Brenda Way 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. She launched ODC and helped create an inter-arts department at Oberlin College and Conservatory of Music in the late 1960's before relocating to the Bay Area in 1976.
Brenda has choreographed more than 85 pieces over the last 45 years. Her commissions include 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.
She is a national spokesperson for dance, has been published widely, and has received numerous awards, including Isadora Duncan Dance Awards for both choreography and sustained achievement, and has enjoyed 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. In 2009 ODC/Dance was selected by BAM to tour Brenda Way's work internationally under the aegis of the U.S. State Department’s inaugural DanceMotion USA tour. She has recently added filmmaking to her list of accomplishments with Walk on Air, Sleeping Beauty, and the feature length Up for Air/Decameron, all brought to the screen during the pandemic.
Brenda Way holds a Ph.D. in aesthetics and is the mother of four children.