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"You will not be allowed to continue

with the ballet because of your

national heritage."

Dancing In Wartimes

Japanese-American Sono Osato (1919-2018) began her dance training in Chicago with Berenice Holmes. She auditioned for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo on the stage of the Auditorium Theatre and was the youngest dancer and first American to join the company. She left in 1941 for the American Ballet Theatre but was forced to put her career on pause due to WWII. She was the original Ivy Smith (Miss Turnstiles) in the Broadway premiere of On the Town as well as Bianca in the film The Kissing Bandit with Frank Sinatra. Sono Osato retired soon after to raise her family and did so until her death in New York City in 2018.

June 27, 2016: In her home on the Upper East Side of New York City, Sono Osato chronicles her career in dance, from her early training to dancing on Broadway. She remembers her Chicago ballet teacher, Berenice Holmes, auditioning for the Ballet Russe with Colonel de Basil on the stage of the Auditorium Theatre, touring at such a young age, and dancing with American Ballet Theatre during World War 2. She examines her technical strengths and weaknesses and describes the discrimination she faced as a ballerina of Japanese descent, especially during the war. Osato was nearly 97 at the time of this interview.

ballet japan canada japanese american ballet russe de basil auditorium theatre american ballet theatre frank sinatra broadway on the town miss turnstiles jerome robbins leonard bernstein internment world war two garden of the phoenix tea house jackson park photography new york city movies guns fear massine tudor


"I'm afraid to go on.

What if some woman shoots me?"

Living in Fear: Performing During WWII

"I never knew I was going to dance professionally."

Watching Diaghilev and Les Sylphides

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