Samantha Geracht (Artistic Director) After performing with Anna Sokolow’s Players’ Project for eleven years, and as a founding member of Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble since 2004, Ms. Geracht was appointed artistic director of Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble in January of 2017. Ms. Geracht has toured and taught Sokolow internationally, and reconstructs Sokolow repertory on professional companies and in college and university dance programs. She has reconstructed Sokolow work at a variety of dance programs including The Boston Conservatory, Franklin and Marshall, Barnard College, Morris County Community College, Centre de Danse Nationale de Paris, Kanopy Dance company, Ellen Robbins Dance as well as worked with various soloists including Jennifer Conelly, Kim Jones, and Sandra Kaufman.
Ms. Geracht has also performed the Humphrey/Weidman repertory with Deborah Carr Theatre Dance Ensemble, and with Gail Corbin since 1993. She regularly works with Rae Ballard’s Thoughts in Motion, and she has also performed with Jim May, as a guest artist with David Parker and The Bang Group as well as in her own choreography. In 2016 she choreographed Shadowbox Theatre’s The Earth and Me, a climate change puppet/dance opera for school aged children. Ms. Geracht has studied with and been mentored by Jim May, Betty Jones, and Fritz Ludin for the last 25 years. She holds an MFA from Montclair State University and a BS in dance from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and spent three years in the professional studies program at the Nikolais/Louis dance lab. Ms. Geracht is involved in various projects to maintain the legacies of early American Modern Dance and is commited to making these early works more accessible both to new artists and audiences. She has often taught in the Professional Studies program at the Limon Institute, HB studios, and she is on the middle school arts faculty at the Hoboken Charter School.
Jim May (Founding Director) Mr. May was a devoted disciple of Anna Sokolow for 35 years and co-artistic director of her dance company, Players’ Project, since 1990. His aim as founder of the Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble was to expand the art of dance to include the other arts (music, theater, painting, literature), working toward a progressive new style of theater/dance.
Mr. May was a dancer on the New York scene for over 40 years, having also danced with the Limón Company under Jose Limón’s direction and as a soloist under Carla Maxwell’s direction, the Ruth Currier Company, and as a principal dancer with the Danny Lewis company. Mr. May embraced the distinct dance styles of both Ms. Sokolow and Mr. Limón. He won a 1996 Fulbright Scholarship to Mexico City to extend his studies of his two mentors and their roles in the “across the border” relationship between modern dance in the US and Mexico.
Mr. May has taught on the faculties of SUNY Purchase, Juilliard School of Music, and Princeton University, and was on the faculty of the Limón Institute for many years. In 1992 he received the Marcus Award for Teaching Excellence from Washington University. He taught extensively in Taiwan, where he founded the company Dance Forum Taipei, and in Mexico at Central de Investigacion Corografica. He has taught at many Universities and schools in Italy, France, Germany, Korea, Canada, South America, Switzerland and the United States, and was granted a Fulbright award to teach in Chile. His choreography has been in the repertories of Dance Conduit, Dance Forum Taipei, Thoughts in Motion, and the Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble. He has danced on Broadway and was a member of the Eliot Feld Ballet Company. As a guest artist, he has performed works by Donald McKayle, Don Redlich, Murray Louis, Pauline Koner, and Kurt Jooss.
Mr. May received the 1999 Bessie Award for lifetime achievement, “for a sustained achievement over decades as dance’s premiere leading man, an actor-dancer of extraordinary range and scope of character, in the living theater of Anna Sokolow.”
Eleanor Bunker (Associate Artistic Director) holds degrees from Hartford College for Women and SUNY Empire State College. She began her modern and ballet training at the Hartford Ballet where she studied with Enid Lynn, Lisa Bradley, and Michael Uthoff. She was a soloist and rehearsal director for eleven years with Rondo Dance Theater, a repertory company which featured masterworks of the American Modern Dance genre under the artistic direction of Elizabeth Rockwell. She continues to perform the repertory of Isadora Duncan, and is the dance faculty at Dominican Academy in NYC. Eleanor was a member of Anna Sololow’s Players’ Project for 14 years and has been a member of Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble since its founding. Eleanor reconstructs Anna Sokolow’s repertory and directs rehearsals for the company and for schools and professional dancers. She also oversees costuming for the company.
Lauren Naslund (Associate Artistic Director) began her modern dance studies in Chicago with Frances Allis. She holds degrees in biology from the University of Chicago and Harvard. She danced in Cambridge, MA with the Performing Arts Ensemble and the Massachusetts Dance Ensemble and in New York with the theater/dance company Plath/Taucher Productions. She has performed the works of Charles Weidman and Doris Humphrey with Deborah Carr’s Theatre Dance Ensemble, and under the direction of Gail Corbin. She also works with Rae Ballard’s Thoughts in Motion and Andrew Jannetti & Dancers. She was a member of Anna Sokolow’s Players’ Project for 15 years, and has been with Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble since its founding. Lauren reconstructs Anna Sokolow’s repertory and directs rehearsals for the company and for schools and professional dancers.
Luis Gabriel Zaragoza was born in Mexico City. He received his BFA, Cum Laude, from the National School of Dance of Mexico (NSDM). He also has a BA in Philosophy, an MFA in Dance Education, and has specialized in Dance Philosophy. He has studied with Anna Sokolow, Jeff Duncan, Tim Wengerd, Jim May and Betty Jones, among others, and attended the Merce Cunningham Studio as a scholarship student. Gabriel was a teacher at the NSDM for eight years. He received the award of Best Dancer of the Year in 1990 Best Choreographed Solo (for Nijinsky, El Ojo de Dios) in 1999 from Asociación Danza Mexicana. In 1991, La Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico granted him the Artistic Creative Award. As a choreographer he has created over 64 works, which have been performed worldwide. He was a member of the Martha Graham Ensemble and has danced with several companies in France and Mexico. He was a member of Anna Sokolow’s Players’ Project for four years and a member of the Sokolow Theatre Dance Ensemble since its founding. Gabriel teaches company class and assists with rehearsals.
Francesca Todesco is of Swiss Italian origin and studied dance in Switzerland, Germany, and the US. She is a dancer with Catherine Gallant/DANCE and a member of Dances by Isadora since 2000. She has performed in repertoire by Isadora Duncan, Jose Limón, Charles Weidman and Anna Sokolow, among others. Francesca teaches adults and children’s dance classes in Europe and the US. She joined Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble in 2003.
Melissa Sobel is from New York City and received her BFA from The Boston Conservatory. She was a scholarship student at The Alvin Ailey American Dance Center. She has also worked with Dance Theatre Be and performed works by Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman under the direction of Deborah Carr and Gail Corbin. In addition to her dance career, she is also a professional photographer and founder of Meems Images. Melissa joined Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble in 2005.
Margherita Tisato started studying dance in Italy at the age of 8. Her background is in Humphrey-Limon, contemporary, and dance-therapy. She counts in her roster of practices a variety of movement techniques including dance and yoga, Butoh, somatic movement, and recently the exploration of body suspension. Margherita moved to New York in 2006, and also works with Dances by Isadora, Francesca Todesco, and others. Margherita was a principal dancer with the Vangeline Theater from 2008 until 2017, and has presented her own work in New York and abroad. She is a teacher for the New York Butoh Institute and teaches butoh workshops internationally. Margherita lives in Brooklyn, teaching yoga and mindful movement in studios, jails and substance abuse recovery facilities and coaching individuals in finding embodiment and recovering from PTSD. Margherita has danced with Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble since 2008.
Erin Gottwald is from Stoneham, Massachusetts and received her formative training at the Boston Ballet School for 11 years. She holds a BA in Theater from Bates College and a BA Hons from the London Contemporary Dance School in London, England. In 2017, Erin celebrated her eighth season with The Bang Group’s Nut/Cracked – her second as Rehearsal Director. Her ongoing collaboration with John Carrafa was named one of the Top 10 Dance Highlights of 2012 by the Boston Phoenix. She first performed with Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble in 2011.
Erika Langmeyer is from Seattle, Washington, and graduated cum laude with a BFA in Dance from the Honors College at George Mason University. Since moving to NYC, she has danced with Buglisi Dance Theatre, Rae Ballard’s Thoughts in Motion Dance Company, The Moving Beauty Series, Kinetic Architecture, and Naganuma Dance. Ms. Langmeyer currently dances with TAKE Dance and has embarked on a production career, presenting “Anamnesis” at West End Theatre in 2018. She is a performer and the assistant rehearsal director with Shadow Box Theatre, and a founding member of Suzzanne Ponomarenko Dance, with whom she traveled to Guatemala to teach at-risk youths through the “A Chance to Dance” program. Erika joined Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble in 2017.
Brad Orego originally hails from Buffalo, NY. He comes from a diverse background in sport, martial art, and dance. Brad’s formal dance training began at the University of Rochester. After earning the University’s first Minor in Dance, along with degrees in Computer Science and Psychology, in 2011, he moved to Madison, WI, where he has worked with Kanopy Dance Company since 2013. Brad moved to NYC and joined Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble in fall 2017.
Ilana Ruth Cohen is originally from Portland, Oregon, where she grew up dancing in the rain. At Pomona College she studied dance, focusing on the work of historic modern choreographers. In addition, she studied chemistry with a focus on protein crystallography. Ilana is passionate about keeping historical works of modern dance alive through performance. Ilana joined Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble in 2018.
Sierra Powell, from Madison, WI, studied Graham, Hawkins, Limon, ballet, and more with Kanopy Dance Academy from the age of four and performed with Kanopy Dance Company from 2010-2016. After moving to New York, she performed with Graham 2 and graduated from the certificate program at the Martha Graham School in 2018. Sierra has performed lead and solo roles in the works of Martha Graham as well as works by many other modern and contemporary choreographers. She has also extensively studied Bharatanatyam Indian dance and classical piano. Sierra joined Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble in 2018.
Samuel Humphreys received his initial training from Brynar Mehl, and then from Larry Ensign, Lori Belilove, the Gelsey Kirkland Ballet conservatory, and the Martha Graham School. He has performed in New York City with the Isadora Duncan Dance Company, Anabella Lenzu, Ballet for Young Audiences, and Shadow Box Theatre. He currently also dances with Dance Visions/NY. A long time student of Jim May, Sam performed with the Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble in 2007 and 2008 and rejoined the company in 2019.
Photo credits: Sam Waxman (Samantha Geracht, Ilana Ruth Cohen, Sierra Powell, Samuel Humphreys), Melissa Sobel (Jim May)