Founded in 1971 by Artistic Director Brenda Way, who trained under the legendary George Balanchine, ODC originated as Oberlin Dance Collective—named after Oberlin College in Ohio where Brenda was on faculty. The adventurous artists loaded up a yellow school bus and relocated to San Francisco in 1976. Brenda's goal was to ground the company in a dynamic, pluralistic, urban setting.

Known nationally for entrepreneurial savvy, ODC was the first modern dance company in the United States to own its home facility, the ODC Theater, built in 1979 and expanded in 2010. In September 2005, ODC also opened the ODC Dance Commons, which houses ODC/Dance, ODC School, administrative offices, and the Healthy Dancers' Clinic.

  • 1977-1979

    Red Shoes: the first and last attempt at Collective choreography for the dancers in red sneakers set to a score by Doug Skinner.
    (Photo by Doug Winter)

    The Collective performs at Kimi's wedding to Bill Irwin.

  • 1971-1976

    Oberlin Beginnings. Oberlin faculty member, Brenda Way, pulls together the Collective. Original Collective Members: Doug Baxter, Kimi Okada, Sue Peffley, Doug Winter, Laura Thrower, Brenda Way, Peter Klein, Chris Peck, Beverly Vaughn, Marc Beckerman, Nancy Stark Smith, Sam Felder, Michelle Goldfarb.

    Warner Gym

  • 1980-1985

    Collective members build the studios at the New Performance Gallery (later ODC Theater).
    Photo by Doug Winter

    Kimi choreographs Fall from Grace, contributing to the new vaudeville movement.

    (Photo by Marty Sohl)

  • 1986-1989

    Ruth Felt and San Francisco Performances present Kronos Quartet and ODC in an evening of commissioned works: Archipelago by Kimi Okada with a score by John Hassel; Neon Summer by KT Nelson with a score by Terry Riley; Tamina by Brenda way with a commissioned score by Jalalu Kalvert Nelson.
    Photo by RJ Muna

  • 1990-1995

    Brenda choreographs Bold Sally and a SF Ballet commissions, Krazy Kat, later performed by ODC.
    (Photo by Marty Sohl)

    New full length version of The Velveteen Rabbit previews at Stanford Lively Arts and open in San Diego, sets and costumes by Brian Wildsmith.

  • 1996-1999

    Western Women finds its historical setting during ODC's month long tour of Nebraska. They dance through living rooms and cornfields to the stage at Leid Center where local Nebraska childre join ODC on stage. Audience interaction becomes a cornerstone of ODC performances.

    KT Nelson retires from the stage!
    (Photo by RJ Muna)

  • 2000-2005

    Brenda picks up on financial and political volatility and choreographs Crash six months before the dot-com bubble burst.

    Brenda is awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship.

    Brenda Way choreographs Spectral Evidence with live interactive video by Jim Campbell, and a commissioned score by Jay Cloidt performed live by Cypress String Quartet.

  • 2006-2009

    A landmark partnership between a non-profit and a for-profit organization, ODC School and the Rhythm & Motion Dance Program is launched, bringing a whole new constituency of dancers into the ODC world.


    (Photo by RJ Muna)

  • 2010-2015

    Projected completion of the renovation of ODC Theater. Let the party begin!

    Creativity Conference: Women who Frame the World
    Speaking Participants: Anna Halprin; Cecelia Chang; Ellie Coppola: Beverly Pepper; Kamala Harris; Jorie Graham; Liz Lerman; Kui Dong; Carol Gilligan; Tina Packer; Lynn Hershman; Jane Metcalf; Pamela Z, Claudia Bernardi

  • 2016-2019

    Brenda Way’s Walk Back the Cat, premiered in 2016, excavates the circuitous journey of the choreographic process and arrives in a world inspired by Thomas Hart Benton’s muscular and vital murals of American City Life in the 1930s.

    Including visuals by photographer RJ Muna and video by Ian Winters, the work features a commissioned jazz-inspired score and live performance by Paul Dresher and musicians.

  • 2020+

    ODC shifts on-site classes to online with #ODCAtHome for Adult and Youth & Teen classes.