From the Jerome Robbins Dance Division, NYPLPA
This "debut" was unusual, in that Sokolow's works had already been performed extensively off-Broadway. For her official debut, Sokolow chose a number of compositions with biting social and political commentary. Strange American Funeral, for example, was based on a poem about an immigrant steelworker killed by falling into a vat of boiling metal. As a reviewer commented, "The bitter satire and relentless expression of struggle was carried out with such intensity of purpose as to make one's blood race with driving force and rouse the most lethargic observer to indignant approbation." Excerpts from a War Poem was also based on a poem, "War is Beautiful," but this time Sokolow treated the poem with acerbic satire. Critic Marjorie Church wrote in response that Sokolow "has taken the essense of fascism, embodied in a poem extolling the beauties of war, and has plucked this expression of an ideology mercilessly apart, line by line, exposing a ruthlessness, a savagery, and a masochistic blindness underlying this viewpoint which are appalling in their implications."
1. Quotation beginning "The bitter satire..." from "Anna Sokolow and Group," Boston Transcript, April 1, 1939.
2. Quotation beginning "has taken the essence of fascism" from Marjorie Church, Dance Observer, December 1937, cited in Larry Warren, Anna Sokolow: The Rebellious Spirit (Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Publishers, 1998), 53.