Ann Reinking and Melissa Thodos team up again for “A Light In The Dark”


Award winning choreographers Ann Reinking and Melissa Thodos are teaming again to co-choreograph A Light in the Dark, the story of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan, their second full-length contemporary story ballet, this time telling an intimate family story about Helen Keller, the extraordinary woman who was deaf and blind yet went on to become a world-famous writer, political activist and inspiration to all, and her teacher Anne Sullivan, who led Helen into a world of education, activism and intellectual celebrity.


A Light in the Dark, the story of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan will be the first act of Thodos Dance Chicago’s Winter Concert 2013, which also will boast a second act featuring the new work Rest is Not Always Possible by west coast choreographer KT Nelson, Co-Artistic Director of ODC Dance Company in San Francisco, another world premiere by TDC founder and artistic director Melissa Thodos titled Subtle Passages, and a reprise of Lullaby by Brian Enos, guest choreographer for TDC’s recent New Dances 2012 choreography performance series.


A Light in the Dark, the story of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan is an equally powerful yet more intimate, family-friendly follow-up to Thodos Dance Chicago’s recent success with The White City: Chicago’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, a Reinking/Thodos collaboration that told the story of Chicago’s legendary 1893 World’s Fair through contemporary dance, and was named “Best Dance 2011” by the Chicago Sun-Times. In fact, the same White City creative team is returning to collaborate on A Light in the Dark, including composer Bruce Wolosoff, who is creating an original score exclusively for this new work, Emmy Award®-winning filmmaker Christopher Kai Olsen, who will create a behind the scenes film, dance legend Gary Chryst, who will provide rehearsal and stage direction, Nathan Tomlinson, TDC’s resident lighting designer, and Nathan Rohrer, TDC’s resident costume designer. Characters in A Light in the Dark include Helen Keller, Helen’s mother (Kate), Helen’s father (Arthur), Helen’s brother (Philip), Anne Sullivan, Anne’s brother (Jimmie, who died young in an asylum), and Anne’s students at a school for the blind where she taught before becoming Helen’s teacher.


Thodos Dance Chicago’s Winter Concert 2013 will be presented on Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, March 3 at 2 p.m. at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 East Randolph Street in downtown Chicago. Tickets are $30-$60. Student discounts will be available. Purchase tickets to the Harris performance via phone at (312) 334-7777, or online at


Through contemporary dance, A Light in the Dark tells the story of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan, specifically revealing how Anne, Helen’s teacher, led her from a state of almost feral wildness into education, activism and intellectual celebrity.


Helen Keller was born on June 27, 1880 in Tuscumbia, Alabama. It was not until she was 19 months old that she contracted an illness, possibly scarlet fever or meningitis, that left her unable to see or hear. Anne Sullivan, herself visually impaired and only 20 years old, was hired in March 1887 to become Keller’s instructor. Immediately upon arrival, Anne began to teach Helen to communicate by spelling words into her hand, beginning with “d-o-l-l” for the doll that she had brought her new charge as a present. At first, Helen was frustrated because she did not understand that every object had a word uniquely identifying it. Her big breakthrough in communication came the next month, when Helen realized that the motions her teacher was making on the palm of her hand, while running cool water over her other hand, symbolized the idea of “water.” Helen then nearly exhausted Anne demanding the names of all the other familiar objects in her world. It was the beginning of a 49-year-long relationship, in which Sullivan evolved from teacher into governess and then eventual companion, while Keller went on to become a world-famous speaker, author and advocate for persons with disabilities, amid numerous other causes.


According to Ann Reinking, “The story of Helen Keller inspired me because human miracles inspire the soul. Naturally I thought of Melissa, our past creative collaborations, and her incredible ensemble of dancers when I wanted to take the idea of telling Helen Keller’s story through dance from mere concept to reality.”


Melissa Thodos added, “As part of our research while creating A Light in the Dark, Ann and I travelled to the Helen Keller National Center on Long Island where persons who are deaf and blind are in residence to learn new life skills and how to navigate with their disability. We spent an entire day at the center with its staff, an interpreter, and its residents and came away with a deeper understanding of the deaf/blind community and a fueled passion for the development of our new work together. In addition we learned personal information about both Helen and Anne that has proven invaluable as we create and set this new work based on such an inspiring American story on Thodos Dance Chicago’s talented ensemble.” 






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