The Anahid Sofian Dance Studio needs your help to ensure its future.
It has been a long, hard year for all of us. The onset of COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on the health, safety, and economic stability of every community around the world. While aspects of our society are opening up again, artists and creatives are still among the most severely affected segment of the U.S. workforce. Ninety-five percent lost creative income, especially independent teaching artists who relied on in-person engagement with students, and a shocking 37% have been unable to access or afford food at some point during the pandemic.
Like so many others, Anahid Sofian—an unparalleled artist, teacher, and Middle Eastern dance icon—has not been immune. When studios were forced to close in March 2020 per social distancing mandates, Anahid cancelled all in-person classes and rentals, quickly pivoting online and consolidating her schedule to a weekly Zoom workshop. Despite the popularity of her virtual sessions, they have not been enough to support her studio, as its studio’s closure in 2020 impacted her income in a major way.
As an artist and small business owner, Anahid has relied on her creativity, savvy, strength, and resilience for decades to find new ways to amplify her work and thrive doing what she loves. But she cannot do this alone. She is in urgent need of support to keep the studio that has been home to a global community of dancers and students for nearly 50 years.
Please consider making a donation to fuel Anahid’s economic recovery from COVID-19 and sharing this widely with your networks. We know many people are hurting right now in the wake of the pandemic, so every contribution is deeply appreciated. Thank you in advance for your support!
For dancers, students, and artists, please post this campaign link on social media with the hashtags #AnahidSofian and #AnahidSofianStudio, together with your favorite memory or experience of working with Anahid.
*This campaign is organized by a group of Anahid’s students who love and admire her for her grace and generosity, her boundless artistry, the global community she has nurtured, and her invaluable contributions to the world of Middle Eastern dance. We could not be prouder to be part of her legacy and hope you will join us in this effort to secure it.
Who is Anahid Sofian? What makes her such a remarkable artist?
Since the 1960s, Anahid Sofian has been a pillar of the Middle Eastern dance community in the United States and remains a pioneer in the field at large. Regarded as an icon and living legend for Middle Eastern and Oriental-style dancers, she has had a profound and sweeping impact on the art form for over 50 years. She continues to share her depth of knowledge and exquisite talents with dancers today, at the age of 85.
As a practitioner and producer in her field, Anahid is credited with taking Middle Eastern dance out of the nightclubs and onto the concert stage. She is one of the few living dancers who performed during a "golden era" of Oriental Dance in America in the 1960s and remains a vital repository of that cultural narrative. As a teacher, she has influenced generations of dancers and continues to inspire today. She is a guardian, an advocate, and an innovator of an oft-misunderstood art form, imparting rare and first-hand knowledge about the history and evolution of the dance through today.
Of Armenian descent, Anahid grew up learning Armenian dances and listening to Middle Eastern music. Although classically trained in ballet and modern dance, Anahid was again drawn to Middle Eastern dance in the 1960s, when she self-trained by observing and working alongside the dancers and musicians in New York City nightclubs and abroad. As a soloist and performer, she discovered the nuance and diversity of Middle Eastern dance traditions and became determined to formalize, present, and disseminate this art form as a field worthy of serious study.
In 1972, Anahid established her private studio in New York—one of the first and only studios in the U.S. specifically dedicated to Middle Eastern dance traditions. In this space, considered a cultural landmark for Middle Eastern dancers, she provides instruction on regional styles, artistic technique, choreography, structured improvisation, costume making, and music and rhythms for the dance. While drawing inspiration from the rich diversity of Middle Eastern cultures, integrating it with artistic elements of Western dance styles has made this field accessible to a broader audience.
As a master teacher, Anahid is not only a gatekeeper in preserving the ethnic heritage and roots of this dance form, but also an advocate for maintaining technical excellence and encouraging growth among its practitioners. Ever the mentor, she has been instrumental in the development of countless professional dancers and teachers over the years, also hosting special workshops with guest teachers and performers from around the world.
Anahid has performed both as soloist and with the Anahid Sofian Dance Company, which was formed in 1979, in such mainstream venues as The Museum of Modern Art Sculpture Garden, the United Nations, Lincoln Center, the Uris Theatre on Broadway, and Carnegie Hall. She has also been hired to curate numerous performances including the Middle Eastern Festivals held at Town Hall in New York.
After three years of applying, in 1977, Anahid was the first Oriental dancer to be accepted into the famous New York Dance Festival, which showcased the finest dancers every summer at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park. Dancing with a talented six-piece band, she was reviewed in every major NYC newspaper, including by famous New York Times critic, Don McDonagh. Now preserved on film in Lincoln Center Library's Dance Collection, her noteworthy performance was a landmark moment not only for the proliferation and visibility of this art form, but also in securing a permanent, mainstream place for Oriental Dance in the Festival in following years.
As the recipient of various grants and a former artist-in-residence at the Dance Theater of Harlem, Anahid has led master classes and workshops for the Middle Eastern Dance community and beyond throughout the U.S. and Brazil. At the college level, she has taught at Hunter College, Sarah Lawrence College, NYU, and The New School University in New York.
In short, Anahid Sofian is an innovator, an advocate, and an artist whose creativity and talent have changed the course of Middle Eastern dance in the U.S. Please support her today!
Credits (from top): Crain's New York Business (video banner); Susie Polelis; Leila Bartruff; Steve Weiner; still image from “Trail of the Sphinx” music video, produced by Mike Mannetta; Caridad Sola; performance at Molfetas 46 Greek supper club, New Jersey; participants after Anahid’s “Solo Dance of Armenian Women” workshop at her studio; film still from 1977 New York Dance Festival performance; Lina Jang.
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