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Thodos Dance Company Performs Beyoncé… errr, Fosse… in Alaska

Bob Fosse's "Mexican Breakfast", Performed by Thodos Dance Company. Photograph by Cheryl Mann.

Chicago’s Thodos Dance Company is performing in Anchorage on Thursday, April 19, and if that’s news to you, you’re not alone. I just stumbled on the information myself, hidden away on the CenterTix website. The show has hardly been advertised and hasn’t appeared on most local arts calendars, and tickets aren’t yet for sale.

But no, Beyoncé is not in the dance company. I’ll get to her in a minute.

So why is the Thodos performance so unknown? The company’s managing director, Gail Ford, told me that the Anchorage gig is a lucky, last-minute addition to the company’s first tour of Alaska, thanks to an eleventh-hour cancellation of another performance. In total the company will spend more than three weeks in nine Alaska towns: Anchorage, Valdez, Kodiak, Juneau, Ketchikan, Sitka, Skagway, Homer, and Haines. Although the company has official hosts in the other Alaska towns on their tour, the Anchorage show will be self-produced, which may also help explain the (hither to) dearth of publicity.

I asked Melissa Thodos, the company’s founder and artistic director, what to expect from their Anchorage performance. It will be an eclectic program, she said, in choreography, lighting, costuming, and music, “kind of like going to a cocktail party and experiencing many different hors d’oeuvres.” The company, she said, is “committed to developing and nurturing the American voice in choreography, both historical and contemporary.”

Certainly both the old and new are on the Anchorage program. While most of the show will be devoted to contemporary works, choreographed by either Ms. Thodos or one of the company dancers within the last five years, the performance will open with an homage to Bob Fosse, the legendary Broadway choreographer and director. After a short film about Mr. Fosse, the company will perform Fosse Trilogy, three dances originally choreographed by him in the 1960s for television programs like the Ed Sullivan Show. Ms. Thodos said these dances haven’t been performed since they were filmed forty years ago.

Except by Beyoncé. Her hit dance routine for “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” (later hilariously recreated by Glee) was directly inspired by “Mexican Breakfast”, the third dance in Fosse Trilogy, as Beyoncé herself has attested in several interviews. This video shows the two dances side by side. (The only video I found of the original “Mexican Breakfast” is here, with funny — though often offensive — appended subtitles.)

Albeit without Beyoncé, Thodos Dance Company performs in the Discovery Theater of the Alaska Performing Arts Center in Anchorage at 6:00 pm on Thursday, April 19. (That’s not a typo. The show really is at 6:00.) Tickets go on sale at CenterTix on Monday, April 2. Stick around after the show: Melissa Thodos and several company dancers will give a post-performance curtain talk.

And if you can’t make it to the show, check out this video of some of the dances they’ll perform in Anchorage, including a snippet of “Mexican Breakfast” at 3:12. Even without Beyoncé, there is some extraordinary rump wiggling going on.