SOKOLOW THEATRE/DANCE ENSEMBLE is the living legacy company dedicated to presenting Anna Sokolow’s vast body of emotionally riveting work. Over a 70 year career, Ms. Sokolow continuously broke the silo of modern dance, focusing on the human experience and accessing any genre to fulfill her artistic purpose. Her masterpieces remain relevant to our times and touch the hearts of all people as we struggle with the universal issues of living, regardless of differences in place and culture. The company’s projects include reconstruction, reimagination, deconstruction, historical performance, teaching, lectures, archiving, and partnering with contemporary choreographers—all modes through which we step inside Sokolow’s masterworks and draw from this perspective to better frame our future. ST/DE was founded by Sokolow protégé Jim May and is currently under the artistic direction of Samantha Géracht.
ANNA SOKOLOW grew up in New York City and began her training at the Neighborhood Playhouse with Martha Graham, becoming an original member of the Graham Dance Company. She began choreographing her own solo and ensemble works during the turbulent years of the Great Depression. Ms. Sokolow’s search for truthfulness in art led her to create works of dramatic contemporary imagery showing both the lyric and stark aspects of the human experience. Her vast range of repertory includes drama, comedy, and lyricism with her commentaries on humanity and social justice threaded into each of her works. In a 1965 Dance Magazine article she wrote that there were no “final solutions to today’s problems,” but that she “could simply provoke an audience into awareness.”
In 1939 Ms. Sokolow began a lifelong association with the dance and theater arts in Mexico. Her work for the Mexican Ministry of Fine Arts grew to become the National Academy of Dance there. In 1953 she was invited to Israel to work with Inbal Dance Company. Following that, she choreographed for the major dance companies in Israel including Batsheva and Kibbutz Dance Company, and founded the Lyric Theatre company. She visited Mexico and Israel frequently to teach and to choreograph. All the while, Ms. Sokolow continued her work in dance and theater in New York City, where she taught movement and choreography at the newly founded Actors Studio, Lincoln Center Repertory Theater, and Dance Theater Workshop. She continued to choreograph on her own groups of dancers—Theatre Dance Company, Anna Sokolow Dance Company, Lyric Theater (of New York), Players’ Project—for Daniel Lewis’ Contemporary Dance System as resident choreographer, as well as for the New York City Opera, Joffrey Ballet, Boston Ballet, Utah Repertory Dance Theatre, Limón Company, and the Juilliard Dance Ensemble, among others. Ms. Sokolow’s choreography for the Broadway theater includes Street Scene, Camino Real, Candide, and the original Hair. In the late 1950’s Ms. Sokolow was the first modern dance choreographer to have her work (Rooms) presented on WNET’s “Dance In America.”
Ms. Sokolow’s interest in teaching took her to universities, dance companies and acting studios throughout the U.S. and abroad. She was a longtime faculty member of the Juilliard School in both the dance and drama divisions. She received many honors and awards, including Honorary Doctorate degrees from Ohio State University, Brandeis University and the Boston Conservatory of Music. She received a Fulbright Fellowship to Japan, the Dance Magazine Award, a National Endowment for the Arts’ Choreographic Fellowship, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American/Israeli Cultural Foundation, the Samuel H. Scripps Award, and the Encomienda, Aztec Eagle Honor (the highest civilian honor awarded to a foreigner by Mexico). Anna Sokolow passed away in her home in New York City on March 29, 2000 at the age of 90.
Samantha Géracht, MFA (Artistic Director) performed with Anna Sokolow’s Players’ Project for eleven years and is a founding member of the Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble. In 2017 Ms. Géracht was appointed the ensemble’s artistic director. She has toured and taught Sokolow’s repertory nationally and internationally, setting Ms. Sokolow’s works on professional companies, university dance programs, and solo dance artists, including the Centre de Danse Nationale de Paris, the Boston Conservatory, Williams College, The Ailey School/Fordham University, Loyola Chicago, Franklin and Marshall College, Barnard College, Clarence Brooks, Jennifer Conely, Sandra Kaufman, Kanopy Dance Company and Academy, Ellen Robbins Dance, and Christine Dakin.
Ms. Géracht studied technique and composition with Alwin Nikolais and Murry Louis, Humphrey/Limon with Jim May, Betty Jones, Fritz Luden, and Gail Corbin, and Weidman with Deborah Carr. She has taught in the Professional Studies program at the Limon Institute, the Herbert Berghoff (‘HB’) Studio, and is on the faculty of the Hoboken Charter School. Ms. Geracht performed the Humphrey/Weidman repertory with Deborah Carr Theater Dance Ensemble and Gail Corbin. She has appeared with Rae Ballard’s Thoughts in Motion, and as a guest artist with David Parker and The Bang Group. In 2016 she choreographed Shadowbox Theatre’s The Earth and Me, a critically acclaimed climate change puppet/dance opera created for NYC public schools and community centers. Ms. Géracht served as a panelist for the Library of Congress opening of the “New Dance Group” archives. She holds an MFA in dance from Montclair State University (NJ) and a BS in dance from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Ms. Géracht is committed to the preservation of early American Modern Dance, making the works of modern dance pioneers more accessible to dance education programs, young artists, and new audiences.
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 and stages Anna Sokolow’s repertory for the company and for schools and professional dancers.
Christine Dakin (Guest Artist) dancer — teacher — director, a foremost exponent of the Martha Graham repertory and technique, is known for her performances of Ms. Graham’s roles and for those created for her by Martha Graham and artists such as Robert Wilson, Twyla Tharp and Martha Clarke. Performing in the principal theaters of the world, partnered by renowned artists such as Rudolf Nureyev and filmed in the repertory, she was chosen by Graham for the company in 1976. Dakin became Associate Artistic Director in 1997 and was named Artistic Director with Terese Capucilli in 2002. Leading the company to its rebirth, they are credited with bringing the artistic excellence and repertory of the Company to a level not seen since Martha Graham’s death and were named Artistic Directors Laureate.
Dakin was honored by the dance community with the Dance Magazine Award (1994), a “Bessie” Performance Award (2003) and the Labat Loano Italy Grand Prix “Giuliana Penzi” 2015 Career Award. She was awarded the Evelyn Green Fellowship at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study (2007/08), was a Fulbright Senior Scholar (1999), and recipient of grants from CEC ArtsLink (1996). Fluent in French and Spanish, Ms. Dakin was awarded two Rockefeller U.S. Mexico Fund for Culture Grants (1998, 2002) and a grant from the Mexico’s Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes (2000) for choreography, teaching and research.
Performer and teacher in Mexico since 1981, with the Centro Nacional de Danza Contemporánea and Ballet Nacional de México in Querétaro (Director Guillermina Bravo), in Merida, Yucatán with the Instituto de Cultura and Compañía de Danza Contemporánea de Yucatán, (Director Graciella Torres Polanco), she is guest artist and faculty advisor at the Universidad de Colima and its Ballet Folklórico (Director Rafael Zamarripa) and contemporary company, Univerdanza (Directors Adriana Leon and Alejandro Vera), Universidad de Veracruz, Xalapa, guest artist with the company Ciudad Interior, (Director Alejandro Chavéz), and was Choreographic Guide for Encuentro de Creación Coreográfica EnTiempoReal2017. Dakin produces and performs work by contemporary Mexican choreographers including Jaime Blanc, Brice Mousset and Alejandro Chávez.
On the faculty of The Juilliard School, 1993 to 2003, she is currently faculty at The Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre, at the Ailey School in New York, and is a guest teacher for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Dakin is a founding member of Buglisi Dance Theatre (1993.)
Ms. Dakin has written and directed several films including La Voz del Cuerpo/The Body Speaks: the personal poetics of a Martha Graham dancer, created in collaboration with American and Mexican dancers and musicians, exploring the work and creative life of a dancer. Official Selection of 2013 New York City Independent Film Festival and Golden Door International Film Festival, 2014 NewFilmmakers New York, it has been shown at the 92nd Street Y in New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Oaxaca, Mexico, for International Day of Dance UNESCO in Barcelona, and for university audiences in the US and Mexico.
Educated at the University of Michigan, Ms. Dakin is the recipient of the University of Michigan Alumni Award (2001), an Honorary Doctor of Arts from Shenandoah University (1996), and an Honorary Doctorate from the Universidad de Colima, Mexico (2007).
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 and for 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.
Margherita Tisato started studying dance in Italy at the age of 8. Her background is in Humphrey-Limón, 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.
Brad Orego hails from Buffalo, NY. He comes from a diverse background in sport, martial art, and dance. His formal dance training began at the University of Rochester, where he earned 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 danced with Kanopy Dance Company since 2013. Brad moved to NYC in 2017 and continues his training at the Martha Graham Center for Contemporary Dance. He has performed classic works by Anna Sokolow, Charles Weidman, and Martha Graham as well as contemporary work by Lisa Thurrell, Robert Cleary, Corrine Soum & Steven Wasson, Pascal Rioult, Martin Lofsnes, Lonny Gordon, and Stanley Love among others. Brad joined Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble in 2017.
Ilana Ruth Cohen is originally from Portland, Oregon, where she grew up dancing in the rain. She graduated from Pomona College with BAs in Modern Dance and Chemistry. She has also studied at the Limón Institute and the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance. Ilana has performed in works by Anna Sokolow, Doris Humphrey, Jose Limón, Isadora Duncan, Matthew Nelson and John Pennington in New York, California, Oregon and Wisconsin and is a performer with Shadow Box Theater. In 2021, Ilana assisted in setting Anna Sokolow’s Rooms, working both virtually and in person, and has taught modern dance to children at Bay Ridge Ballet and through the Limon4Kids program. Ilana 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 (Ilana Ruth Cohen, Samuel Humphreys, Lauren Naslund), Melissa Sobel (Jim May)