Honoring a Bold Ballerina
The name Sono Osato might not be widely known among the current generation of dancers. But the Japanese-American ballerina, who became the toast of Broadway in the 1940s, was in many ways the Misty Copeland of her time. On January 9, at Chicago's Auditorium Theatre, Thodos Dance Chicago will debut a dance-theater piece by choreographer Melissa Thodos that pays homage to Osato's story, as part of the company's American Legacy Project.
The one-act work, Sono's Journey, chronicles the barrier-breaking career of the former Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and American Ballet Theatre star who grew up in Chicago. The dancer was a favorite of Jerome Robbins, who spotlighted her as Miss Turnstiles in the original Broadway production of On the Town. The 1944 musical was renowned for its progressive casting at a time when diversity was far from the rule. Ironically, that musical opened when Osato's father's movements were still restricted due to the U.S. government's World War II–era Japanese American internment policies.
“I wanted to tell Osato's inspirational story in the very medium she worked in," says Thodos. “What fascinated me was the way her life and career had so many important parallels with our time. It's about diversity, and how this artist continued to grow and thrive while overcoming prejudice and professional limitations."
Thodos, who did much of her research through interviews with the now 96-year-old Osato in New York, is telling the story through a mix of traditional and abstract dance. Set to a blend of music, with the entire score designed by John Nevin, the piece will be enhanced by spoken narrative, projections of archival material and an interactive set design. “None of my dancers happen to be Asian, but I spoke to Osato and it was not a problem for her," says Thodos. “She said she is most interested in seeing the dancers' hearts."
Just four years ago, the University of Southern California's Glorya Kaufman School of Dance welcomed its first class of BFA students. The program—which boasts world-class faculty and a revolutionary approach to training focused on collaboration and hybridity—immediately established itself as one of the country's most prestigious and most innovative.
Now, the first graduating class is entering the dance field. Here, six of the 33 graduates share what they're doing post-grad, what made their experience at USC Kaufman so meaningful and how it prepared them for their next steps:
Every dancer knows there's as much magic taking place backstage as there is in what the audience sees onstage. Behind the scenes, it takes a village, says American Ballet Theatre's wig and makeup supervisor, Rena Most. With wig and makeup preparations happening in a studio of their own as the dancers rehearse, Most and her team work to make sure not a single detail is lost.
Dance Magazine recently spoke to Most to find out what actually goes into the hair and makeup looks audiences see on the ABT stage.
On a sunny July weekend, hundreds of Seattle-area dance fans converged on tiny Vashon Island, a bucolic enclave in Puget Sound about 20 miles from the city. They made the ferry trek to attend the debut performance of the fledgling Seattle Dance Collective.
SDC is not a run-of-the-mill contemporary dance company; it's the brainchild of two of Pacific Northwest Ballet's most respected principal dancers: James Yoichi Moore and Noelani Pantastico. The duo wanted to create a nimble organization to feature dancers and choreographers they felt needed more exposure in the Pacific Northwest.