Anna Sokolow, 1910 - 2000
In 1951, the America-Israel Cultural Foundation asked choreographer Jerome Robbins to select an Israeli dance group to represent Israeli dance abroad. Robbins chose the Inbal Dance Theatre, a promising Yemenite Jewish ensemble. He realized, however, that the group needed help in raising itself to fully professional standards. Sokolow, who had worked in similar situations in Mexico and displayed a strong interest in Jewish themes, seemed the perfect candidate to take on this task.
Arriving in Israel in 1953, Sokolow was deeply impressed by the Inbal dancers' Yemenite movements and rhythms, their creativity and their dedication. Her challenge, she felt, was to teach them useful techniques and professional habits without meddling with the core of their dancing. Dancers in the new nation struggled with poor working conditions, often using improvised stages as they toured cities and kibbutzim, but Sokolow, having faced similar problems in the early years of her career, was undaunted. After three years of hard work, Inbal made a triumphant European debut.
Recalling her first visit to Israel, Sokolow commented, "I certainly didn't expect to be affected so deeply, but the minute the plane landed I was overwhelmed with an indescribable feeling about being there. I didn't have any kind of strong Zionist background, but going there changed my point of view. [Israel] is now one of the deepest things in my life."
Sokolow returned to Israel virtually every summer for decades, teaching countless groups of dancers and actors. In the early 1960s, she created a new company, the Lyric Theatre, designed to bring theater, music and dance together. Although the company survived only a few years, it helped Israeli modern dancers achieve professional standing and recognition.
- Quotation beginning "I certainly didn't expect" cited in Larry Warren, Anna Sokolow: The Rebellious Spirit (Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Publishers, 1998), 105.
- Remaining information from Warren, 103-109, 147-154; Anna Sokolow, Choreographer, prod. and dir. Margaret Murphy and Lucille Rhodes, 20 mins, 1980, videocassette; first Dance Horizons Video release, 1991.