Anna Sokolow, Photo courtesy of José Limón Foundation Portrait of Anna Sokolow. Her work was often inspired by her ethnic background and her social and political awareness. (Photograph from the archives of the José Limón Foundation.)

The daughter of Russian immigrants, Anna Sokolow (1910-2000) gained early dance experience on Manhattan's Lower East Side, first with Elsa Pohl at the Emanuel Sisterhood Settlement House and later, with Martha Graham and Louis Horst at the Neighborhood Playhouse. While performing with Graham (1930-1938), Sokolow began to show her own choreography with the Dance Unit, which appeared before labor organizations as part of the Workers' Dance League with pieces such as Strange American Funeral, Slaughter of the Innocents, and Façade. A 1939 engagement in Mexico led to her organization of the nation's first modern dance ensemble and a lifelong association with Mexican artists. Similarly, from 1953, Sokolow inspired and trained dancers in Israel, working with Inbal Dance Theater and founding Lyric Theatre with a group of actor-dancers. Two years later she created the masterful Rooms, which speaks movingly of urban isolation. Sokolow choreographed Broadway and television productions, directed off-Broadway and regional endeavors, and taught both dancers and actors. From 1971, she made dances for Anna Sokolow's Players Project, the Juilliard Dance Ensemble, and other troupes in the United States and abroad.

Anna Sokolow in the studio, early 1950s. Anna Sokolow in the studio, early 1950s. During this period, Sokolow used the Stanislavsky Method to create dances that drew on the personal experiences and emotions of her dancers. (The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Dance Division.)

Learn more in Anna Sokolow, an essay by Hannah Kosstrin.