Anna Sokolow

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Anna Sokolow
Anna Sokolow, 1961
Anna Sokolow, 1961
Born (1910-02-09)February 9, 1910
Hartford, Connecticut
Died March 29, 2000(2000-03-29) (aged 90)
Manhattan, New York City
Occupation modern dancer and choreographer

Anna Sokolow (February 9, 1910, Hartford, Connecticut – March 29, 2000, Manhattan, New York City) was an American dancer and choreographer. She was also a co-founder of the Actors Studio.


Sokolow began studying dance and performing with instructors at the Emanuel Sisterhood Settlement House; in early adolescence, she left school to train full-time.[1]

She began studying in earnest at what became the Neighborhood Playhouse, where her teachers included Martha Graham and Louis Horst.[2]


She started her professional career in 1929 as a member of Martha Graham's company. Beginning in the 1930s, she affiliated herself with the politicized "radical dance" movement, out of which developed her work Anti-War Trilogy (1933).[3]

By 1936, she had organized her first company, Dance Unit. Sokolow was also associated with the socially conscious collective the New Dance Group and the larger Workers Dance League. According to dance historian Ellen Graff, Sokolow's work with these groups was instrumental in transforming the "agitprop style" associated with early political dance by melding it with "emerging professional and artistic standards in 'new' dance."[4]

Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, she performed and choreographed both solo and ensemble works, which tackled subject matter that included the exploitation of workers and growing troubles of Jews in Germany. Several works from this period, including Anti-War Trilogy, were set to music by the composer Alex North.[5]

In 1939, Sokolow began a lifelong association with the dance in Mexico and Israel. Her work for the Secretariat of Public Education facilitated the establishment of the National Academy of Dance. In Israel, she choreographed for major dance companies, including Batsheva, Inbal, and the Lyric Theatre.[citation needed]

Sokolow created works full of dramatic contemporary imagery, revealing the full spectrum of human experience and reflecting the tension and alienation of her time. Rooms (1955), featuring music composed by Kenyon Hopkins for a jazz ensemble, dealt with urban alienation, while Dreams (1961) grew from the horrors of the Holocaust. Other major modern dance works included Lyric Suite (1954), Odes (1965), and Opus 65 (1965).[citation needed]

In 1991, Anna Kisselgoff summed up Sokolow's aesthetic as "American Expressionism," and commented that "Stillness is a large part of her choreography, and Miss Sokolow can sum up a state of being -- an entire society -- in an arrested pose."[6]

In addition to her work as a choreographer, Sokolow was also an influential teacher of both dance and movement for actors. At Juilliard, she taught what she called "method dancing" from 1958-93. She also taught movement for actors at The Actors Studio (where she was a founding member), the Lincoln Center Repertory Theatre School, and the HB Studio. [7]

Sokolow was inducted into the National Museum of Dance's Mr. & Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney Hall of Fame in 1998.[8][9]


Since the dispersal of Sokolow's company—Players' Project—in 2004, its former co-artistic directors have formed separate institutions to maintain Sokolow's Legacy. The Sokolow Theatre Dance Ensemble[10] performs Sokolow's repertory plus contemporary choreographies under the direction of Jim May. The Sokolow Theatre Dance Ensemble offers educational programs, professional workshops, coaching, and actively licenses and reconstructs Sokolow's works.[citation needed]

Sokolow Now!, the archival dance company of the Sokolow Dance Foundation, performs Sokolow's repertory exclusively and is under the direction of Lorry May. The foundation[11] also offers unique educational programs and actively licenses and reconstructs Sokolow's works. Many of Sokolow's works were filmed and are held at the New York Public Library in its Dance Division.[citation needed]

Works for Broadway


  1. ^ Larry Warren, Anna Sokolow: The Rebellious Spirit (London and New York: Routledge, 1998), pg. 8; ISBN 90-5702-184-6
  2. ^ Warren, Anna Sokolow, pp. 11-17.
  3. ^ Anna Sokolow: Radical Dance Archived October 13, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.; accessed February 9, 2018.
  4. ^ Ellen Graff, Stepping Left: Dance and Politics in New York City, 1928-1942 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1997), pp. 52-53; ISBN 0-8223-1948-9.
  5. ^ Sanya Shoilevska Henderson, Alex North, Film Composer (Jefferson, NC: McFarland Press, 2003), pg. 226; ISBN 0-7864-1470-7
  6. ^ Anna Kisselgoff, "Sokolow Takes a Bow for 50 Years", New York Times; accessed February 9, 2018.
  7. ^ Andrea Olmstead, Juilliard: A History (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1999), pp. 202-03; ISBN 0-252-07106-9.
  8. ^ "National Museum of Dance & Hall of Fame". Retrieved September 1, 2017. 
  9. ^ "Performing Arts: Year In Review 1998 - Dance". Retrieved September 1, 2017. 
  10. ^ "Sokolow Theatre Dance Ensemble - Continuing the Legacy of Anna Sokolow". Retrieved 1 September 2017. 
  11. ^ "Sokolow Dance Foundation". Sokolow Dance Foundation. Retrieved 1 September 2017. 

External links

  • Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble
  • Sokolow Dance Foundation
  • Women of Valor exhibit on Anna Sokolow at the Jewish Women's Archive
  • Anna Sokolow at the Internet Broadway Database
  • Obituary from Dance Magazine.
  • Celebration in Pictures: Anna Sokolow Centennial at the Dance Library of Israel - reflections of Sokolow’s influence on dance in Israel (by Hannah Kosstrin, Dance researcher)
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