Melissa Thodos, Founder & Artistic Director

Melissa Thodos is a nationally renowned artist in the field of dance. Her work has been seen worldwide by over a million people through live performance, film, and television.

In 1992, following a successful performance career, Melissa founded Thodos Dance Chicago to showcase her work. It developed it into an established national and international touring company conducting over 500 performances on four continents. Valuing the well-rounded artist, she has actively mentored and directed her company members as choreographers, educators, as well as performing artists. Former members of Thodos Dance Chicago have set works on the Joffrey Ballet and other notable companies, earned their MFA degrees in dance, become high school and college educators, opened their own studios, and founded new dance companies.

Melissa has continually created new works for her company tapping into all facets of her creativity and artistic vision. 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. She is a skillful and eclectic choreographer with a talent for creating a well-defined mood and interesting group patterns.” Boasting over thirty original works and three full length story ballets, Melissa’s expansive repertoire encompasses her wide-ranging skills and innovative vision in an intuitive, athletic, and contemporary style.

Melissa has also collaborated with an array of noted artists and organizations. She collaborated with Fulcrum Point New Music Project, which featured her choreography set to Fulcrum Point’s live, vibrant music. She choreographed a work for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (Soldier’s Tale by Stravinsky) and in 2007 created Cascade set to music by Maurice Ravel for the Ravinia Festival. In 2013, she choreographed Sentient, an original work to a violin concerto by Pugnani, for Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre’s Music and Movement Festival. In spring 2014, Melissa teamed up with world renowned architect Jeanne Gang to create Changes of Phase, an innovative, cross-medium work that transcends the realms of dance, architecture, and physics. In 2016, working in artistic collaboration with Yoko Ono, Project 120, and Tatsu Aoki’s Miyumi Project, Melissa was commissioned to choreograph the unveiling of Ono’s first North American sculpture, Skylanding, in Chicago’s Jackson Park.

Melissa Thodos has achieved multiple successes in choreographing and directing large-scale works. Teaming up with Tony Award winning choreographer Ann Reinking, she created two critically acclaimed story ballets: The White City: Chicago’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, voted the best dance of 2011 by the Chicago Sun-Times, and A Light in the Dark: the story of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan, named one of the top 10 dances of 2013 by the Chicago Sun-Times. The creation of both works was captured on film and received Emmy Award nominations. In 2016, Melissa created her third one-act dance story, Sono’s Journey, which shares the incredible story of Sono Osato, a Japanese-American dancer who, in the face of adversity, succeeded beyond measure as a professional dancer during World War II. Melissa enabled these important stories to grow from history on a page to inspiring and timeless stories on stage, told through the medium of dance.

Thodos and her company have been the recipient of numerous awards and grants including the National Endowment for the Arts; Illinois Arts Council Fellowships; two Emmy nominations, a Chicago Dance Achievement Award, and an award from the State of Illinois. One of her signature works, Reaching There, was a semi-finalist at the Internationale Dance de Paris. Thodos was featured in Today’s Chicago Woman as one of Chicago’s “100 Women in Chicago Making a Difference,” and was voted one of Chicago’s “top ten hidden talents” by the Chicago Tribune. She was one of nine finalists selected nationally for the “Women of Worth” award in New York City. Melissa has also served as a panelist for numerous grant adjudications including the City of Chicago Cultural Grants Program, the IL Arts Council Grants Panel, and the Rasmuson Foundation in Alaska.