Women of Valor


Broadway & Other Venues

Anna Sokolow, 1910 - 2000

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Sokolow discussing her work in the theater

Influenced by her wide-ranging training at the Neighborhood Playhouse, Sokolow never limited herself strictly to dance. In 1935, her Anti-War Cycle appeared on the program with Clifford Odets' play, Waiting for Lefty, strengthening her pre-existing connection to the theater. Soon after, she directed the dances for a Broadway production of André Obey's Noah.

In the late 1930s, Sokolow did the choreography for Sing for Your Supper, a revue staged by the WPA's Federal Theatre Project to put unemployed singers, actors and dancers to work. In 1947, she choreographed the musical version of Elmer Rice's play Street Scene, with a score by Kurt Weill and lyrics by Langston Hughes. Her dances—particularly a duet based on the jitterbug—dramatically heightened the story's effect and broke new ground on Broadway. Asked how she managed to capture so effectively the flavor of the Lower East Side streets, Sokolow replied, "It's simple, when you've been part of them."

Over the next several years, Sokolow staged dances and movement for plays on and off Broadway. Her work ranged from Leonard Bernstein's version of Candide to her own dramatization of Kafka's Metamorphosis. She also choreographed a season for the New York City Center Opera.

In 1967, Sokolow was invited to choreograph the dances for the rock musical Hair. With the director and writers clashing over the staging, Sokolow gradually took on more and more responsibility; by the end of rehearsals, she was serving as director. When the original director returned at the last minute, however, Sokolow was dismissed and much of her staging reworked. Yet she still had a significant impact on the cast and the performance, and consequently on the future of Broadway.

  1. Quotation "It's simple, when you've been part of them" cited in Larry Warren, Anna Sokolow: The Rebellious Spirit (Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Publishers, 1998), 84.
  2. Remaining information from Warren, 47-48, 59-61, 83-88, 172-175; Anna Sokolow, Choreographer, prod. and dir. Margaret Murphy and Lucille Rhodes, 20 mins, 1980, videocassette; first Dance Horizons Video release, 1991; Ezra Goodman, "Broadway Choreographers," Dance (March 1947): 13-15.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Women of Valor - Anna Sokolow - Broadway & Other Venues." (Viewed on April 18, 2014) <http://jwa.org/womenofvalor/sokolow/broadway-other-venues>.