The Radical Dance Movement
Anna Sokolow, 1910 - 2000
On February 17, 1932, two Jewish dance students, Miriam Blecher and Nadia Chilkovsky, marched at a mass funeral in New York City for a union organizer killed by New Jersey police at a rally of unemployed workers. Inspired to deepen their involvement in similar causes, they soon founded a working-class organization for dance, entitled the New Dance Group, with the slogan "Dance is a weapon in the class struggle."
The New Dance Group was one of many organizations that attempted to blend Marxist ideology and dance. Like other artists and intellectuals, many modern dancers of this era were drawn to left-wing movements, including the Communist and Socialist Parties. Dance groups sprang up to teach low-fee classes for both artists and workers, combining them with reading and discussion of revolutionary literature. In 1932, eleven workers' dance groups in the New York City area joined together into the Workers' Dance League.
The goals of these workers' dance groups meshed with those of many unions and fraternal organizations, which hoped to enrich their members' lives through cultural, educational and social programs. Garment industry unions in particular sponsored modern dance, and union meetings provided some of the major venues for modern dance performances.
Anna Sokolow was heavily involved in the radical dance movement. In addition to choreographing dances demonstrating her sympathy for the working classes, she danced for union audiences and participated in the Workers' Dance League.
- Stacey Prickett, "Dance and the Workers' Struggle," Dance Research 8, no. 1 (Spring 1990): 47-61.
- Larry Warren, Anna Sokolow: The Rebellious Spirit (Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Press, 1998), 29-48.