Anna Sokolow and the Reimagined Roots of Anti-Fascist Dance at the Library of Congress. Now Available on Demand

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Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble announces Anna Sokolow and the Reimagined Roots of Anti-Fascist Dance, which was performed on Friday, January 26, 2024 at 7 pm at the Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, Coolidge Auditorium, is now available for streaming on demand. To watch the performance, visit https://www.loc.gov/item/webcast-11277/.

When the Library of Congress Music Division made the extraordinary discovery of handwritten scores composed by Alex North for two of Anna Sokolow’s dances, Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble Artistic Director Samantha Géracht reimagined the dances using archival evidence and the music. “Slaughter of the Innocents” is Sokolow’s 1937 lament for Basque women suffering under Nazi aerial bombing. “Ballad in a Popular Style” is a wistful lyrical excursion into jazz, first performed in 1936. Both will be performed by members of the Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble to the original music, for the first time in 80 years, showing that the creative collaboration of Anna Sokolow (1910-2000) and Alex North (1910-1991) remains fresh, compelling, and relevant for today’s audiences. A panel discussion on the revival of the music and dance and the lives of North and Sokolow was followed by an audience Q&A session.

Participants 

Samantha Géracht, Artistic Director, Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble 

James May, Founding Director, Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble 

Eleanor Bunker, Associate Artistic Director, Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble 

Lakey Evans-Peña, Associate Director, Ailey School Horton Pedagogy 

Abby North, Principal of North Music Group LLC

Ilana Ruth Cohen, dancer 

Erin Gottwald, dancer 

Margherita Tisato, dancer 

Dancer/Choreographer Anna Sokolow and Composer Alex North connected as young artists in the midst of the great depression of the 1930’s. Both came from Russian Jewish immigrant families, committed to the social justice issues of the time including workers rights and anti fascism. Their art focused on lifting the spirit of the masses and improving the life of working people. While their careers took off within the atmosphere of New York City modernist movement, they also traveled to Russia and to Mexico expanding both their artistic education and influence.

Anna Sokolow (1910-2000) raised on the Lower East Side of New York City and began her training at the Neighborhood Playhouse with Martha Graham and Louis Horst. In the 1930’s she was a member of the Graham Dance Company and assisted Mr. Horst in his dance composition classes. The first of the Graham dancers to strike out on her own, Sokolow’s collaboration with composer Alex North brought her deeper into socially conscious circles. During this period, her association with the WPA dance made union members her first audiences.

In 1939 Ms. Sokolow began a lifelong association with the dance and theater arts in Mexico. Her work for the Mexican Ministry of Fine Arts grew to become the National Academy of Dance there. In 1953 she was invited by Jerome Robbins to Israel to work with Inbal Dance Company. Following that, she choreographed for the major dance companies in Israel including Batsheva, Kibbutz Dance Company, and Lyric Theatre. She visited Mexico and Israel frequently to teach and to choreograph.

Ms. Sokolow’s interest in humanity led her to create works of dramatic contemporary imagery showing both the lyric and stark aspects of the human experience. Her vast range of repertory includes drama, comedy, and lyricism with her commentaries on humanity and social justice threaded into each of her works. In a 1965 Dance Magazine article she wrote that there were no “final solutions to today’s problems,” but that she “could simply provoke an audience into awareness.”

Ms. Sokolow’s works are performed by the Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble, and are in the repertories of numerous other companies around the world.

Ms. Sokolow also choreographed for the Broadway theater. Her credits include Street SceneCamino RealCandide, and the original Hair. In the late 1950’s Ms. Sokolow was the first modern dance choreographer to have her work (Rooms) presented on national television.

She was a longtime faculty member of the Juilliard School in both the dance and drama divisions. She received many honors and awards, including Honorary Doctorate degrees from Ohio State University, Brandeis University and the Boston Conservatory of Music. She received a Fulbright Fellowship to Japan, the Dance Magazine Award, a National Endowment for the Arts’ Choreographic Fellowship, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American/Israel Cultural Foundation, the Samuel H. Scripps Award, and the Encomienda, Aztec Eagle Honor (the highest civilian honor awarded to a foreigner by Mexico).

Anna Sokolow passed away in her home in New York City on March 29, 2000 at the age of 90.

Alex North (1910-1991) was a renowned American composer whose innovative and evocative music left an indelible mark on the world of film scores and concert music. With a career spanning over four decades, North’s diverse body of work included collaborations with esteemed choreographer Anna Sokolow and iconic films such as “Spartacus,” “A Streetcar Named Desire,” “Dragonslayer,” and many others. Notably, he also composed the timeless and beloved song “Unchained Melody.”

Born on December 4, 1910, in Chester, Pennsylvania, Alex North exhibited a deep passion for music from an early age. He began his formal training in music at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where he won a scholarship to the famed Julliard School of Music. He later continued his music studies in Moscow.

North’s collaboration with choreographer Anna Sokolow was a significant milestone in his career. In the late 1930s, he composed original scores for several of Sokolow’s influential modern dance works. North’s music complemented Sokolow’s choreography, displaying a keen sense of rhythm, emotion, and the expressive possibilities of movement.

However, it was in the realm of film composition that Alex North truly established himself as a master of his craft. Throughout his career, he worked with acclaimed directors and contributed remarkable scores to a wide range of films. One of his most celebrated collaborations was with director Stanley Kubrick on the epic film “Spartacus” (1960). North’s powerful and sweeping score perfectly captured the grandeur and emotional intensity of the story, earning him an Academy Award nomination.

North’s collaboration with director Elia Kazan on “A Streetcar Named Desire” (1951) resulted in one of his most iconic scores. The haunting and atmospheric music he composed for the film, infused with jazz elements, heightened the emotional turmoil and tension of the characters. The score, considered groundbreaking at the time, showcased North’s ability to capture the essence of a story and convey the characters’ emotions and internal drama via his music. In 2015, the Library of Congress added the Original Soundtrack from “A Streetcar Named Desire” to the National Recording Registry.

While North’s film scores brought him widespread acclaim, his work extended beyond the silver screen. He composed numerous concert pieces, including symphonies, chamber music, and vocal works. Among his concert works is “Revue for Clarinet and Orchestra,” commissioned by Benny Goodman.

Among his many compositions, “Unchained Melody” stands as the ultimate evergreen. Originally composed as the Main Title theme for the 1955 prison drama “Unchained,” the haunting melody and poignant lyric captured the hearts of listeners worldwide. Over the years, the song has been performed and recorded by countless artists.

About Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble

SOKOLOW THEATRE/DANCE ENSEMBLE is the living legacy company dedicated to presenting Sokolow’s vast body of emotionally riveting work. Over a 70-year career, Anna Sokolow continuously broke the boundaries of modern dance, focusing on the human experience and accessing any movement genre to fulfill her artistic purpose. Her masterpieces remain relevant to our times and touch the hearts of all people as we struggle with the universal issues of living, regardless of differences in place and culture. The company’s projects include reconstruction, reimagination, deconstruction, historical performance, teaching, lectures, archiving, and partnering with contemporary choreographers—all modes through which we step inside Sokolow’s masterworks and draw from this perspective to better frame our future. ST/DE was founded by Sokolow protégé Jim May and is currently under the artistic direction of Samantha Géracht. For more information, visit sokolowtheatredance.org.

About Dance at The Library of Congress/Coolidge Auditorium

The Music Division’s Concert Events office in the Library of Congress has sponsored performances and commissioned music and dance dating to the early 20th century. Thanks to the generosity of philanthropist Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge and others, Appalachian Spring, with music by Aaron Copland and choreography by Martha Graham, premiered in the Library’s Coolidge Auditorium on October 31, in 1944.

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News about music, concerts, gruops and events around the world related with the world of m,usic. Responsible for the Music Section: Alice lange
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