Sophie Maslow


Choreographer Sophie Maslow, who created dances about American life, died June 25 in New York City. She was 95.

A dancer with Martha Graham’s company from 1931-43 and a teacher of modern dance technique, she created works for a number of troupes, including her own Sophie Maslow Dance Company and the Dudley-Maslow-Bales Trio, which she co-directed with Jane Dudley and William Bales.

She often employed folk music, jazz and pop music. Her “Dust Bowl Ballads” (1941) was set to songs by Woody Guthrie, and she also used his music in 1980 in “Woody Sez,” a suite of both comic and serious scenes, each referring in some way to dust.

“Folksay” (1942), based on Carl Sandburg’s poem “The People, Yes,” blended dancing with songs and dialogue; Guthrie sang in some of the early perfs.

Her 1953 “Manhattan Transfer” was a boogie-woogie suite, while 1963 work “Poem,” set in a beatnik hangout, combined music by Duke Ellington with the recitation of a poem by Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

Other works included “The Snow Queen” (1953), a retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale; “Decathlon Etudes” (1976), which turned sports movements into dance; and “Voices” (1980), a lyrical piece set to lush Romantic music by Schumann.

She created several works on Jewish themes, notably “The Village I Knew” (1950), a set of character sketches based on the stories of Sholem Aleichem. In 1954 she staged “Israel Through the Ages,” an elaborate music and dance spectacle at the ANTA Playhouse.

Born in New York, she received her dance training at the Neighborhood Playhouse, where Blanche Talmud and Martha Graham were among her teachers.

Maslow also choreographed theatrical productions. One was Off Broadway tuner “Sandhog” in 1954; another, in 1974, was “The Big Winner,” based on a Sholem Aleichem story about a poor tailor with a winning lottery ticket.

She is survived by a daughter.

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