Sokolow's Dybbuk

Submitted by hsr2115 on December 6, 2014 - 9:17pm

During the Post-war period of the 1950s there was a movement of change and adaptation to New York culture and society.

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For immigrants from Eastern Europe, this posed a dilemma – how would they maintain their roots yet reach success in their new homes. Anna Sokolow  (Image Source: seemed to have begun this transformation by taking Anasy’s the Dybbuk and adapting it to a revolutionary type of dance.[1]




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Sokolow was a dancer by training. American born in 1910, Sokolow began dancing at age 10. As her training as a dancer intensified, she began exploring alternative types of dance including Mexican and Israeli. 

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In 1951 she decided to blend her passions and became a founder of dance without words using the Dybbuk as the platform for this fusion. [2]


Sokolow took the Dybbuk and expressed the themes and emotions through interpretive dance.

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Her choreographed production had no words yet the messages of love, mystery and tradition were maintained and transmitted to the audience. Her original piece faced some opposition in the realm of choreographers, Doris Herring, founder of the studio in which this rendition of the Dybbuk premiered, commented in the Israeli dance diaries, "the character of Leah. Instead, the work was episodic with Leah stepping in and out of focus [ ... ] The most extended use of dancing was made in the traditiona1-type material for beggars and guests at the wedding. But here Miss Sokolow made the mistake of changing key rather abruptly into a passionate, 'modern' solo for herself as Leah. It seemed too personal for its dramatic context." [3] While Herring seems to have voiced this opposition in regard to Skolow’s original work, there is still evidence that this performance of the Dybbuk was used a turning point in the development of modern dance technique.


Despite the controversy on the adequacy of her Dybbuk twist, Sokolow preformed this piece at the Weldman Studio Theater, 108 West 16th Street, New York. The theater was created for the purpose of developing modern dance technique focuses on losing and regaining equilibrium type of performances as well as other forms of arts. [4]


Sokolow's original piece premiered in March 1951 using the music and musical director Siegfried Landau  Image Source:

[5] She worked with Sophie Maslow  (Image Source: ) to compose this unforgettable choreograph and the performance starred Asa Bard, Lou Gilbert, Don Keefer, Vivian Nathan, Richard Malek, John Bowman, Shirlee Clarke, Lucille Patton, Elizabeth Riggs, Selma Stern, Alix Tairoff, Zairo Curtis, Maurice Edwards, John Mandia, Justin Smith, Robert St. Clair and others.

[6] John Martin, “The Dance: Tudor: Charles Wiedman” New York Times 11 March 1951.

Although the theater is no longer there   (Image Souce: and no recovered footage is found of this performance, the modern dances that are for viewing have embedded in them the ideas and movements presented in Sokolow’s version of the Dybbuk. Furthermore, the nuances of the meaning of buliding will always be rememebed by the embbeded S at the top. [7]





[4] Humphrey, Doris and Barbara Pollack. The Art of Making Dances. New York: Grove, 1959. Print.

[5] “The Week’s Programs: City Ballet Season Nears End, Other Events” New York Times 4 March 1951.

[6] John Martin, “The Dance: Tudor: Charles Wiedman” New York Times 11 March 1951.