Homer Alaska - Arts

Story last updated at 3:48 PM on Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Dance America Style

Thodos Dance Chicago to serve up smorgasbord of moves in Homer

By Michael Armstrong
Staff Writer


Cheryl Mann

Think of a fancy cocktail party, say a big do at a classy Chicago hotel. Waiters in sharp black pants, white shirts, vests and bow ties circulate through the crowd bearing silver trays of hors d'oeuvres. There's that pesto thing wrapped in pastry, oysters on the half shell with a dash of Tabasco, shrimp with a ginger and soy sauce glaze and, oh, just to be a bit retro, cheese spread on crackers.

That's sort of the idea of the Alaska tour of Thodos Dance Chicago — a wide variety of modern American dance forms, said founder, choreographer and artistic director Melissa Thodos. Led by Thodos, the troupe of nine dancers, most of them also choreographers, performs at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Mariner Theatre.

"For presenters who may not have a lot of dance in their communities, it's an excellent selection of works that span a variety of spectrums of what contemporary dance is today," Thodos said earlier this week in a phone interview from Ketchikan.

Saturday's performance includes dance styles from experimental to jazz.

"Some is very literal, some is very figurative and abstract," Thodos said.

Thodos Dance Company is in the middle of an Alaska schedule that takes it on a tour of coastal towns, including Haines, Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan and Homer.

A keynote piece is a group of dances choreographed by Bob Fosse for 1960s television. One of the most influential American dancers and choreographers, Fosse is best known for the musicals "Cabaret" and "Chicago." He also worked as a choreographer for 1960s television variety shows like Ed Sullivan and Perry Como. Thodos received a National Endowment for the Arts grant to create the set based on those TV pieces with choreographer Ann Reinking, "star and muse, truly the keeper of (Fosse's) style and works," Thodos said.

Thodos Dance Chicago

7 p.m. Saturday

Mariner Theatre

Youth $20, Homer Council on the Arts member $25, general $35; available at HCOA, the Homer Bookstore and homerart.org.

Melissa Thodos, founder, artistic director and choreographer

Dancer-choreographers: Jeremy Blair, Brian Hare, Mollie Mock Kaufman, Joshua Manculich, Michael McDonald, Jessica Miller Tomlinson, Danielle Scanlon

Dancer: Cara Carper

Dancer apprentice: Annie Deutz

Thodos master classes

Beginning intermediate - hip hop

4:30-6 p.m. Friday

Mariner Theatre stage

Intermediate/advanced modern, jazz

12:30-2 p.m. Saturday

Mariner Theatre stage

Each class, $15 students, $20 adults

Preregister online at https://app.etapestry.com/cart/HomerCouncilontheArts/default or call 235-4288

Founded by Thodos 20 years ago, Thodos Dance Chicago has performed nationally and internationally, with appearances at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and at the Ankara Music and Dance Festival and Istanbul Dance Festival, both in Turkey. Born and raised in Evanston, Ill., and the daughter of professors at Northwestern University, Thodos studied ballet at the Evanston School of Ballet, and continued her education at Skidmore College, Saratoga, N.Y., returning to the Midwest to study in Chicago at the Ruth Page Dance School, the Dance Center of Columbia College and the Lou Conte Dance Studio.

Of her choreography, the Chicago Sun-Times wrote, "Thodos displays a fine musicality and elegant lyricism; there is a sort of New Age mysticism about much of her work."

Most recently, Thodos created "White City," a one-act story ballet set in Chicago during the 1893 World's Fair amidst the backdrop of a serial killer who preyed on women coming to the fair.

"It was a really great story to tell and premiere," Thodos said. "It's clear to me that Chicago as a city wasn't even aware at its time of its history."

While "White City" won't be in the Alaska tour, the tour includes other dances created by the company.

Part of Thodos Dance Chicago's mission includes inspiring expression through dance education. On its Alaska tour Thodos has visited local schools. In Homer, Thodos Dance Chicago does master classes on Friday and Saturday afternoons.

"It's important we do master class work and get into the school system," Thodos said.

This won't be Thodos' first visit to Alaska. Her husband works in real estate selling affordable housing, and has done business here. They've been visiting Alaska off and on over the past 10 years. This is the dance company's first tour to Alaska.

"We're really looking forward to our time there," Thodos said of Homer.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.