Crystal Lake native stars in Thodos Dance Chicago modern dance productions

Article by Jami Kunzer

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Crystal Lake native Abby Ellison has gone from dance classes at Summers Academy of Dance to performances with The Berkshire Ballet Theatre to starring roles with Thodos Dance Chicago as a professional dancer.

The 25-year-old plays a lead role in “Sono’s Journey,” a contemporary dance story about the life of Sono Osato, a world-famous dancer, and will play Ann Sullivan in another contemporary dance story, “A Light in the Dark: The Story of Helen Keller and Ann Sullivan.”

“Sono’s Journey” debuted at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University in January and will be reprised March 5 as part of a “Chicago Revealed” winter concert at the Harris Theatre in Chicago’s Millennium Park. Tickets for the performance range from $15 to $65 at 312-334-7777 or

As part of “Sono’s Journey,” Ellison was able to meet Osato, now 96 years old, who attended one of the performances.

Osato grew up in Chicago in the 1940s, with her parents working as the caretakers of the original Japanese gardens in Hyde Park. At age 14, she auditioned on the stage of Auditorium Theatre and began her professional dancing career. She went on to perform on Broadway at the time of World War II when “anit-Jap” sentiment was high.

“I play the young woman Sono,” Ellison said. “Basically, all of her performing career is what I’m embodying for the performance. … It’s just enjoying performing and showing that through all the dancing I’m doing. I just let myself go and embody what she was. She’s such an amazing woman, especially for us dancers.”

Two other dancers portray Sono, both as a child and as an older Sono reflecting on her dance career.

Ellison’s role, along with others she’s taken on as part of the 12-member Thodos Dance company, are a dream come true. Thodos Dance members teach, choreograph and perform for the comany using a variety of dance forms.

Dancing since age 7, Ellison graduated from Crystal Lake South High School in 2009 and went on to earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts in dance from Webster University in May 2014.

“I’ve always dreamt of just being able to dance as a career, since it’s very hard for anyone to be able to accomplish that,” she said.

Performed at 7:30 p.m. March 19 at the McAninch Arts Center at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, “A Light in the Dark: The Story of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan” is another production Ellison is proud to play a lead role in as it involves calling upon her theatrical skills. Tickets for the production range in price from $40 to $45 at