Sono Osato, Japanese-American Ballet Star, Is Dead at 99
New York Times
By Richard Goldstein
December 26, 2018
Sono Osato, a Japanese-American dancer who toured the world with the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo, carried out with the Ballet Theater in New York after which gained acclaim on Broadway within the World War II-era musicals “One Touch of Venus” and “On the Town,” was discovered useless early Wednesday at her house in Manhattan. She was 99.
Her loss of life was confirmed by her sons, Niko and Antonio Elmaleh.
In the 1930s, Ms. Osato was a groundbreaking presence in Col. Wassily de Basil’s Ballets Russes, the world’s most generally recognized ballet firm. She was the corporate’s youngest dancer when she joined, at 14; she was additionally its first performer of Japanese descent.
She danced within the early 1940s with the Ballet Theater (now American Ballet Theater), the place her dramatic projection left an influence on Antony Tudor’s ballets. She was Rosaline in his “Romeo and Juliet” and a girl of straightforward advantage in his “Pillar of Fire.”
Ms. Osato obtained a Donaldson Award for finest feminine dancer for her efficiency within the 1943 present “One Touch of Venus,” choreographed by Agnes de Mille, which starred Mary Martin because the statue of a Greek goddess that involves life in fashionable Manhattan.
She was the unique Miss Turnstiles — a takeoff on Miss Subways, an actual beauty-contest promotion that the New York transit system as soon as ran — in “On the Town,” choreographed by Jerome Robbins, through which three sailors on a 24-hour move in Manhattan expertise the fleeting romances of wartime.
But the conflict years proved a wrenching time for her, however her skilled success. Her father had been confined below navy guard in Chicago as an enemy alien. Her brother, Tim, had been enlisted to combat in Italy with the Japanese-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
Ms. Osato had simply completed dancing because the Lilac Fairy within the Ballet Theater’s “Princess Aurora” on the afternoon of Dec. 7, 1941, when she discovered of the Japanese assault on Pearl Harbor. She feared returning for the night efficiency.
“My heritage had by no means been hidden,” Ms. Osato recalled in a 2009 interview. “I believed, ‘Oh, my God, folks within the viewers who had a baby in Hawaii. What if somebody throws one thing at me? What’s going to occur in the event that they hiss at me?’ ”
The ballet’s administration and her boyfriend and future husband, Victor Elmaleh, persuaded her to go on once more that evening. She danced in a daze — however, as she remembered it, “nothing did occur.”
Although she was born and raised within the Midwest, Ms. Osato appeared an incongruous option to play Ivy Smith, billed because the “all-American lady,” in “On the Town.” Her father, Shoji, was a local of Japan, and her mom, Frances, was of French-Irish background.
But Ms. Osato obtained excellent opinions when the present, the primary Broadway collaboration of Jerome Robbins and Leonard Bernstein, opened in December 1944. She was particularly gratified by the reception in mild of her ethnic background.
Ms. Osato, leaping, and different dancers performing a quantity from the Broadway musical “One Touch of Venus” because the present’s choreographer, Agnes
de Mille, watched within the background.CreditGjon Mili/The LIFE Picture Collection, by way of Getty Images
As she wrote in a memoir, “Distant Dances” (1980), “It was wonderful to me that on the top of a world conflict fought over the important political, ethical and racial points, a Broadway musical ought to characteristic, and have audiences unquestionably settle for, a half-Japanese as an all-American lady.”
Lewis Nichols, reviewing “On the Town” for The New York Times, wrote, “Miss Osato introduced down the best rafters when she appeared a yr in the past in ‘One Touch of Venus,’ and there’s no motive to exchange any of these rafters now.” He added, “Her dancing is straightforward and her face expressive.”
Sono Osato was born on Aug. 29, 1919, in Omaha, the place her father labored as a photographer. She moved along with her household to Chicago and have become enthralled by ballet at age eight when her mom took her to see Serge Diaghilev’s firm carry out “Cléopâtre” in Monte Carlo.
On returning house, Ms. Osato attended ballet courses. In 1934 she was taken on by Colonel de Basil’s firm at an audition in Chicago. In November 1940 she danced with that firm in Manhattan because the Siren in David Lichine’s newly choreographed model of “The Prodigal Son.”
“Her unique magnificence and her grasp of the temper and method of the choreographer make her utterly and delightfully proper,” John Martin wrote in The Times.
Ms. Osato joined the Ballet Theater quickly afterward. Although she loved success in New York, the navy and the federal authorities barred her from going with the troupe on its excursions to Mexico and California due to her Japanese background.
She left “On the Town” within the fall of 1945 and was changed by Allyn Ann McLerie. She made solely sporadic appearances after that having determined to dedicate her time to her household.
In her later years, Ms. Osato, who lived in Manhattan, was a significant benefactor of Career Transition for Dancers, which helps skilled dancers practice for brand new careers when their performing days finish. In the autumn of 2014, she attended a efficiency of the Broadway revival of “On the Town,” through which her function was performed by Megan Fairchild.
In addition to her sons, she is survived by three grandchildren. Her husband, Mr. Elmaleh, whom she married in 1943 and who grew to become an actual property developer with many properties in New York, died in 2014. Later in life she cut up her time between her properties in Manhattan and in Bridgehampton, on Long Island.
After the emotional turmoil of wartime, Ms. Osato was exhilarated when Germany surrendered; her father had been freed and her brother had survived the combating in Italy.
On May eight, 1945 — V-E Day — she was searching the home windows of the Martin Beck Theater, the place the Navy boys of “On the Town” have been nonetheless romping by New York within the treasured hours earlier than their ship headed off to conflict.
“We noticed crowds of women and men, in uniform and out, hugging, dancing and shouting,” Ms. Osato wrote in her memoir. “That day the truth outdoors within the streets blended gloriously with our glimpse onstage of the preciousness of our todays within the face of our unknown tomorrows. Joy and tearful aid engulfed the theater and the town.”
Born: 8/29/1919, Omaha, Nebraska, U.S.A.
Died: 12/26/2018, Manhattan, New York, U.S.A.
Sono Osato’s western – actress:
The Kissing Bandit – 1948 (Bianca)