FROM THE HORSE'S MOUTH: ANNA SOKOLOW
December 6, 2013
There is no denying that Anna Sokolow was quite the dynamo. The current From the Horse's Mouth program certainly attests to this. Rare video clips, live dance performance, and numerous personal anecdotes paint a picture of the dynamic, dauntless choreographer and her multifaceted influence - particularly in the fields of modern dance, music, and theater.
From the Horse's Mouth, currently in its fifteenth year, is a commemorative performance series conceived by James Cunningham and Tina Croll that has honored countless dancers and choreographers to date. As the title suggests, spoken word serves as the driving force, offering rare insight into the profound creative, professional, and personal impact one artist has on others throughout their life.
Sokolow was a dancer turned choreographer who began training with Martha Graham and went on to form her own company, the Players' Project. She traveled through Mexico and Israel teaching and choreographing and became a longtime faculty member at the Julliard School. All the while, her abrasively honest ways and remarkable skill at making dancers emote and acknowledge their individuality left a notable impact.
Jennifer Muller comments on Sokolow's uncompromising belief that the truth to be paramount in dance. "She would put you in a position and say, ' Do what you have to do next.' Then, as you moved she'd say, 'I don't believe you." Deborah Zall remembers tireless and demanding rehearsals that led to her ask Sokolow, "What do you want?!" Her response: "I don't want to see Martha [Graham]. I don't want to see Anna. I want to see Deborah."
Close to 25 individuals took part in the multimedia performance, passing the microphone and weaving in and out of structured improvisation on stage. The performers' surrounding abstract movements - a hop with arms raised, a bend at the waist, a slow lunge - color the various live testimonials taking place center stage. Intermittently, this format is replaced by a slow procession across the stage including colorful costumes, silly props, and a sense of drama.
Other shared tales vary from the hilarious to the surprising, moving, and powerful. Celia Ipiotis recalls Sokolow's "passionate voice" and the time she appeared on an Eye on Dance television program focused on social commentary in dance in 1984. Kevin Conroy tells of the day he refused to let Sokolow kick him out of her Julliard dance class, which earned him a slap followed by a kiss on the cheek at the class' end. Deborah Jowitt will never forget when she asked the dancers to run as fast as they could to the end of the stage and stop suddenly. When they failed to do this to Sokolow's liking, she threw a chair towards them; they sure stopped suddenly then. Most touching are Joel Thome's memories about his time working with her through the Lyric Theatre in Israel. "You understood music better than almost everybody and I will love you forever, Anna," he notes.
From the Horse's Mouth and Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble (the successor to Sokolow's Players' Project, founded by Jim May) have partnered to present this collaborative program, which continues through December 8 at the 14th Street Y.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY - Jennifer Thompson