Sono Osato in Francesca da Rimini costume
August 29, 1919 |
Omaha, Nebraska, United States
|Ethnicity||French Canadian and Irish mother
|Spouse(s)||Victor Elmaleh (m. 1943–2014)|
|Former groups||Ballets Russe de Monte-Carlo American Ballet Theatre|
Her Japanese father, Shoji Osato (1885-1955), and her Irish-French Canadian mother, Frances Fitzpatrick (1897-1954), were the caretakers of the Phoenix Pavilion and its Japanese garden, both of which had been built for World's Columbian Exposition in 1893 from 1935 to 1941. Japanese-Americans were forbidden from traveling east of Chicago during World War II; as a result, her father was interned in Chicago under the United States Government's Japanese American Internment policy.
Sono Osato was the oldest of three siblings; her given name is Japanese for "garden". She had two siblings. Teru, her younger sister, married a U.S. naval officer and started a family in Norfolk, Virginia. Timothy, her younger brother, upon turning eighteen years-old in 1943, joined the 442nd Regimental Combat Team of the United States Army to fight on the front lines in Europe.
Osato began her career at the age of fourteen with the Ballets Russe de Monte-Carlo; she later went on to dance with American Ballet Theatre (then Ballet Theatre). While at 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. As a musical theater performer, her Broadway credits included principal dancer in One Touch of Venus (Donaldson Award), 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, and in occasional guest appearances on TV series like The Adventures of Ellery Queen (1950).
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.
Osato was married for over sixty years to real estate developer Victor Elmaleh; he died in 2014. She is the aunt of installation artist Sono Osato.
- Distant Dances (1980), autobiography by Sono Osato
- Old New York Stories: "Victor Elmaleh Interview - FOUNDER OF WORLDWIDE VOLKSWAGEN, SUCCESSFUL ARTIST PIANIST AND NATIONAL SQUASH AND HANDBALL CHAMPION- TALKS OF HANDBALL IN BRIGHTON BEACH IN THE 1930S" June 26, 2009
- 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 The North American Japanese Garden Association, Issue No. 1, 2013
- Sono Osato's Distant Dances (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1980), NY Times Book Review, Moira Hodgson, Sunday, May 25, 1980