On Saturday, March 11, Thodos Dance Chicago takes the stage one final time. The evening, both a celebration of the company’s 25th anniversary and a final farewell, marks a poignant culmination of the beauty and artistry company founder and artistic director Melissa Thodos and her dancers have brought to Chicago over the last quarter century.
Full Circle highlights the type of work the company is best known for. Two past signature pieces by Melissa Thodos serve as a retrospective into her choreography and are joined by a third, new piece to complete The Wheel Trilogy. The show also features some Thodos Dance hallmarks: an exploration of work by an important American dance figure with Nos Duraturi, and a dance from a guest choreographer with Brian Enos’ Acid Reign.
“I love curating performances,” Thodos said. “I really focused on bringing what is current and cutting edge and being made by artists of today, and then I focused on a portion having American dance legacy.”
Thodos Dance’s American Dance Legacy Project gives tribute to these legacy artists, and this installment showcases Nos Duraturi by West Coast modern dancer Bella Lewitzky.
“Chicago doesn’t see a lot from the West Coast,” Thodos said. “I love that I’m able to bring this true legacy piece by this choreographer who was considered the Grand Dame of the West Coast in modern dance.”
While it may include performances typical of Thodos Dance, Saturday night’s show is anything but ordinary, as it marks the end of the company’s run.
Thodos began her professional Chicago dance career in the 1980s, growing as a performer, choreographer, and teacher in a local modern dance company. She had been choreographing pieces since high school, and as she built up her body of work and continued developing as a teacher and performer, she realized she wanted to create a space for artists to engage in those three elements of dance. So, in 1992, she founded Thodos Dance Chicago.
“I thought, ‘Gosh. These are three things I really love,’” Thodos said of her decision to start the company. “It began grassroots…it was a really neat and very organic trajectory.”
She hopes that by stepping away from Thodos Dance she will be able to focus on more creative work rather than the day-to-day logistics of running a company. Thodos plans to spend more time working on project-based choreography, such as the dance she was commissioned to create for the unveiling of a new Chicago sculpture by Yoko Ono.
“Over time, I feel like the company in its current structure has done everything it set off to do,” she said. “For me, when I create work, when I’m creative is when I’m most satisfied and happy.”
Over the years, Thodos Dance has traveled and performed across the country and internationally. While she has enjoyed performing across the world, Thodos said her favorite memories with the company include the residential activities at performance sites, such as the time they did 36 activities in a single week between performances in Ohio.
She said these experiences remind her and her company members that dance is not just about being on stage or being separate from an audience. Rather it gives dancers the chance to get to know a community.
And, when they return home, they return to a community that supports their art and reflects their drive to create and perform.
“This is a very rich city in terms of creativity,” Thodos said. “There’s such a beautiful drive and passion for dance in Chicago.”
Thodos said she is looking forward to her next chapter, but she doesn’t diminish the accomplishment of building a company that performed as a mainstay of the Chicago dance scene for 25 years. However, she said the company’s ability to shift and remain flexible is what allowed it to last throughout the years, and now she feels it’s time to shift again.
“You have to grow with your own creativity and your own intuition and you have to be flexible,” she said. “I am so excited for Saturday, and I’m excited for what’s to come. Dance is an amazing art form that has given so much…it’s very significant to me.”
Tickets for Full Circle are $29-$68. To purchase, visit AuditoriumTheatre.org or call 312-341-2300.