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The Holocaust, Sigmund Freud, and Anna Sokolow

World War II. The Holocaust. These cultural touchstones have permeated the general consciousness of the global populace, infiltrating the unconscious minds of millions of people even today, namely, the Jewish population (Leys 24). This research will demonstrate that Anna Sokolow, an influential modern dance choreographer in the mid-twentieth century, was one such Jew. Her piece Dreams (1961), which has been lauded as an important Jewish choreographic work showcasing the horrors of the Holocaust, was realized from the nightmares Sokolow experienced during and after the Holocaust (Warren 144). Current scholarship in dance research has concluded that dance reflects culture (Keali’inohomoku 33). Researchers can assume that dance, whether that be a general dance form or a specific choreographic work, is reflective of the culture at large and an individual’s cultural microcosm. Sokolow’s vivid nightmares which served as the motivation behind her piece, according to Freud’s dream theory, are a direct reflection of her repressed emotions (Freud, Interpretation, 189). Dream theory can be used as a frame of analysis to critically interpret the choices made when a creator is in the creative process to discern their unconscious motivations which will provide a fuller understanding of the artist’s work (Tyson 29). Freud’s dream theory offers a means to interpret one’s dreams which explains a person’s behavior through revealing their internal drives, motivations, and emotions (Rickman X). A critical analysis of Dreams and a synthesis of peer-reviewed source material through a psychoanalytic perspective utilizing Freud’s dream theory will demonstrate the implications the Holocaust had on Sokolow’s unconscious mind, as revealed through her nightmares, and how her unconscious mind influenced her creative process, resulting in her masterwork: Dreams.

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Cassidy Blackham


Angela Banchero-Kelleher


Cassidy Blackham

Type: Oral
Discipline: Fine Arts
Institution: Utah Valley University

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