Home > Treasures A-Z > Sophie Maslow

Sophie Maslow

Back to List | Related Treasures | More Resources


Sophie Maslow was the choreographer for the working class, setting dances to folk music and reflecting scenes from the Depression and the Dust Bowl. Born in New York City in 1911, Maslow joined the Martha Graham Company in 1931. She was a leader in the New Dance Group and a founder of the Sophie Maslow Dance Company and the Dudley-Maslow-Bales Trio with Jane Dudley and William Bales. Many of her choreographic works reflected a populist ideology, championing the everyday worker and using the music of Woody Guthrie. One of her most famous pieces, "Folksay" was based on Carl Sandburg's poem "The People, Yes." Maslow often used dance to celebrate her Jewish heritage, choreographing the annual Hanukkah productions at Madison Square Garden and creating "The Village I Knew" based on several Jewish stories of pre-World War II Russia. Maslow died in 2006 at the age of 95.

Sophie Maslow in Folksay, American Dance FestivalPictured left: Sophie Maslow in her 1942 work Folksay. A collaboration with Woody Guthrie, incorporating American folk songs and the Carl Sandburg text "The People, Yes," Folksay was praised by critic John Martin as "one of the most beautiful and genuine works in the whole range of contemporary dance." (Photograph from the archives of the American Dance Festival.)


Essay by Lynn Matluck Brooks -- Selected Resources


Sophie Maslow in Two Songs about Lenin, Library of Congress


Pictured right: Sophie Maslow in her work Two Songs about Lenin, ca.1934. Beginning in 1934, Maslow was a teacher and guest artist with the left-wing New Dance Group. Lynn Brooks writes, "Maslow's thematic concerns typically lay with socially relevant issues such as equality, workers' rights, anti-fascism, and democracy, but her dances never lost their humor, theatricality, or warm-hearted appeal." (Photograph from the Sophie Maslow Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.)


CityDance Ensemble in Folksay, photo by Paul Gordon EmersonPictured below: CityDanceEnsemble performing "Sweet Betsy from Pike," an excerpt from Sophie Maslow's Folksay, in 2008. One of Maslow's most enduringly popular works, Folksay "celebrated American pride in emerging from the Depression, patriotism as the nation entered the Second World War, and the concept of the Western plains 'everyman,' yet it appealed to urban, intellectual, and largely immigrant artists and audiences," writes Lynn Brooks. (Photograph by Paul Gordon Emerson. From the collection of the Dance Notation Bureau.)