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.