Sono Osato

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Sono Osato
Colonel de Basil's "Original Ballet Russe" (Russian Ballet) season, Theatre Royal, Sydney, 1939-1940, - Sam Hood (6264687243) (cropped).jpg
Sono Osato in "Original Ballet Russe" performing at Theatre Royal, Sydney (1939–1940)
Born(1919-08-29)August 29, 1919
DiedDecember 26, 2018(2018-12-26) (aged 99)
Victor Elmaleh
(m. 1943;died 2014)
Former groups Ballets Russe de Monte-Carlo American Ballet Theatre

Sono Osato (August 29, 1919 – December 26, 2018) was an American dancer and actress of Japanese and European descent. [1] She performed with ballet companies Ballets Russe de Monte-Carlo and the American Ballet Theatre. As an actress, she starred alongside Frank Sinatra in the film The Kissing Bandit .

The Original Ballet Russe was a ballet company established in 1931 by René Blum and Colonel Wassily de Basil as a successor to the Ballets Russes, founded in 1909 by Sergei Diaghilev. The company assumed the new name Original Ballet Russe after a split between de Basil and Blum. De Basil led the renamed company, while Blum and others founded a new company under the name Ballet Russe de Monte-Carlo. It was a large scale professional ballet company which toured extensively in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, the United States, and Central and South America. It closed down operations in 1947.

American Ballet Theatre ballet company

American Ballet Theatre (ABT) is a classical ballet company based in New York City. It has an annual eight-week season at the Metropolitan Opera House in the spring and a shorter season at the David H. Koch Theater in the fall; the company tours around the world the rest of the year. ABT was founded in 1939 by Lucia Chase and Richard Pleasant and is recognized as one of the world's leading classical ballet companies. ABT is the parent company of the American Ballet Theatre Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School, and was recognized as "America's National Ballet Company" in 2006 by the United States Congress.

Frank Sinatra American singer, actor, and producer

Francis Albert Sinatra was an American singer, actor, and producer who was one of the most popular and influential musical artists of the 20th century. He is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold more than 150 million records worldwide. Born in Hoboken, New Jersey, to Italian Americans, Sinatra began his musical career in the swing era with bandleaders Harry James and Tommy Dorsey. Sinatra found success as a solo artist after he signed with Columbia Records in 1943, becoming the idol of the "bobby soxers". He released his debut album, The Voice of Frank Sinatra, in 1946. Sinatra's professional career had stalled by the early 1950s, and he turned to Las Vegas, where he became one of its best known residency performers as part of the Rat Pack. His career was reborn in 1953 with the success of From Here to Eternity, with his performance subsequently winning an Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor. Sinatra released several critically lauded albums, including In the Wee Small Hours (1955), Songs for Swingin' Lovers! (1956), Come Fly with Me (1958), Only the Lonely (1958) and Nice 'n' Easy (1960).


Early life

Osato was born in Omaha, Nebraska. [1] She was the oldest of three children of a Japanese father (Shoji Osato, 1885–1955) and an Irish-French Canadian mother (Frances Fitzpatrick, 1897–1954). [2] Her family moved to Chicago in 1925 in order to be closer to Frances' family, and Shoji opened a photography studio there. [1] [3] In 1927, when she was eight, Osato's mother took her and her sister to Europe for two years; while in Monte Carlo, they attended a performance of Cléopâtre by Sergei Diaghilev's famous Ballets Russes company, which inspired Osato to start ballet classes when she returned to Chicago in late 1929. [1] [4] [3] She studied with prominent dancers Berenice Holmes and Adolph Bolm. [3]

Omaha, Nebraska City in Nebraska, United States

Omaha is the largest city in the state of Nebraska and the county seat of Douglas County. Omaha is located in the Midwestern United States on the Missouri River, about 10 miles (15 km) north of the mouth of the Platte River. The nation's 40th-largest city, Omaha's 2017 estimated population was 466,893.

Chicago City in Illinois, United States

Chicago, officially the City of Chicago, is the most populous city in Illinois and the third most populous city in the United States. As of the 2017 census-estimate, it has a population of 2,716,450, which makes it the most populous city in the Midwestern United States. Chicago is the county seat of Cook County, the second most populous county in the United States, and the principal city of the Chicago metropolitan area, which is often referred to as "Chicagoland." The Chicago metropolitan area, at nearly 10 million people, is the third-largest in the United States, the fourth largest in North America, and the third largest metropolitan area in the world by land area.

Monte Carlo Quarter and ward of Monaco

Monte Carlo officially refers to an administrative area of the Principality of Monaco, specifically the ward of Monte Carlo/Spélugues, where the Monte Carlo Casino is located. Informally the name also refers to a larger district, the Monte Carlo Quarter, which besides Monte Carlo/Spélugues also includes the wards of La Rousse/Saint Roman, Larvotto/Bas Moulins, and Saint Michel. The permanent population of the ward of Monte Carlo is about 3,500, while that of the quarter is about 15,000. Monaco has four traditional quarters. From west to east they are: Fontvieille, Monaco-Ville, La Condamine, and Monte Carlo.


Osato began her career at the age of fourteen with Wassily de Basil's Ballets Russe de Monte-Carlo, which at the time was the world's most well known ballet company; she was the youngest member of the troupe, their first American dancer and their first dancer of Japanese descent. [1] [5] De Basil tried to persuade Osato to change her name to a Russian name, but she refused to do so. [3] She spent six years touring the United States, Europe, Australia and South America with the company, leaving in 1941 as she felt her career was stagnating. She went to study at the School of American Ballet in New York City for six months, then joined the American Ballet Theatre (then Ballet Theatre) as a dancer. [1] [3] While at the ABT, she danced roles in such ballets as Kenneth MacMillan's Sleeping Beauty , Antony Tudor's Pillar of Fire , and Bronislava Nijinska's The Beloved. [6] [7]

Wassily de Basil Russian ballet impresario

Wassily de Basil, usually referred to as Colonel W. de Basil, was a Russian ballet impresario.

Kenneth MacMillan British ballet dancer and choreographer

Sir Kenneth MacMillan was a British ballet dancer and choreographer who was artistic director of the Royal Ballet in London between 1970 and 1977, and its principal choreographer from 1977 until his death. Earlier he had served as director of ballet for the Deutsche Oper in Berlin. He was also associate director of the American Ballet Theatre from 1984 to 1989, and artistic associate of the Houston Ballet from 1989 to 1992.

Sleeping Beauty classic fairytale

Sleeping Beauty, or Little Briar Rose, also titled in English as The Sleeping Beauty in the Woods, is a classic fairy tale which involves a beautiful princess, a sleeping enchantment, and a handsome prince. The tale was originally published by Charles Perrault. The version collected by the Brothers Grimm was an orally transmitted version of the original literary tale published by Perrault in Histoires ou contes du temps passé in 1697. This in turn was based on Sun, Moon, and Talia by Italian poet Giambattista Basile, which was in turn based on one or more folk tales. The earliest known version of the story is found in the narrative Perceforest, composed between 1330 and 1344.

Osato in Francesca da Rimini costume, 1930s Sono Osato in Francesca da Rimini costume. (6174097084).jpg
Osato in Francesca da Rimini costume, 1930s

As a musical theater performer, her Broadway credits included principal dancer in One Touch of Venus (a performance for which she received a Donaldson Award in 1943), Ivy Smith in the original On the Town , and Cocaine Lil in Ballet Ballads. [8] [9]

<i>One Touch of Venus</i> musical

One Touch of Venus is a musical with music written by Kurt Weill, lyrics by Ogden Nash, and book by S. J. Perelman and Nash, based on the novella The Tinted Venus by Thomas Anstey Guthrie, and very loosely spoofing the Pygmalion myth. The show satirizes contemporary American suburban values, artistic fads and romantic and sexual mores. Weill had been in America for eight years by the time he wrote this musical, and his music, though retaining his early haunting power, had evolved into a very different Broadway style.

<i>On the Town</i> (musical) musical by Leonard Bernstein

On the Town is a musical with music by Leonard Bernstein and book and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, based on Jerome Robbins' idea for his 1944 ballet Fancy Free, which he had set to Bernstein's music. The musical introduced several popular and classic songs, among them "New York, New York", "Lonely Town", "I Can Cook, Too", and "Some Other Time". The story concerns three American sailors on a 24-hour shore leave in New York City during wartime 1944. Each of the three sailors meets and quickly connects with a woman.

Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Osato was encouraged to change her name to something more "American", and for a short time she used her mother's maiden name and performed as Sono Fitzpatrick. [10] At around the same time, her father was arrested and detained in Chicago under the United States government's Japanese American Internment policy. [3] [11] In 1942, when the Ballet Theatre toured Mexico, Osato was unable to join the tour as Japanese Americans were barred from leaving the country, and she had several months without work. She was also unable to perform in California and other parts of the western United States when the company toured there later in the same year, as these states were deemed military areas and were off-limits for people of Japanese descent. [3]

Attack on Pearl Harbor Surprise attack by the Imperial Japanese Navy on the U.S. Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor in Hawaii

The Attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Territory, on the morning of December 7, 1941. The attack, also known as the Battle of Pearl Harbor, led to the United States' formal entry into World War II. The Japanese military leadership referred to the attack as the Hawaii Operation and Operation AI, and as Operation Z during its planning.

In the late 1940s and 1950s, Osato briefly pursued a career as an actress, appearing on Broadway in Peer Gynt , in the film The Kissing Bandit with Frank Sinatra, and in occasional guest appearances on television series such as, The Adventures of Ellery Queen (1950). [10] [12]

<i>Peer Gynt</i> five-act play in verse by the Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen

Peer Gynt is a five-act play in verse by the Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen published in 1867. Written in Danish—the common written language of Denmark and Norway in Ibsen's lifetime—it is one of the most widely performed Norwegian plays. Ibsen believed Per Gynt, the Norwegian fairy tale on which the play is loosely based, to be rooted in fact, and several of the characters are modelled after Ibsen's own family, notably his parents Knud Ibsen and Marichen Altenburg. He was also generally inspired by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen's collection of Norwegian fairy tales, published in 1845.

The Kissing Bandit is a 1949 film starring Frank Sinatra and Kathryn Grayson. The supporting cast includes Ricardo Montalban, Ann Miller, and Cyd Charisse. The movie was directed by Laslo Benedek.

<i>The Adventures of Ellery Queen</i> multiple radio and TV adaptations of Ellery Queen mystery fiction

The Adventures of Ellery Queen is the title of a radio series and four separate television series made from the 1950s through the 1970s. They were based on the fictional detective and pseudonymous writer Ellery Queen and the cases he solved with his father, Inspector Richard Queen.

In 1980, Osato published an autobiography titled Distant Dances. [13] [14] In 2006, she founded the Sono Osato Scholarship Program in Graduate Studies at Career Transition For Dancers to help former dancers finance graduate work in both the professions and the liberal arts. [15] [16] In 2016, Thodos Dance Company in Chicago presented a dance production based on her life, titled Sono's Journey. [5]

Personal life

Osato married real estate developer Victor Elmaleh in 1943, and they had two sons. [17] Elmaleh died in November 2014, aged 95. [17]

Osato was found dead at her home in Manhattan on December 26, 2018, at the age of 99. [1] She was the aunt of the installation artist of the same name, Sono Osato. [18]


1948 The Kissing Bandit Bianca

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Goldstein, Richard (December 26, 2018), "Sono Osato, Japanese-American Ballet Star, Is Dead at 99", The New York Times
  2. The Garden of the Phoenix: The 120th Anniversary of the Japanese Garden in Chicago Fig. 1 The Phoenix Pavilion on the Wooded Island, 1893 (courtesy of The Chicago Public Library, Special Collections) by Robert W. Karr Jr. Published in The Journal of the North American Japanese Garden Association, Issue No. 1, 2013
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Oja, Carol (2014). Bernstein Meets Broadway: Collaborative Art in a Time of War. Oxford University Press. p. 121.
  4. "Sono Osato (b. 1919)". Retrieved 2018-12-27.
  5. 1 2 "Sono Osato, 96, Reflects on Dancing With the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo". On WFMT. 2016-01-08. Retrieved 2018-12-27.
  6. "Dancer Sono Osato inspires Thodos' new 'Journey'". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved December 27, 2018.
  7. "Bernstein Meets Broadway: Collaborative Art in a Time of War". Google Books. Retrieved December 27, 2018.
  8. "Ballet Ballads". Retrieved 2017-01-24.
  9. "The Original Miss Turnstiles: Sono Osato Starred on Broadway". National Endowment of Humanities. Retrieved December 27, 2018.
  10. 1 2 "The Memoirs of a Working Ballerina". The Washington Post. August 1, 1980. Retrieved December 27, 2018.
  11. Peter Vidani (2011-10-25). "Victor Elmaleh – 94". Old New York Stories. Retrieved 2017-01-24.
  12. "The Adventures of Ellery Queen" . Retrieved December 27, 2018.
  13. Osato, Sono (1980). Distant dances (1st ed.). New York Knopf : distributed by Random House. ISBN   9780394508917.
  14. Hodgson, Moira (1980-05-25). "The Recollections of a Dancer; Dancer". The New York Times. ISSN   0362-4331 . Retrieved 2018-12-27.
  15. "Sono Osato to be Honored". Danzaballet. Retrieved December 27, 2018.
  16. "CTFD Announces Additional $250K Sono Osato Scholarship Gift". Broadway World. Retrieved December 27, 2018.
  17. 1 2 "Victor Elmaleh, Builder and Entrepreneur, Dies at 95". The New York Times . Retrieved December 27, 2018.
  18. "ART : Come Out, Come Out Wherever You Art". Los Angeles Times . August 15, 1991. Retrieved December 27, 2018.