Women of Valor


Martha Graham & Louis Horst

Anna Sokolow, 1910 - 2000

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Sokolow discussing her mother's reaction to her desire to dance professionally

After finishing her training at the Neighborhood Playhouse, Sokolow joined Martha Graham's new professional dance company in late 1929. For much of the next decade, she studied and danced with Graham, participating in such notable works as Primitive Mysteries (1931) and Celebration (1934) and in Graham's first tour. "It was staggering," Sokolow later recalled. "I just knew I was in the presence of something great."

The relationship between Sokolow and Graham, however, was often difficult. Graham demanded unquestioning loyalty from her dancers, who worked nonstop for no pay, praise, or encouragement, and Sokolow, as she herself said, did not "have the temperament of a disciple." Sokolow's interest in exploring her own Russian-Jewish background clashed with Graham's focus on Americana, and her efforts to strike out in her own direction found little support from Graham. Sokolow left the company with some bitterness in approximately 1938. Only much later was she fully able to acknowledge Graham's abilities: "Now, at my age, and with everything I've done," she wrote in the 1990s, "I [have] begun to realize what a great artist Martha Graham was."

Sokolow always insisted that Louis Horst, Graham's accompanist and composer, was a far greater influence on her development than Graham herself. Horst taught choreography at the Neighborhood Playhouse, and Sokolow was his most promising student. For several years, she earned $25 a week as his assistant, becoming known as "Louis' Whip." Horst not only imbued in her a thorough appreciation of both music and dance forms, he also encouraged her to explore her own ideas in her compositions. "The way I found out [who I was] was not with Martha Graham," she remarked later, "but with Louis Horst." For decades, Sokolow looked to Horst for approval.

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Sokolow discussing her mentor, Louis Horst
  1. Quotation beginning "It was staggering..." from Interview with Anna Sokolow by Barbara Newman, December 1974-May 1975, for Oral History Project of the Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center.
  2. Quotation "have the temperament of a disciple" from Dance on: Anna Sokolow, Prod. Billie Mahoney, 1981.
  3. Quotation beginning "Now, at my age..." cited in Robert Tracy, Goddess: Martha Graham's Dancers Remember (New York: Limelight Editions, 1997), 27.
  4. Quotation begnning "The way I found out...." from Interview with Anna Sokolow, 1974-75.
  5. Remaining information from Larry Warren, Anna Sokolow: The Rebellious Spirit (Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Publishers, 1998), 19-21; Interview with Anna Sokolow, 1974-5; and "Agnes de Mille talks about Anna Sokolow and Martha Graham," May 31, 1974, in the Jerome Robbins Dance Division at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Women of Valor - Anna Sokolow - Martha Graham & Louis Horst." (Viewed on April 16, 2014) <http://jwa.org/womenofvalor/sokolow/martha-graham-louis-horst>.