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Anna Sokolow

November 14, 2017

Choreographer Anna Sokolow (1910-2000) debuted on Broadway on this date in 1937 with a program featuring political dance works, including Excerpts from a War Poem, described by a critic as taking “the essence of fascism, embodied in a poem extolling the beauties of war,” only to tear this “ideology mercilessly apart, line by line, exposing a ruthlessness, a savagery, and a masochistic blindness.” Sokolow was a Martha Graham dancer who created her own company and drew upon themes of political resistance, urban alienation, and Jewish identity, the latter in such works as The Exile (1939), Kaddish (1945), and Dreams (1961), the first widely-seen dance about the Holocaust. Among the many theater productions she helped to birth was Hair (1967). “Her movement style,” wrote the New York Times in its obituary, “was known for its passages of hopeless running in place, silent screams, accusatory stares and sudden falls. Sympathetic to youthful rebellion, she became famous for her images of young people glaring confrontationally at the audience.” Sokolow also influenced dance in Israel, where she was artistic advisor to Inbal, a company that preserves Yemenite Jewish traditions, and where she often went to teach and create dance.

“I don’t have a dim view of humanity. I’m not neurotic. But I don’t have that happy philosophy, because what the hell is there to be happy about?” —Anna Sokolow