A Light In The Dark Review – The Story of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan Through Modern Dance


I am a huge fan of modern ballet and dance. Thodos Dance Chicago is a perfect example of experimental, creative, contemporary choreography and movement. Melissa Thodos, the group’s founder and artistic director founded Thodos Dance Chicago (TDC) in 1992 and the company has now been performing for 13 years. TDC has appeared in more than 50 dance theaters in 17 states, as well as in numerous national and international dance festivals. TDC’s choreography is diverse, educational, and takes many artistic risks with its repertoire. The dance company consists of award-winning choreographers and professionally trained dancers.

On Saturday, February 16th at 8 pm, at the North Shore Center in Skokie, Illinois, I attended my first live performance by TDC. The subject of the first Winter 2013 Concert Series was a world premiere called “A Light in the Dark,” depicting the beginning of the relationship between Helen Keller and her life-long companion, teacher, and friend, Anne Sullivan. Their friendship lasted almost 50 years. Helen Keller was blind, deaf and mute, at a very early age, due to a fever and illness of unknown origin. Anne Sullivan was hired by Helen’s family to help educate and civilize her. With Anne’s help, Helen Keller went on to become a famous educator, activist, author for people, with disabilities. “A Light in the Dark,” was co-choreographed by Melissa Thodos and Ann Reinking.


“A Light in the Dark“ was a wonderful and original show involving Anne teaching Helen how to communicate, by showing her that there was a whole world to learn about and experience that she did not know. I thoroughly enjoyed the one-hour act ballet and thought it really depicted the intimate relationship between teacher and student. Movement through dance, body and hand gestures, and facial expressions of the performers, exhibited the frustration felt by Helen, as a little girl, unable to communicate.  I felt that the dancer, who played Helen Keller, Jessica Miller Tomlinson, convincingly acted out Helen’s struggle to learn and be heard.  She displayed Helen’s curiosity, trickery, and wild behavior, with her dance movements and emotional expressions. The additional ensemble members also contributed to bringing the show to life through strong emotional and passionate dance.


In addition to “A Light in the Dark,“ Act II presented three other world premiere dances that completed the Winter 2013 Concert Series.  The first one was titled “Lullaby,” choreographed by Brian Enos. I interpreted  “Lullaby” as a tranquil movement of three men and three women. They all wore simple black leotards so that the audience could focus on the dancing itself.  The music for the dance number was performed by The King Singers, a men’s’ acapella group with beautiful falsettos. The second dance called “Rest Is Not Always Possible,” was choreographed by KT Nelson, and involved restless dance movements of the performers who never seemed to relax. The final premiere called “Subtle Passages,” was choreographed by Melissa Thodos. This number, in my opinion, was harder to relate to the title of the dance. I felt that the choreographer envisioned an opportunity for the audience to come up with its own interpretation of the dance’s message.   I left the theater with a new understanding of dance and interpretation, as well as having developed a deeper appreciation of the relationship between Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan.


Thodos Dance Chicago’s 2013 Winter Concert had its first performance on Saturday, February 16th at North Shore Center at 8pm in Skokie, Illinois. There will be additional shows at The Harris Theater in downtown Chicago on Saturday, March 2nd at 8pm and Sunday, March 3rd at 2pm. Ticket prices are $30-60 and student discounts are available. Tickets can be purchased by calling 312-334-7777 or online at www.harristheaterchicago.org.


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