Thodos Dance Chicago Founder & Artistic Director Melissa Thodos creates “Thio Kosmos”, (Two Worlds), to shed light on the Greek-American perspective of life in Chicago.
Meet Melissa Thodos
Born and raised in Evanston, IL, Melissa comes from a very accomplished family. Her parents were distinguished faculty members at Northwestern University — her late father George was a professor of chemical engineering; her mother Lena taught modern Greek language and the Classics. Melissa’s twin sister Diane is a visual artist; sister Christina is an actress; sister Anna is an entrepreneur; and her late brother Jason was a successful commodities/futures broker. She traces her Greek roots to Konitsa (near Ioannina) and Filiatra (Messinia). She grew up attending SS Peter and Paul Church in Glenview, IL. Over the years, Melissa has had many Greek artist friends, and her siblings were very creative. Surely this played a role in developing her own creative genius.
She began dancing at the age of 6.
“There was a new dance studio in the neighborhood being built, The Evanston School of Ballet. I asked my mom what the new building was going to be and when she told me it was a dance studio , I said, ‘I want to go there!’ It was there that I began my training. I knew I loved dance– it was always just part of my life. I’m married, I have a family, I have hobbies. Dance was always there, but I didn’t know exactly what shape it would take in my life. I’ve always been drawn to the areas of teaching, choreographing and performing.”
Melissa danced her way through high school, performing in the Orchesis club. She attended Skidmore College, where she studied English and Economics. Her early training at The Evanston School of Ballet provided an excellent foundation for her professional career. After college, she performed with the now-defunct Chicago Repertory Ensemble.
In 1992 she founded her award-winning dance company. Melissa reflected on this.
“I wanted to create an environment for artists that provided opportunities in many areas of dance. Chicago is my home. I had many wonderful experiences as an artist here, in performance and choreography”.
Thodos Dance Chicago has an impressive repertoire, and has collaborated with world-renowned artists, such as Ann Reinking. The company was recognized by the State of Illinois in 2007, for nurturing and promoting the art form in young artisans.
In 2007, a very personal work she choreographed, called “Anasa,” debuted. Named for the Greek word for breath, “Anasa” was inspired by her Hellenic culture, and the devastating fires that rocked the Peloponnese that year.
“I dedicated this work in memory of the 84 people who died in the fires. This dance had a Greek flavor.”
This beautiful work gives us the sense of the more carefree life before the fires, the devastation experienced during the tragedy, and finally, finding the hope and strength to move forward. After creating “Anasa”, Melissa was compelled to create a larger, more encompassing work.
Melissa has created a new work that pays homage to not only her Greek roots, but also her experience as a Greek-American. She explores that line straddled by those individuals that belong to two cultures, two countries — essentially two worlds.
“This work embraces the idea of the Greek-American experience. ‘Thio Kosmos’ is inspired by my experience, but also those revealed in countless interviews with other Greek-Americans. I culled this information to utilize, address, and reflect this perspective, this duality of the two worlds. As Greek-Americans, our homes are filled with Greek food, language, rituals, and the traditions of a Greek home environment; and then we step outside, and we have to embrace another world. It’s a full perspective.”
The performance will also include a narrative by her actress sister, Christina.
Experience “Thio Kosmos”
Thodos Dance Chicago will present “Thio Kosmos”, along with two other world premiere works, including the acclaimed “Sono’s Journey”, to debut on Saturday, February 20 at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie, IL.
The show will then travel to Chicago’s Harris Theater on Saturday, March 5, as part of Thodos Dance Chicago’s Chicago Revealed program. Chicago Revealed is a much larger production that includes the work of other artists in the dance community. The evening’s theme is Chicago, and Melissa says we will see Chicago through these perspectives, through the artists.
Look for Thodos Dance Chicago to perform throughout the Chicagoland area, including upcoming performances at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, IL. There will be new dances, special projects, and more, as Thodos Dance Chicago continues to develop its own artists performance and choreographic skills.