Thodos Dance Chicago to Present A LIGHT IN THE DARK, THE STORY OF HELEN KELLER AND ANNE SULLIVAN, 2/16 & 3/2
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by BWW News Desk
Award winning choreographers Ann Reinking and Melissa Thodos are teaming again to co-choreograph A Light in the Dark, the story of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan, their second full-length contemporary story ballet, this time telling an intimate family story about the extraordinary woman who was deaf and blind yet went on to become a world-famous writer, political activist and inspiration to all.
A Light in the Dark, the story of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan is an equally powerful yet more intimate, family-friendly follow-up to Thodos Dance Chicago's recent success with The White City: Chicago's Columbian Exposition of 1893, a Reinking/Thodos collaboration that told the story of Chicago's legendary 1893 World's Fair through contemporary dance,and wasnamed "Best Dance 2011" by the Chicago Sun-Times. In fact, the same White City creative team is returning to collaborate on A Light in the Dark, including composer Bruce Wolosoff, who is creating an original score exclusively for this new work, Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Christopher Kai Olsen, who will create a behind the scenes film, dance legend Gary Chryst, who will provide rehearsal and stage direction, Nathan Tomlinson, TDC's resident lighting designer, and Nathan Rohrer, TDC's resident costume designer. Characters in A Light in the Dark include Helen Keller, Helen's mother (Kate), Helen's father (Arthur), Helen's brother (Philip), Anne Sullivan, Anne's brother (Jimmie, who died young in an asylum), and Anne's students at a school for the blind where she taught before becoming Helen's teacher.
A Light in the Dark, the story of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan will be the first act of Thodos Dance Chicago's Winter Concert 2013, which also will boast a second act featuring the new work Rest is Not Always Possible by west coast choreographer KT Nelson, Co-Artistic Director of ODC Dance Company in San Francisco, another world premiere by TDC founder and artistic director Melissa Thodos titled Subtle Passages, and a reprise ofLullaby by Brian Enos,guest choreographer for TDC's recent New Dances 2012 choreography performance series.
Thodos Dance Chicago's Winter Concert 2013 will be presented in two Chicago-area venues, first on Saturday, February 16, 2013 at 8 p.m. at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Boulevard in Skokie. Tickets are $36-$46. Student tickets will be available with a valid ID. For tickets and information, call (847) 673-6300, or purchase tickets online at northshorecenter.org.
TDC will reprise its Winter Concert 2013 Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, March 3 at 2 p.m. at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 East Randolph Street in downtown Chicago. Tickets are $30-$60. Student discounts will be available. Purchase tickets to the Harris performance via phone at (312) 334-7777, or online at harristheaterchicago.org.
More about A Light in the Dark, the story of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan: Through contemporary dance, A Light in the Dark tells the story of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan, specifically revealing how Anne, Helen's teacher, led her from a state of almost feral wildness into education, activism and intellectual celebrity.
Helen Keller was born on June 27, 1880 in Tuscumbia, Alabama. It was not until she was 19 months old that she contracted an illness, possibly scarlet fever or meningitis, that left her unable to see or hear. Anne Sullivan, herself visually impaired and only 20 years old, was hired in March 1887 to become Keller's instructor. Immediately upon arrival, Anne began to teach Helen to communicate by spelling words into her hand, beginning with "d-o-l-l" for the doll that she had brought her new charge as a present. At first, Helen was frustrated because she did not understand that every object had a word uniquely identifying it. Her big breakthrough in communication came the next month, when Helen realized that the motions her teacher was making on the palm of her hand, while running cool water over her other hand, symbolized the idea of "water." Helen then nearly exhausted Anne demanding the names of all the other familiar objects in her world. It was the beginning of a 49-year-long relationship, in which Sullivan evolved from teacher into governess and then eventual companion, while Keller went on to become a world-famous speaker, author and advocate for persons with disabilities, amid numerous other causes.
According to Ann Reinking, "The story of Helen Keller inspired me because human miracles inspire the soul. Naturally I thought of Melissa, our past creative collaborations, and her incredible ensemble of dancers when I wanted to take the idea of telling Helen Keller's story through dance from mere concept to reality."
Melissa Thodos added, "As part of our research while creating A Light in the Dark, Ann and I travelled to the Helen Keller National Center on Long Island where persons who are deaf and blind are in residence to learn new life skills and how to navigate with their disability. We spent an entire day at the center with its staff, an interpreter, and its residents and came away with a deeper understanding of the deaf/blind community and a fueled passion for the development of our new work together. In addition we learned personal information about both Helen and Anne that has proven invaluable as we create and set this new work based on such an inspiring American story on Thodos Dance Chicago's talented ensemble."
Note: Thodos Dance Chicago has created an experiential education outreach component targeting school and community groups that will link the story of Helen Keller, A Light in the Dark and contemporary dance to spur discussion about disability awareness.
Ann Reinking is a Broadway and film veteran, a Tony Award-winner for Best Choreography for the 1997 Broadway revival of the Bob Fosse musical Chicago, and a Tony nominee for Best Actress (Goodtime Charley, 1975), Best Featured Actress (Dancin', 1978) and Best Director (Fosse, 1999). Her work on Chicago has also honored her with the 1996 L.A. Drama Critics' Award, the 1997 Drama Desk Award and Outer Critics' Circle Award, as well as the Astaire Award. Her previous work in the city of Chicago include the world premieres of The White City in 2011, Fosse Trilogy in 2009, Rossini Recess - What Dancers Would Do If They Still Could Go Out and Play in 2007, and CAUTION: Side Effects in 2004, all for Thodos Dance Chicago, as well as choreographer of Pal Joey at the Goodman Theatre in 1988 and 2001's Kander & Ebb premiere of The Visit, also at the Goodman. The Visit was revived again in the spring of 2009 at the Signature Theatre in Washington, DC. She was raised as one of seven children in Seattle, WA. She started ballet lessons in sixth grade and as a teenager won a Ford Foundation scholarship to study with the San Francisco School of Ballet and a second scholarship to study with Robert Joffrey. Following high school she moved to New York where she began her extensive career with the Corps de Ballet at Radio City Music Hall.
In 1992, Melissa Thodos, a young Evanston-born, Chicago-based dancer and choreographer, was frustrated with the lack of opportunities for local dancers to work in what in her mind was the obvious environment for any well-rounded dance professional: A place to perform. A place to create. And a place to educate. Fast forward 20 years, and Thodos is the only female choreographer to have helmed her own mid-sized, contemporary dance company in Chicago for two decades with this unique mission, and perhaps the only local artistic director who offers her ensemble the honor and responsibility to pursue dance as a performer, choreographer and educator. She founded the company in 1992 as Melissa Thodos and Dancers, then re-named it Thodos Dance Chicago in 2005 to reflect a move toward a broader American Repertory. Today, TDC performs Thodos' dances and those of company members, as well as works by such acclaimed choreographers as Tony Award-winning Ann Reinking, Lar Lubovitch, Shapiro & Smith, Ron De Jesus and Amy Ernst. "Breathtakingly athletic," "fiercely complex," "powerfully beautiful," performing "vibrant choreography" are but a few of the critical accolades that TDC has received since its inception.
Thodos has been choreographing dance for over 25 years, and has presented her works across America, in Paris on numerous occasions, Edinburgh, and in Australia and Turkey. Her work has been nominated for the Ruth Page Award and the Chicago Dance Achievement Award. She was honored by the State of Illinois as a Greek American for nurturing and training dancers and choreographers in Chicago. Her work Reaching There won her international acclaim at the 3rd Concours Internationale de Dance de Paris. Her work Anasa was awarded Second Prize in the 11th and her work Cascade was awarded Second Prize in the 13th Annual Dance under the Stars Choreography Festival in Palm Desert California, a leading competition for dance choreography in the U.S. She is also a member of the dance faculty of the Broadway Theatre Project, founded by Ann Reinking and Deborah McWaters, hailed by Playbill as "the world's most prestigious musical theater arts education program for high school and college students."
About guest choreographer KT Nelson: "I've long felt that there has been a bit of a dearth in Chicago of seeing work by our counterparts in the dance community on the west coast," said Thodos, "so I purposely sought out KT Nelson, Co-Artistic Director of ODC in San Francisco, earlier this year to set a new piece, Rest is Not Always Possible, on our ensemble for our upcoming Winter Concert to help remedy that."
KT Nelson joined ODC in 1976 while attending Oberlin College. She danced with the Company from 1976 to 1997. Since 1976, Nelson has choreographed more than 60 works as well as composing and commissioning numerous sound scores. In 1986, she created and directed ODC's first full-length family production, The Velveteen Rabbit, which has since toured across the country reaching an audience of over 350,000. She was awarded the Isadora Duncan award in 1987 for Outstanding Performance, in 1996 for Outstanding Choreography, and in 2001 for Sustained Achievement. Nelson's collaborators have included Bobby McFerrin, Geoff Hoyle, Shinichi Iova-Koga, Gina Leishman, Marcelo Zarvos, Zap Mama and Linda Bouchard. She has been a guest choreographer for Diablo Ballet, Ballet Met, Maximum Dance, California Shakespeare Festival and Ballet Austin. In 1995 she founded ODC's youth company, the ODC Dance Jam and is a critical player in the development of ODC's Educational Outreach Program. In 2002, Nelson received the California Dance Educators Association's Artist Award for outstanding artistry, creativity, outreach, and dedication to the field of dance. In 1998 her work RingRoundRozi was selected for the International Tanzmesse Dance Festival.
About Thodos Dance Chicago: In addition to a busy performance and touring schedule, each year Thodos Dance Chicago nurtures and supports its ensemble dancers to express their own choreographic vision through the company's nationally unique New Dances program. Over the past 11 years, Thodos' New Dances series has provided the framework and support for nearly 100 Chicago-based choreographers and over 200 Chicago dance artists to develop and showcase their skills and build their reputations. Many works from New Dances have entered the repertory of Thodos Dance Chicago and been showcased at Dance Chicago, while others were embraced and received subsequent productions by noted directors Gerald Arpino of the Joffrey Ballet and Jim Vincent of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago.
Reaching young minds through dance education is vital to Thodos Dance Chicago. As a teaching company, members of this highly trained ensemble hold BAs and MFAs in dance, and teach at the elementary, high school and university levels. TDC is well suited for residency programs where performances, lecture demonstrations, workshops and master classes go hand in hand. TDC also fulfills its education mission by offering dance instruction for ages 3 to adult at Chicago's Menomonee Club for Boys and Girls, where it also trains its own Thodos Youth Ensemble.
Thodos Dance Chicago continues to expand its artistic and institutional boundaries under the guidance of Founder and Artistic Director Melissa Thodos, Executive Director Gail Ford, Grants and Booking Director Rick Johnston, Board President Elaine Rosenfeld Margulis, a dedicated board of directors and administrative staff, and the support of thousands of loyal contemporary dance enthusiasts both in Chicago and nationwide.
Current TDC ensemble members, who each teach, choreograph and perform with innovative flair, include Cara Carper, John Cartwright, Caitlin Cucchiara, Annie Deutz, Ray Dones, Alissa Gigler Tollefson, Kyle Hadenfeldt, Brian Hare, Joshua Manculich, Jessica Miller Tomlinson, Diana Robertson and Jon Sloven. Laura Gates is the company's rehearsal director and ballet mistress.
For complete information, visit thodosdancechicago.org.