by karen Krolak
One of my first teaching gigs was at Northwestern University for the National High School Institute, whose students are often referred to as the Cherubs. Melissa Thodos was one of the other faculty members there and I remember envying her athletic power and her gymnastic vocabulary. I moved out to Boston at the end of that summer. While I manage to bounce into town for a few performances by friends each year, I have yet to catch one by Melissa's company. When I discovered that she would be closing out the Inside/Out season, I thought it would be great to catch up with her and to include her interview in our Save the Stage series. As of the last report I had heard, Jacob's Pillow only needs to raise $7000 to match their Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund Grant.
kK: Chicago is still feels like my artistic home and it will always be one of my favorite cities for dance. What are your thoughts on being an artist there?
MT: The dance community in Chicago is an immensely rich one. Chicago sports 90 dance companies of all sizes and genres. It is a wonderful city for an organization to be based and a great city for dancers to live and to grow with so many options for training and professional opportunities.
kK: The Joffery Ballet relocated to Chicago right around the time that I headed out to Boston. I heard that many smaller companies were concerned about how that might influence the funding landscape. How do you feel about their presence there?
MT: I love the fact that the Joffrey Ballet made its home in Chicago over a decade ago. I had the opportunity to become friends with the late co-Founder and Artistic Director, Gerald Arpino, and the company truly captures the innovative essence of the American voice in ballet. We just performed with Hubbard Street and the Joffrey Ballet at the Harris Theater in Chicago last Saturday.
kK: Oh, I am glad that you mentioned Hubbard Street. Can you describe them for our readers?
MT: Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, a company founded in Chicago, brings many beautiful and innovative creations by international choreographic voices to our city under the wonderful artistic direction of Glenn Edgerton. They are performing later in the same evening that we are at Jacob's Pillow. We really enjoy working with our colleagues in our community.
kK: Which other companies or choreographers would you recommend to people visiting Chicago?
MT: Julia Rhoads has an immensely innovative company titled Lucky Plush as does Margi Cole of the Dance COLEctive. And, there are many many others from Billy Siegenfeld’s captivating Jump Rhythm Jazz Project to Libby Komaiko’s fantastic Ensemble Espanol.
kK: Yes, I truly miss Julia Rhoads and Billy Siegenfeld and I wish that I was able to attend their performances more often. I did hear a rumor though, that someone from Jump Rhythm Jazz Project will be teaching in the Boston area soon. Just talking to you makes me a little homesick for Chicago. It is unfortunate that Monkeyhouse will be presenting a new quartet at the Massachusetts Dance Festival tomorrow night as I would love to see your company. Is this your first appearance at the Pillow?
MT: This is our second time performing at Jacob’s Pillow. Our first time was last year and we are delighted to be closing the festival this year.
kK: I assume that you have heard about the efforts to preserve and improve the Inside/Out stage. Since you were there last year, what do you think makes the stage so special?
MT: Inside/Out is valuable because it is free to the public. Besides providing artists and companies the important opportunity to have their work presented, growing new audiences is critical to the art form.
kK: I totally agree. So since I won't be able to be there, can you tell me about the pieces you will present?
MT: Our program will open with a work that I created titled Cascade. It was commissioned by the Ravinia Festival in Chicago and I was given the theme of water by the presenter to be the inspiration of the work. I had the flexibility of choosing the composer and selected music by Ravel. Opening our concert at Jacob’s Pillow with this work based on the natural properties of the flow of water, seemed like a great fit given the organic beauty of the environment in the Berkshires.
kK: That does sound like a wonderful choice for Inside/Out's bucolic backdrop. What else is on the program?
MT: Two other works are created by Thodos Dance Chicago Ensemble members. In order to be a part of Thodos Dance Chicago (TDC), an artist needs to posses a talent and passion for choreography and teaching in addition to performance. TDC ensemble member, Jessica Miller Tomlinson, was the grand prize winner of the Chicago A.W.A.R.D show sponsored by the Joyce Theater Foundation. We are presenting an innovative work of hers titled Architecture: Splintered and Cracked. This work premiered in Thodos Dance Chicago’s annual choreography performance series, New Dances, and is inspired by the idea of architecture and building walls. Ensemble members, Mollie Mock and Jeremy Blair, collaborated with our resident sound designer, John Nevin, to create the rhythmic and sensual work, Reflect. Reflect also premiered in the New Dances series. In it a solo character views parts of her past and present to come to terms with her future. Closing our program is Quieting The Clock, a brand new work by Chicago collaborators Francisco Avina and Stephanie Martinez . It addresses the passage of time and it’s ominous inevitability and continuum and TDC will premiere it here at Jacob’s Pillow.
kK: Well, I hope you enjoy your appearance at Inside/Out. Thanks for taking the time to answer all these questions for me.
MT: Great to hear from you.