This January, Thodos Dance Chicago will give audiences a deeper look inside the life of Japanese-American dancer Sono Osato. The full-company piece, choreographed by Thodos Dance Chicago Founder and Artistic Director Melissa Thodos, chronicles Osato’s journey to dance stardom, which began at the age of 14, and beyond.
“Sono’s Journey is an extraordinary and enduring story encompassing Sono Osato’s life experiences as a Japanese-American performer in a rapidly changing world,” Thodos said.
Osato’s story began in 1919 in Omaha, Neb. The daughter of a Japanese father and Irish-French Canadian mother, she moved to Chicago as a child. When she was 14 years old, Osato successfully auditioned for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo on the Auditorium Theatre stage, beginning her dance career. She later danced with American Ballet Theatre and appeared on Broadway in musical theater and acting roles.
During World War II, Osato’s father was taken to an internment camp around the same time she began starring in Broadway shows. While the war raged on, Osato grappled with professional prejudice while working to grow and improve as a dancer.
Osato’s family is working in tandem with Thodos Dance Chicago on the show. A documentary following the creation of Sono’s Journey is being made, highlighting her connection to Chicago and the meaningfulness of bringing her story back to the Auditorium Theatre, where she first got her start.
Sono’s Journey adds to Thodos Dance Chicago’s American Dance Legacy Project, which aims to keep the voices and stories of renowned American dancers on stage. Previous subjects were Bob Fosse and Sybil Shearer.
Sono’s Journey premieres January 9 as part of the Auditorium Theatre’s Made in Chicago series. Tickets can be purchased at AuditoriumTheatre.org, by calling 312-341-2300, or in person at the theatre’s box office. Tickets are $28-$68.