Melissa Thodos was just six years old when she found her passion. 


On a walk with her mother and siblings in Evanston, she passed a building under construction. "What are they building? What will that be?" she wondered. 


Her mother told her they were building a dance school, and Thodos immediately felt the desire for movement.


"This is it," Thodos realized. "This is what I want to do."


In 1992, after eight years as a professional dancer, Thodos fulfilled her vision with the founding of Thodos Dance Chicago. The company was created to be a hub where dancers could grow as performers and creative artists, giving them space to create and promote contemporary dance. 


Since then, Thodos Dance Chicago has danced and conducted residency work across 27 states and four continents, sharing the company's vision of dance that is beautiful, refreshing, innovative, and unique with communities throughout the world. 


Here are just a few highlights:




Melissa Thodos debuts her solo Reaching There at the College of DuPage Arts Center. (pictured above).



Thodos Dance Chicago (then Melissa Thodos & Dancers) makes its debut at the very first Dance for Life (benefiting AIDS research) and the Ruth Page Dance Series.



The company has its first full evening concert at the Pritzker Theater at the Harold Washington Library.



The company has its first international performance in Edinburgh Scotland at the Fringe Festival




The company presents its first annual New Dances concert at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, encouraging emerging choreographers to create new works. Since the program's inception, over 25 works from New Dances have been incorporated into the company repertory.



Thodos Dance Chicago performs at international dance festivals in Istanbul and Ankara Turkey.




Thodos Dance Chicago establishes residency at The Drucker Center/Menomonee Club for Boys & Girls. After daily rehearsal, company members lead youth dance classes, teaching children from over 30 schools in the Chicago area.




Ann Reinking sets her work Caution, Side Effects on the company beginning a collaborative relationship that lasts to this day.



The Ravinia Festival commissions several Chicago dance companies to create works with water (H20) as the universal theme for all invited artists. Melissa creates a world premiere dance titled Cascade set to the music of Ravel's Jeux d'eau.



Thodos Dance Chicago collaborates with The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, setting a premiere choreographed by Melissa Thodos to Igor Stravinsky's The Soldier's Tale at Orchestra Hall.




Thodos Dance Chicago and Fulcrum Point New Music Project, under the leadership of Stephen Burns, begin a collaboration that has spanned over a decade, with original choreography set to Pulitzer Prize winning Shulamit Ran's Eastwind and performed live by flutist Mary Stolper as their first endeavor.



The company collaborates with the Loyola University Museum of Art and Andy Warhol's Silver Clouds to create two site specific original works as part of this special exhibit. The City of Chicago also commissions Thodos Dance Chicago to create and perform a premiere site specific work titled Endymion as part of the dedication and opening of Chicago's Millennium Park.




The company receives a National Endowment for the Arts Dance Masterpiece Award to restage early Bob Fosse work, only ever seen on film, to perform live for the first time. The company also performs in Busan International Dance Festival in South Korea and makes its debut at the renowned Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival.




Thodos Dance Chicago's first dance/theater piece: The White City, Chicago's Columbian Exposition of 1893 is created in collaboration with Tony Award-winning Ann Reinking and Melissa Thodos. The work is named "Best Dance in Chicago" by the Chicago Sun Times for the year.



Thodos Dance Chicago hosts west coast choreographer KT Nelsen of San Francisco's ODC, bringing the creative spirit of the west to the Midwest.




Thodos Dance Chicago premieres its second dance/theater piece in collaboration with Ann Reinking, A Light in the Dark, the story of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan, with an original score by composer Bruce Wolosoff.  This work has been performed in over a dozen states across the U.S.  Thodos Dance Chicago is also commissioned by the Auditorium Theatre to create a new work titled Sentient set to the music of Fritz Kreisler performed live.




Thodos Dance Chicago celebrates the Auditorium Theatre's 125th anniversary with a full-length evening performance.  The program includes Changes of Phase created in collaboration with Jeanne Gang and Studio Gang Architects.  This highly innovative work brings concepts of architecture, dance and physics together onstage and explores the concept of "jamming," the process in which a material becomes rigid with increased density and how this process reverses.





Thodos Dance Chicago premieres its third dance/theater piece Sono's Journey, a dance story conceived and choreographed by Melissa Thodos.  This work embraces the unprecedented path of Sono Osato, from her roots as a young girl with her family in Chicago, to her defining audition at the Auditorium Theatre with the Ballet Russse at the age of 14, to her position today as one of the most inspirational barrier-breaking artists ever in American dance.



Thodos Dance Chicago collaborates with Yoko Ono, whose first sculpture in the Americas is installed in Chicago's Jackson Park. The company participates in the unveiling of the outdoor sculpture, titled Skylanding, with a world premiere dance set to Yoko Ono's original score Rising I played live by the Mayumi Project Band.



Thodos Dance Chicago celebrates its Silver Anniversary with the program
FULL CIRCLE Saturday, March 11 at 7:30 p.m. at the Auditorium Theatre.


For more information about the history of Thodos Dance Chicago,



Published in Buzz Extra

CHICAGO, December 15, 2016 - National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu approved more than $30 million in grants this week as part of the NEA's first major funding announcement for fiscal year 2017. 


Included in this announcement is an Art Work grant of $10,000 to Thodos Dance Chicago to support the March 2017 restaging of legendary West Coast choreographer Bella Lewitzky's seminal work Nos Duraturi.  


The grants also helps fund a comprehensive education outreach initiative to teach the Lewitzky technique to Chicago professional and youth dancers.


The Art Works category focuses on the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence, public engagement with diverse and excellent art, lifelong learning in the arts and the strengthening of communities through the arts. 


"The arts are for all of us, and by supporting organizations such as Thodos Dance Chicago, the National Endowment for the Arts is providing more opportunities for the public to engage with the arts," said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. "Whether in a theater, a town square, a museum, or a hospital, the arts are everywhere and make our lives richer."


"We are delighted that the NEA has awarded Thodos Dance Chicago a $10,000 grant to support our newest work to emerge from our American Dance Legacy Project, Bella Lewitzky's Nos Duraturi," said TDC founder and artistic director Melissa Thodos. "We so appreciate the NEA's endorsement of our work, and we look forward to introducing a new generation of audiences to the work of Bella Lewitzky, a true icon of modern dance."



More about the NEA's support of  Nos Duraturi


The NEA Arts Work grant will support Thodos Dance Chicago's restaging and presentation of Bella Lewitzky's Nos Duraturi, premiering Saturday, March 11, 2017 at 7:30 p.m. at Chicago's Auditorium Theatre as part of Thodos Dance Chicago's 25th Anniversary FULL CIRCLE concert.


Former Lewitzky dancer Walter Kennedy, who was featured in a poignant duet in the 1984 premiere of Nos Duraturi, along with former Lewitzky company member Amy Ernst, will spend three weeks in residence at Thodos Dance Chicago's studio setting the work on the full company, working with the company's lighting and costume designers to honor the dramatic lighting and costumes for the piece and creating a lecture presentation for education outreach.


The grant also will help fund a series of Lewitzky technique master classes to be offered to the Chicago dance community. Walter Kennedy will personally teach master classes with youth dancers at the Chicago High School for the Arts and Whitney Young Magnet High School, with the pre-professional and company trainees at the Joffrey Ballet Academy, an open class for advanced and professional dancers at Visceral Dance Center, and three open classes at Thodos Dance Chicago's own rehearsal studio.


Bella Lewitzky (1916-2004) was a legendary teacher, choreographer, and powerful force for arts advocacy and dance education. Her artistic and political voice remains powerful to those who remember but is unknown to many. Nos Duraturi, choreographed by Lewitzky to Stravinsky's heroic "Symphony of Psalms" is a life affirming, triumph of brotherhood over violence. The work premiered at the 1984 Olympic Arts Festival in Los Angeles. 


Thodos Dance Chicago's recreation of Nos Duraturi is the fourth work to emerge from the company's American Dance Legacy Project, which seeks to keep the works of renowned American dance artists alive on stage.


Tickets to its Chicago premiere of Nos Duraturi, one of several exciting works sure to delight as part of Thodos Dance's 25th Anniversary FULL CIRCLE concert on March 11 at the Auditorium, are $29-$68. To purchase, visit, call (312) 341-2300 or buy in-person at Auditorium Theatre's Box Office, 50 E Congress Parkway, Chicago.


Published in Theatre Reviews

Melissa Thodos the creator of Sono’s Journey and her designers, which premiered at the Auditorium Theatre Saturday, did a wonderful job telling the story of Sono Asato, a dancer who broke age and race barriers from the time she was just fourteen years old. At that same young age, Sono Asato was the first dancer of Japanese descent AND the first American to join the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. 


I loved the way Thodos chose to use a narrator to tell the story of Asato’s life and used real pictures from Sono's life. I overheard one audience member saying during intermission, the narration really helped the audience understand and empathize with Asato’s life journey without making us guess or make assumptions based solely on the dance and music for each vignette – a very correct observation. 


I loved the costumes and lighting, which created a dreamy effect. The dancers were superb in bringing Sono Asato’s unique and trademark hand gestures and delicate yet earthy and natural style of dance to life. Asato’s hands were especially beautiful and expressive resembling the grace and power of mudras of ancient meditation statues. 


I found it very interesting that when Osato was refused work abroad with her ballet company, it was a female theater company owner and old friend who welcomed her back to Broadway “dance shows" in order to keep making money dancing to survive. 


I also loved the vignette which included how her parent's originally met and fell immediately in love when her father Shoji was sent to photograph her beautiful mother for a performance portrait.   


Osato, now ninety-six-years-old, and still a delicate beauty, was brought onstage in a wheelchair and it was announced that Mayor Rahm Emanuel had declared that day, January 8th to be SONO ASATO DAY in Chicago. Sono Asato looked radiantly beautiful as she received her flowers and a roaring standing ovation for her groundbreaking, door opening bravery and exceptional dance performances in the classic works, Sleeping Beauty, Pillar of Fire and The Beloved.


I felt very much honored to be there in Sono Asato's presence that night during the Mayor's announcement. I felt privileged to add my enthusiastic applause and shouts of "Bravo!" for her and the delightful show "Sono’s Journey".


Dance enthusiasts and appreciators will have two more opportunities to see Sono's Journey this winter: February 20th at the North Shore Center in Skokie, and March 5th at the Harris Theater in Chicago, as part of Thodos Dance Chicago's new "Chicago Revealed" Winter Concert series. This particular production is a beautiful piece of work that everyone should experience.


Published in Theatre Reviews

This year is the 15th anniversary of New Dances, a series brought to life by Thodos Dance Chicago.  New Dances is forum designed to foster and support dance artists in the creation of new works, an often challenging and expensive ordeal. In addition to providing support for dancers and choreographers, it also incorporates upcoming lighting and costume designers, all from the Chicago area, bringing together a comprehensive line up from emerging talent in the Chicago dance community. Over the past 14 years, New Dances has lead to artists receiving fellowships for graduate dance studies, starting their own companies and having their work commissioned across many professional settings.

With 9 pieces, this 15th anniversary show had a great variety that could entertain even the most dance illiterate. There were two performances of New Dances at the Atheneum Theater, July 18th and 19th.  With a small cast of dancers, the curtain dropped after each piece and the house lights came on, giving the audience a chance to discuss their thoughts on each piece throughout the show.

A few of the earlier pieces, heavily rooted in the contemporary style of the Thodos Dance Chicago company, shared many common characteristics (even a few of the same exact moves) which made me a little nervous about potentially seeing 9 pieces that were all too similar. While each was extremely well executed and beautifully performed, it felt like too much of the same for my tastes.

Luckily things took a huge stylistic turn with “All You Need Is”, choreographed by Taylor Mitchell.  The cast of 8 dancers, adorned in simple black pants and black and white striped tops performed a French inspired piece centered on the theme of love. The work was visually stunning, combining great staging and strong choreography with hundreds of small red paper hearts being strewn around the stage in coordination with the movement and music.  It combined very traditional, ballet inspired moves with a quirky twist that reminded me of watching an old silent movie. It brought the audience to life with laughter and love.

Another of my favorites was “Miriam” choreographed by Brian McGinnis. Set to original music, this piece was made up of a solo and two duets each unique but flowing together wonderfully. The first duet portrayed a couple in the midst of an affair but with a charmingly hilarious story. The song features singers who couldn’t stop laughing, and their silliness translated into the dances with great eccentric elements to the movement. The second duet seemed to ebb and flow around the stage with an effortless grace that made your heart feel light; an excellent contrast to the other duet and it rounded out the piece nicely.

The final of my top list was “Something To Do With Five”; a smooth, mellow, contemporary performance by 5 male dancers choreographed by Jessica Miller Tomlinson. The lighting, costumes, music and movement all elicited this thought of molasses, sweet tea and summer nights.  The piece used creative lighting, and interesting staging as a compliment to the dancers and the movement. Throughout, there were great moments but the ending was so original, it left a great final impression. With the five men lined up at the front of the stage, the red velvet curtain fell to just inches over their head, the lights dropped to a simple backlight and the a hush fell for the final moments of the piece.

While there were some great dancers and excellent choreography, a surprising standout of the whole performance was the lighting design. The unique lighting added an amazing dimension to all of pieces and really brought it all together.

For fans of dance, or those interested in expanding their scope of dance performances, New Dances is a great show. And who knows, you may catch the first time showing of a piece destined to international fame!

While you may have missed New Dances this year, you can still catch Thodos Dance Chicago at other performance this year. For more on Thodos Dance Chicago and future performances by the company check out

Published in Theatre Reviews



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