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Anna Sokolow - Early Years - The Lower East Side

Viewing herself as "a product of the Lower East Side," Sokolow was shaped by the vibrancy of her neighborhood's street life. In a 1991 interview about a new work called The Street, she hinted that her lifelong interest in urban life emerged out of her experiences as a child on the streets of the Lower East Side. "At that time it was all immigrants, mostly from Europe," she said. "All working-class people starting a new life here who hardly went into stores. They just went to the markets, where the people who ran them called out, 'Come in here,' 'In here,' all in different languages."

Sokolow often commented that she was "a great believer you don't forget your roots." In an interview in the 1970s, she reminisced: "I can remember that when my mother used to go shopping for food on Sunday, in the market, the pushcarts, she never bought lettuce or green peas..., and I once asked her why. She said, 'Oh, that's for the goyim.' You see, she used beets, because we had borscht, and cabbage and potatoes. And carrots, because she made tzimmes. But that was it." The immigrant Jewish culture of Sokolow's childhood and her deep connection to the Jewish experience left a strong mark on her and shaped several of her powerful later works.

  1. Quotation "a product of the Lower East Side" from Dance on: Anna Sokolow, Prod. Billie Mahoney, 1981.
  2. Quotation beginning "At that time it was all immigrants" cited in Jennifer Dunning, "From Urban Walks, A New Sokolow Dance," New York Times, October 13, 1991.
  3. Quotation beginning "I'm a great believer" from Anna Sokolow, Prod. and dir. Marvin Diskin, Amphi Productions, 30 mins, 1990.
  4. Quotation beginning "I can remember" 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.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Anna Sokolow - Early Years - The Lower East Side." (Viewed on January 19, 2018) <>.


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