2012 Legendary Choreographer Award
DEE DEE WOOD
Dee Dee Wood received this award during our
31st Anniversary National Finals Gala
on July 10, 2012 at the
Renaissance Orlando at Sea World.
Dee Dee Wood’s love for dance began in high school after she took her first ballet class. Her career as a dancer later began on the Broadway stage in the 1950's. After dancing in the choruses of several Broadway hits such as Guys And Dolls, Can Can, and Destry Rides Again, choreographer Michael Kidd asked her to become his assistant on 1959's Li’l Abner. When Kidd balked at doing the movie version, Dee Dee was tapped as choreographer.
She and her husband, Mark Breaux, went on to stage and choreograph dance sequences in many classic films including Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and The Sound of Music. Film critic Roger Ebert once said of the pair, "Their dances are unmatched for sheer exuberance." Nicholas Hammond, who played one of the von Trapp children in The Sound of Music, remembers Dee Dee as someone who "always made me laugh," while Charmian Carr, another of the von Trap movie brood, recalls her as "a fairy godmother. She made you feel that you could do anything." Rolf and Liesel’s twirling about a rain-misted gazebo in The Sound of Music is an icon of movie dance and Mary Poppins’ magical sequence co-starring Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke and a quartet of penguins is one of the finest mixes of live action and animation ever.
Since then Dee Dee has blazed new trails for women by tackling major televised events such as Super Bowl halftime shows, ceremonies for the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics, and the Opening and Closing Ceremonies for Liberty Weekend in 1986. Her work on the Closing Ceremonies television spectacular, commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the Statue of Liberty, earned her an Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Choreography. She then went on to choreograph the movie Beaches starring Bette Midler, as well as an episode of the HBO original series Dream On.
In 1998 Dee Dee Wood received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Choreography Awards. Although now semi-retired, she still makes time to help her local community utilizing her expertise by directing and choreographing local musical theater productions for the Desert Foothills Theatre, as well as serving as official spokesperson for "Celebration of Dance," Arizona’s contribution to National Dance Week.
In addition, Dee Dee also speaks to up and coming artists at colleges and universities. She is totally comfortable with all audiences -dancers, patrons, community members, dinner parties - put her in a room of dancers and she melts into the group becoming one of them, sharing her dance life, her joys, her early challenges, essentially the passion that still burns strong today. But the message is bigger than Dance. Her presentations are a conversation with heart. It has been said that she doesn’t deliver a lecture, she delivers a dialogue. It is about living life, about living a dream. Dance was her dream, and it doesn’t matter whether she’s describing the choreography she created for Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke for the film Mary Poppins or her first Broadway audition, there is always a message behind the moment. That message is the one she and her husband repeated throughout the years, "Do what you love."