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March 19, 2023

Gorgeous Portraits of Sono Osato in the 1930s and 1940s

Born 1919 in Omaha, Nebraska, American dancer and actress Sono 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.

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.

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).

In 1980, Osato published an autobiography titled Distant Dances. 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. In 2016, Thodos Dance Company in Chicago presented a dance production based on her life, titled Sono’s Journey.

Osato died at her home in Manhattan in 2018, at the age of 99.


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