensions, and
strong, graceful jumps. Wood's performances in Ailey's "Memoria"
(1979) and Todd Bolender's "The Still Point" (1954, revived 1980)
propelled her to international recognition as a significant interpreter of
dramatic dance roles. Her artistry was underscored by a quiet simplicity
in performance, and in 1980 she told the NEW YORK TIMES, "I have
learned never to force a movement, but to arrive at it naturally."
During the early 1980s Wood guest-starred with the Hamburg Ballet, the
Vienna State Opera, and the Royal Danish Ballet. In 1985 she left the
Ailey company, and took a two-year faculty appointment at CalArts of
Valencia, Calif. In 1987 she starred in a production of "Sophisticated
Ladies," which toured the Soviet Union and Japan. Three years later
Wood retired from performing and married attorney Peter Michael Sanders.
In 1991 she and Sanders created the Donna Wood Foundation, "to assist
young dancers as they are embarking on careers, giving advice on
additional education and skill development" necessary to survival in the
-- Thomas F. DeFrantz