Teaching & Rehearsing
Anna Sokolow, 1910 - 2000
When Sokolow began her career in the 1930s, it was virtually impossible to earn a living as a modern dancer. Like most of her colleagues, she supplemented her income by teaching. Joining some of the era's best-known dancers, she taught classes in the Graham technique at New York's 92nd Street Y and the Neighborhood Playhouse. This work did more to support her than did most of her concert appearances.
Sokolow later taught extensively in New York City and around the United States. She also gave workshops and classes and staged works in many countries, including England, the Netherlands, and Japan, as well as in her beloved Mexico and Israel.
In the 1930s, Sokolow began giving classes to the Group Theatre, and she continued to work with actors as well as dancers until the very last years of her life. In the 1940s and '50s, she worked with Elia Kazan at the Actors Studio, and in 1958, she began decades of teaching actors and dancers at the Juilliard Dance Division. "My first aim is to free the actor from his self-consciousness," she once commented. "I make him forget about the cliches about having to smoke, to touch or handle something.... It may seem to the actor that he is learning how to move and how to use his body, but what he really learns is to be simple, honest and human."
A demanding teacher, Sokolow had no patience with dancers she suspected of insincere dramatic projection. Caring little about a particular style or technique, she believed students needed to find their own way and to draw from true emotions. She was often difficult, but students who responded with the passion, intensity, and vulnerabilty she sought earned her respect and became intensely loyal to her. Dancer José Coronado reflected, "I fell in love with the woman, and I followed her like a dog—because of her integrity."
- Quotation beginning "I fell in love with" cited in Deborah Jowitt, "Anna at Eighty-Five," Dance Magazine (August 1995): 40.
- Quotation beginning "My first aim" cited in Walter Sorrell, "We Work Toward Freedom," Dance Magazine (January 1964): 52.