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Donna Wood
Born: November 21, 1954
Occupation: dancer
Born in 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 dance world.

-- Thomas F. DeFrantz

Flatow, Sheryl. "Down to the Earth: Donna Wood, Ailey's Shining Star." BALLET NEWS (November 1983): 1922.
Gruen, John. "Donna Wood-'Alvin Ailey Taught Me To Be Myself.'" NEW YORK TIMES, December 14, 1980.
Small, Linda. "Donna Wood: Catch the Gazelle." DANCE MAGAZINE (December 1979): 7679.

Source Citation: "Donna Wood." ENCYCLOPEDIA OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN CULTURE AND HISTORY. 5 vols. Macmillan, 1996. Reprinted by permission of Gale Group.