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April 26, 1985 - Image 88

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1985-04-26

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Friday, April 26, 1985


Sophie Maslow
lends her years
of expertise to a
local dance

Pas de Deux

Special to The Jewish News

n the brightly-lit rehearsal hall
at Oakland Community College
in Royal Oak, the small group of
young dancers listens intently to
the diminutive, dark-haired
woman seated in front of them.
Though she never raises her New
York-accented voice, it is apparent
that, so far this afternoon, choreog-
rapher Sophie Maslow is not particu-
larly pleased with the way things are
"I think we need to go over that
again," says Maslow, to these mem-
bers of the Detroit Dance Collective,
who are rehearsing a modern dance
production called Folksay.
There seems no doubt in Maslow's
mind exactly how she wants Folksay
done. Which should come as no sur-
prise, really, considering the fact that
she choreographed the dance herself
more than 40 years ago, and has di-
rected its production countless times
since. _
As the dancers take their places
and begin to go through the steps once
more, Maslow leans forward in her
"Sustain that life," she reminds
one of the male dancers. "Remember
that you are dancers," she gently ad-
monishes a trio of young women, who

are beginning to look a bit frazzled. "I
need to see all of you — including your
Finally, she seems satisfied.
"That was fine," she says. "Catch your
It is 3 o'clock in the afternoon. The- -
dancers have been rehearsing since 9
After rehearsal, Maslow, in town
to direct the DDC in rehearsal for next
month's performance, took time out to
talk about some of the highlights of
her long career, which began in the
1930s with the Martha Graham com-
pany. Dressed conservatively, and
wearing little make-up or jewelry,
Maslow, one of the most noted
choreographers in modern dance,
looks surprisingly "untheatrical." As
she talks, she sips black coffee and
smiles often.
Speaking of Graham, under whom
she studied at New York's Neighbor-
hood Playhouse, the 70-ish Maslow ("I
tell no one my exact age") described
the innovative dancer as "a taskmas-
"She could be very encouraging,"
she said. "But there were also times
when she could be very destructive. I
think studying with her was terrific
training, though. I'm sure she influ-

Sophie Maslow directs the Detroit Dance Collective in rehearsal.

enced me in how to work and what was
important in discipline — and also in
never doing anything less than your
best, even in a class. I was in awe of
her, absolutely,)'
Unlike Graham, whose choreog-
raphic work often confused or
perplexed audiences, Maslow has
sought to create a body of work that is
generally more accessible, she said.
"I've always felt that dancing was
a way of communicating — that,
whatever I felt, I wanted to share with
people," explained Maslow. "I'm very
much interested in people. And I'd like
to think that, in my work, I've made
them feel there's a link between the
stage and their own lives. And I also
wanted what I did to be as clear as
According to dance critic; Claire
Martin, Maslow has succeeded in
doing that. Writing in Dance maga-
zine, Martin described Maslow's work

as having "the warm, comforting
familiarity of a broken-in pair of
Folksay is cited by Martin as an
example of this "warm, comforting
familiarity." First performed in 1942
at the Humphrey-Weidman Studio in
New York by Maslow and 11 other
dancers, it is a suite of dances done to
American folk songs, and was inspired
by Carl Sandburg's poem, The People,
Yes, according to Maslow. "Folksay
was done at a time when there was a
kind of awakening to what was valu-
able in American culture — folk songs,
folk tales, the ordinary American. It
was a time when people had a very
warm feeling towards each other.'
Maslow's long-time friend, Woody
Guthrie, wrote one of the songs in
Folksay, Dodgers and also performed
onstage music (along with balladeer

Continued on Page 32

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