Sokolow Theater and Dance Ensemble Halls Symposium Now Available Online

The Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble Symposium on Anna Sokolow’s Rooms which took place on December 5, 2020 is now available online for review at sokolowtheatredance.org/12-5-celebrating-65-years-of-rooms/. With more than 165 attendees from around the world, the free event was hosted by Dance Enthusiast founder and editor Christine Jowers and featured speakers from the Library of Congress, Professor Neil Baldwin, and dancers who have played in Rooms for half a century. . For more information, visitsokolowtheatredance.org/.

Artistic Director Samantha Geracht, Associate Artistic Directors Eleanor Bunker and Lauren Naslund, and company members taught — virtually — sections of Rooms this fall to college dance departments across the country.

“The pandemic is still with us and we are all in uncharted artistic territory,” Ms. Geracht said. “The creativity and determination with which dancers, faculty and staff took on these new challenges was inspiring.”

“The Halls Symposium was originally designed for a group of young students working together as an isolated room, but it has grown into something huge,” Ms Geracht added. “The conversation at the Symposium between the generations of dancers who have become part of Rooms history was a great tribute to Anna Sokolow’s legacy and a testament to the power and timelessness of Rooms.”

To watch the symposium on Vimeo, visit vimeo.com/489640311. You can also watch a recording of Rooms2020 at sokolowtheatredance.org/video-rooms2020/ or on Vimeo at vimeo.com/432629310.

“Anna Sokolow. A force in modern dance,” said Christine Jowers, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Dance Enthusiast. “I was honored and blessed to have been invited by Samantha Geracht-Myers, Artistic Director of the Sokolow Theater Dance Company, to lead a symposium on her seminal work Rooms. The dance world celebrates the 65th anniversary of this piece. And the company who had been rehearsing diligently for a live anniversary show were forced to change their plans and create a digital version. Kudos to them for learning the new technology on the spot and bringing the dance from a whole new way to a younger generation.

Students at seven colleges are studying and presenting excerpts from Rooms this year, and no school has produced the play in the same way. Attending the symposium were members from each college, including Kansas State University, Loyola University Chicago, CSU Fullerton, Williams College, University of Southern Idaho, Kanopy Dance, and Ailey/ Fordham.

Speakers who presented included Neil Baldwin, PhD, author of Martha Graham: When Dance Became Modern, forthcoming from Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.; Dance Curator and Library of Congress Archivist Libby Smigel, PhD; and senior Library of Congress musicologist Loras John Schissel. Panels of smaller groups included dancers who performed Rooms for half a century: Jim May, Hannah Kahn, Susan Thomasson, Nancy Alfaro, Eleanor Bunker, Luis Gabriel Zaragoza and Pablo Francisco Ruvalcaba.

The panels also included several filmmakers, creators of pandemic virtual rooms. The event incorporated a collage of virtual performances made during lockdown this fall.

Celebrating 65 years of Rooms

“Art is a mirror.”

If life imitates art far more than art imitates life, then Anna Sokolow was definitely ahead of her time.

Rooms, Sokolow’s 1955 masterpiece, examined the psychic isolation and unfulfilled desires of characters isolated in their small urban apartments. The controversial and groundbreaking work probed and made palpable the loneliness and alienation after the breakdown of wartime solidarity, when the threat of atomic annihilation, the 1952 polio epidemic and the Red Scare loomed large as contagions invisible, spreading pervasive anxiety and terror in America.

The Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble began rehearsals for Rooms in August 2019 as part of one half of a concert series scheduled for March 2020 titled “Real + Surreal” which would include Sokolow’s surrealist dance/theatre work from 1970 Magritte, Magritte . Rooms was to be the ‘real’ half of a program celebrating these works on their 65th and 50th anniversaries.

Then, a new contagion spread across the world, and human existence changed. In 2020, Rooms has become both real and surreal. Anna Sokolow’s choreography from 1955 resonates with an eerie power in a world where people around the world are living in quarantine at home. Surely, cut off from each other in the throes of a global pandemic, we are all living rooms. This abrupt change in circumstances forced an adaptation in our approach to Rooms which required the company to face unique challenges for its directors, its dancers and in the way the performance was presented.

Separated from each other – our rehearsals and canceled theater dates – the Sokolow/Theatre Dance Ensemble came together to create a virtual presentation of Rooms. Encouraged by the opportunities to reimagine and teach Rooms remotely, Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble has collaborated with colleges across the country to create their own virtual productions of Rooms during this pandemic year – reimagining the medium’s masterpiece. of the century for this modern era.

About the speakers

Neil Baldwin, PhD, is Critic-in-Residence at The mixed campusprofessor emeritus of theater and dance at Montclair State University’s College of the Arts and author of Martha Graham: When Dance Became Modern, forthcoming from Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

Libby Smigel, PhD, is Curator of Dance and Archivist in the Music Division of the Library of Congress.

Loras John Schissel is senior musicologist at the Library of Congress and a leading authority on the music of Percy Aldridge Grainger, Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, and Boston Symphony Orchestra conductor Serge Koussevitzky.

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