Dancer & Coreographer

Anna Sokolow

Dancer, choreographer, and highly influential teacher of modern dance Anna Sokolow was born on February 9, 1910 in Hartford, Connecticut to recent immigrants from Pinsk, White Russia.

After the family moved to New York and settled on the Lower East Side, she began dance classes at the Temple Emanu-El Sisterhood of Personal Service, a charitable organization for new immigrants and their families, and later at the Henry Street Settlement. Under the training of Martha Graham and Louis Horst, she became a major figure in the revolutionary period of modern dance in the United States.

From the late 1920s on, Sokolow’s choreography reflected a serious engagement with social and political issues. She mobilized other young women, immigrants and children of immigrants, and workers in the garment industry for her Workers Dance League. Of these early days of radical dance, Sokolow would remark: “The unions were really my first audience. Poets or writers would read their work, singers and dancers would perform in their halls.”

Sokolow taught dance in the United States, Mexico, and in Israel for many decades. Her longtime position at Julliard and other major arts institutions assured her legacy as one of the most influential and revolutionary teachers of dance. In addition to her teaching, Sokolow choreographed hundreds of dance works— such as her radical pieces on dealing with the Holocaust, racism, and civil rights — and theatrical performances including the original production of “Hair.”

Anna Sokolow died at 90 years old in New York City. Her guiding principal, that dance provides a wordless voice for the oppressed and unspoken, continues to have a lasting influence on the world of dance.

Watch this video featuring clips of Sokolow teaching and interviews with some of her former Julliard students: