Anna Sokolow, 1910 - 2000
In the spring of 1939, Mexican painter Carlos Mérida saw Sokolow and her "Dance Unit" perform in New York. Deeply impressed, he immediately invited them to Mexico.
Despite the fact that little modern dance existed in Mexico, Sokolow's work was an immediate success. People of all classes—from peasants to professionals—flocked to the performances, the number of which was increased from six to twenty-three. Asked to work toward the creation of a government-sponsored modern dance company, Sokolow remained in Mexico when her dancers returned to New York. After eight months of intense work, the members of the Ballet Bellas Artes (Fine Arts Ballet) debuted in March 1940. Shortly thereafter, Sokolow helped to form La Paloma Azul (The Blue Dove), a group that brought together dancers, artists and musicians.
Despite critical acclaim, La Paloma Azul did not survive beyond its first season. Yet Sokolow's work laid the foundations for an indigenous Mexican modern dance movement. For decades, her original dancers were referred to as "Las Sokolovas," while she herself became known as "la fundadora de la danza moderna de Mexico," or "the founder of Mexican modern dance."
Mexico also had a profound effect on Sokolow's artistic development. Deeply moved by the Mexican people's reverence for art, she also felt a strong affinity for Mexico's artistic community, including Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and Silvestre Revueltas. "For the first time in my life," she said, "I knew what it felt like to be an artist." Sokolow created a number of pieces on Mexican and Spanish themes, and a new lyricism appeared in her work. For nine years, she commuted between Mexico City and New York, acknowledging with reluctance that her true creative roots lay in New York.
- Quotation beginning "For the first time in my life" from Margaret Murphy and Lucille Rhodes (interviewers), Outtakes from the film They Are Their Own Gifts, December 17, 1975, cited in Larry Warren, Anna Sokolow: The Rebellious Spirit (Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Publishers, 1998), 69.
- Remaining information from Warren, 63-74, and Doris Hering, "My Roots are Here," Dance Magazine, June 1955, 36.