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Sono Osato, Original Ivy Smith From On the Town, Has Died

The dancer and actress was 99.

Sono Osato has died at the age of 99.
(photo via Youtube)

Dancer and actress Sono Osato, perhaps best remembered by Broadway audiences for having originated the role of Ivy Smith in On the Town, died in her home in Manhattan at the age of 99.

Born in Omaha, Nebraska in 1919, Osato was the daughter of Japanese photographer Shoji Osato and Irish-French Canadian Frances Fitzpatrick. In 1925, Osato's family moved to Chicago, and in 1927 her mother took her to Europe for two years. Osato began ballet classes upon returning to Chicago in 1929.

At the age of 14, Osato became the youngest dancer to join the prominent Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo. Following several years with the company, she went on to dance with the American Ballet Theatre, where she performed under the name Sono Fitzpatrick, having been encouraged to change her name following the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. When the company toured Mexico in 1942, Osato was unable to join because Japanese-Americans were barred from leaving the country.

In 1943 she made her Broadway debut in the role of Premiere Danseuse in One Touch of Venus, and in 1944 she originated the role of Ivy Smith in Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden, and Adolph Green's On the Town. Her later Broadway credits included Ballet Ballads in 1948 and a 1951 Lee Strasberg revival of Peer Gynt. On film, Osato appeared in 1948's The Kissing Bandit, starring Frank Sinatra and Kathryn Grayson.

Osato retired from performance in the early 1950s, and later in life was involved with the organization Career Transition for Dancers, which "enables dancers to define their career possibilities while developing the skills necessary to excel in a variety of disciplines in order to thrive during all phases of their careers."

Osato was married to entrepreneur Victor Elmaleh from 1943 until his death in 2014. The pair had two children, Niko and Antonio Elmaleh. In addition to her sons, Osato is survived by three grandchildren.

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