Jim May (Founder and 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.”
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 a BS in dance from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and she 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.
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 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.
Francesca Todesco (Managing Director) 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.
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 and. 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.
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 her dance studies in Italy at the tender age of 8. She now lives and dances in NYC while teaching yoga in local studios, schools, and prisons. When she’s not teaching or dancing, she can be found practicing, performing and teaching Butoh with Vangeline Theater. 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 and returns this season.
Elisa Schreiber graduated from Duke University with a BA in English and a minor in dance. Since moving to New York, Elisa has performed with the Limón Dance Company, Dance Heginbotham, Dance by Alan Danielson, and Kathryn Alter and Dancers. She has taught contemporary and Limón-based classes at Duke University, Marymount Manhattan College, Peridance, and in the NYC public schools. Elisa now also works with Sue Bernhard Danceworks, 277 Dance Project, and Compagnie Anne-Sophie Fenner. She first performed with Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble in 2010-11 and returns this season.
I-Nam Jiemvitayanukoon hails from Thailand. He has trained in ballet, modern, and contemporary dance and is a graduate of the Professional Study Program of the Limón Institute. Nam also dances with Dance Visions NY and Maya Kite and Dancers. He is an Aerial Yoga instructor and a GYROKINESIS® Teacher. I-Nam joined Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble in 2016.
Boonyarith Pankamdech graduated from Assumption University of Thailand, majoring in Computer Science. He has studied acting with ABAC Drama and dance with Bangkok City Ballet and the Martha Graham School, and is currently studying at Peridance Capezio. He has performed with Urban Bones Dance Company, Merce Cunningham Trust, Sans Limites Dance, Coyote Dancers, and BALAM, and in musical productions (including Fame – The Musical) with Dreambox. He now also performs with Jennifer Muller/The Works. Boonyarith joined Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble in 2016.
Brock Switzer was born in Washington D.C. and raised in Prince Georges County, MD. He began his dance training at Saint Mary’s College while at the University of Notre Dame, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Film, Television and Theater. He guest starred with Michiana’s Children’s Dance Theater and performed with Invisible Ink Danceworks. He has furthered his dance training at the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance in New York City and performed with Coyote Dancers. Brock joined Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble in 2016.
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 in fall 2017. This is his first season with the Sokolow Theater/Dance Ensemble.