Tag Archive | "Anna Sokolow"

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Celebration in Pictures: Anna Sokolow Centennial at the Dance Library of Israel

Posted on 11 February 2010 by Deborah Friedes Galili

The flyer for the Anna Sokolow centennial exhibition in Tel Aviv. Courtesy Henia Rottenberg.

Attention dance history fans: this year is the centennial of choreographer Anna Sokolow’s birth, and her artistic achievements are being commemorated around the world, including in Israel.  In this guest article, Hannah Kosstrin, who recently visited Tel Aviv to research Sokolow’s work here, reflects on Sokolow’s influence on dance in Israel and highlights upcoming centennial celebrations.

Celebration in Pictures: Anna Sokolow Centennial at the Dance Library of Israel

By Hannah Kosstrin

A new exhibit at the Dance Library of Israel celebrates the life and work of Anna Sokolow (1910-2000), whose centennial is celebrated this month.  Sokolow, an American-born Jewish choreographer who worked internationally and considered Israel her second home, carved out a space for herself in the Israeli dance landscape.  She first came to Tel Aviv in 1953 on the recommendation of Jerome Robbins and with the support of the America-Israel Cultural Foundation, where she worked with Sara Levi-Tanai and Inbal Yemenite Dance Group (Inbal Dance Theatre).  In the early 1960s, she established her Lyric Theatre.  This company was active for months out of each year, and toured cities and kibbutzim throughout Israel.  Later, she choreographed for Israeli companies including Batsheva Dance Company, Bat-Dor Dance Company, Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company, Chamber Theatre, Springboard Dance Company, and Habima.  Her work touched many dancers and teachers who remain prominent in dance in Israel, including Paul Bloom, Galia Gat, Rena Gluck, Yaron Margolin, Moshe Romano, and Rena Schenfeld, and Ze’eva Cohen and Margalit Oved, who work in the United States.

With the Lyric Theatre (1962-1964), Sokolow continued to develop her performance form that she termed lyric theater, a combination of dancing and acting that blurred the lines between disciplines and created works wherein performers drew from both movement and acting bodies of knowledge.  Such works include Rooms and Dreams, originally created in the U.S. and then performed by the Lyric Theatre, and Forms and Poem, for which Sokolow worked closely with Israeli dancers to mount.  Sokolow was concerned foremost with truth in movement and with honesty in dancers’ performance. Using elements of the Stanislavsky Method that she garnered through a trip to Russia in 1934 and work with Elia Kazan and the Actors Studio in New York through the 1950s, Sokolow drew from performers’ own experiences to craft their characters within the context of each work.  Sokolow trained in Martha Graham’s technique through her work with that company during the 1930s.  Many of Sokolow’s dances from the 1930s-1940s show a strong Graham influence in her own movement via initiations by torso contractions and spirals through the back.  Sokolow’s dances from the 1950s onward, however, feature pieces crafted from movement and gestures found in daily life, from running to grasping hands to slamming against a wall.  Her work also presents quieter, vulnerable moments with arched backs and reaching arms, all while retaining the immediacy of movement coming from the “gut.”

Sokolow is known for making dances of social comment, and for reflecting humanity in the most inhumane of situations.  Dreams (1961), an evening-length group work, contains vignettes of harrowing concentration camp scenes leading to a dignified and wrongful death, while In Memory Of…543246 (1973), a solo for Rena Schenfeld, is a portrait of a Holocaust victim.  And the Disciples Departed (1967), a collaborative work with director Thomas J. Knott for American television, comments on the Vietnam war, racism in the U.S., and the rape of Kitty Genovese.  Rooms (1955), Sokolow’s landmark piece that cemented her place as a canonical concert dance choreographer, exposes loneliness, urban alienation, and unrequited desire.  The work is set against Kenyon Hopkins’ jazz score that alternates between driving adrenaline and stark atonal punctuations.  Earlier, in the 1940s, Sokolow made dances with Jewish themes and about Biblical heroines to stand in solidarity with Jews worldwide during the Holocaust.  The most well-known of these dances is Kaddish (1945), a memorial for Holocaust victims in which Sokolow defied contemporary gender conventions by laying tefillin around her arm.  Sokolow kept her Jewish identity at the core of all of her work, and her time in Israel fed and reinforced this connection.

The exhibit at the Dance Library of Israel commemorates Sokolow’s career through photographs and other ephemera, and it runs through September 2010.  The Dance Library of Israel is located at Beit Ariela, 25 Shaul Hamelech Boulevard in Tel Aviv.  More information is on the Beit Ariela library’s blog.

For information about Sokolow Centennial celebrations outside of Israel, please visit:

Hannah Kosstrin is a Ph.D. Candidate in Dance Studies at The Ohio State University (OSU). Her dissertation project focuses on Anna Sokolow’s work from 1927-1961. It is supported by the OSU Melton Center for Jewish Studies, the P.E.O. International Sisterhood, and the OSU Department of Women’s Studies Coca-Cola Critical Difference for Women Graduate Studies Grant for Research on Women, Gender, and Gender Equity. She has performed, choreographed, and taught in Boston, MA and Columbus, OH, U.S.A.

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The Holocaust in Modern Dance: Rami Be’er on “Aide Memoire”

Posted on 04 June 2009 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Aide MemoireKibbutz Contemporary Dance Company in Rami Be’er’s Aide Memoire.  Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Suzanne Dellal’s Big Stage festival will close on Saturday, June 6th with the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company’s performance of Rami Be’er’s Aide Memoire (Hebrew title: Zichron Dvarim).   I was struck by the dance’s power when I first saw it last year – but rather than telling you my perspective in this post, I’m going to bring you a different viewpoint: that of the choreographer himself.

Below is a guest post by Rami Be’er, choreographer and artistic director of the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company.

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The Holocaust in Modern Dance (guest post by Rami Be’er)

As a son of Holocaust survivors, I tried to deal with the horrors of the Holocaust, but it took me years until I felt mature enough to do so.  My parents filled the house with art and music, raised us in an Israeli Kibbutz, started a new life and never mentioned the past.  Same as with me, it took decades until they started to speak.

When I felt ready to deal with the horrors of the Holocaust, I created the piece Aide Memoire.

In Aide Memoire, I tried to illustrate the feeling of being “trapped.”  The dancers move ecstatically, trapped in their personal turmoil, spinning while swinging their arms and legs, and banging on the wall; some are crucified, unable to move freely on the stage.

Aide Memoire is not only about the Holocaust.  It deals with matters relating to present life and reality.  It deals with violence, wars, and their impact on our lives.  I created this dance in order to scream: Stop the violence!  Stop the holocausts! Continue Reading

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Dancing Through the Intifada: Yasmeen Godder’s “Strawberry Cream and Gunpowder”

Posted on 05 March 2009 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Yasmeen Godder's "Strawberry Cream and Gunpowder"

Yasmeen Godder’s Stawberry Cream and Gunpowder.  Photo by Tamar Lamm.

The cameras in this region frequently capture pictures of destruction and death, of terror and torture, of bombing scenes and blood, of gore and grief.

Working in a different medium, the choreographers in Israel do not often turn their gaze in this direction.  But in 2004, Yasmeen Godder focused her artistic lens squarely on the conflict in her country – and specifically on the tragic images flooding the media – in Strawberry Cream and Gunpowder. Transforming real photographs into surreal scenes, Godder and her Bloody Bench Players exposed the complexities of the situation to the audience and cast its horrors in sharp relief.

I watched Strawberry Cream and Gunpowder on DVD in autumn 2007, and after collecting myself – it’s not an easy work to watch – I spent much of the night writing about this haunting dance.  The result, “Dancing Through the Intifada,” first appeared on my own blog on November 13, 2007.

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I just returned home from watching a DVD of Yasmeen Godder’s haunting Strawberry Cream and Gunpowder (2004), and it’s impossible for me to think of anything else at the moment.  Created a few years into the second intifada, Strawberry Cream and Gunpowder is the first work I have seen which tackles the situation directly, with imagery drawn from media reports of the violence.

If my mind was fresher, perhaps I could write a rich, fuller description of the dance’s action, for indeed there is much that is worthy of comment: prolonged stillnesses which force the viewer to register the horror of these televised, photographed images; the way bodies skilled in release technique, with their loose and reactive limbs, all too believably portray bodies responding to the force of gunshots and physical manipulation; how a context of terror transforms typically normal and even joyous positions and actions; the dressing of the space, with unfixed patches of grass scattered across the stage and an automated gate on stage right; the combination of an original score with the dancers’ piercing emotional cries and occasional bursts of singing; the progression of energy and time, with all hell breaking loose at the end; the curtain call, with two dancers still fully in character during and after the audience applause, finishing moments later as if to emphasize that this is not a fictional scenario limited to the stage time or to the theater’s interior.

Right now, however, my mind is caught up with more philosophical musings and questions.

Continue Reading

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