Sasha Anawalt

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Sasha Anawalt
Sasha Anawalt
Alma materBarnard College
OccupationArts journalist; professor; critic; author

Sasha Anawalt (born 1956) is an American dance critic and educator who founded several arts journalism programs at USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism in Los Angeles, including a Master’s degree program in arts journalism (2008).[1] She is author of “The Joffrey Ballet: Robert Joffrey and the Making of An American Dance Company” (Scribner,1996).[2]

Early life and career[edit]

Born in New York City in 1956, Sasha Anawalt grew up the daughter of a painter and arts school founder, Francis Cunningham and dance critic Kitty Cunningham. Her maternal grandfather, Hobart Ames Spalding, was instrumental in the formation of the Opera Society of Washington and the Washington Opera beginning in 1957 and worked with Igor Stravinsky, Gian Carlo Menotti and Alberto Ginastera.

By 1976, Anawalt was writing about dance for the SoHo Weekly News and Montreal Gazette, and had created The Weekly, an arts supplement for her college newspaper at McGill University in Montreal. After transferring to Barnard College in 1977 and marrying William B. Anawalt, she moved to Southern California in 1982 and started working as a theater reporter for the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner. For the next four years, Anawalt reviewed dance in mini-malls, church basements, gymnasiums and on the Los Angeles streets, giving dancers and performances in these unconventional venues as much attention as those in the city’s established concert halls and bastions of official culture.

Anawalt wrote about dance, theater and television for numerous publications, including the New York Times, and served as dance critic for National Public Radio’s affiliate in Santa Monica, KCRW, for a dozen years beginning in 1984, as well as for the L.A. Weekly (1997-1999).[3][4] In 1996, her cultural biography “The Joffrey Ballet: Robert Joffrey and the Making of an American Dance Company” was published by Scribner.[5][6] The book stayed on the Los Angeles Times’ bestseller list for two weeks and inspired a feature-length documentary film by Bob Hercules in 2012, “Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance” that was shown on PBS American Masters.[7][8][9][10] In 2001, Anawalt joined USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism to build the USC Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism Program. An arts journalism fellowship program that immersed international journalists in the Los Angeles arts scene and lasted until November 2013, it spawned both the NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Theater and Musical Theater[11] and the Master’s Program in Specialized Journalism (the Arts) at USC Annenberg. Anawalt is founding director of all three programs, known for their innovative Engine series of pop-up newsrooms and laboratories (Engine28, Engine29, Engine30 and Engine31[12] ) designed with Douglas McLennan to figure out new models for arts journalism at a time of technological change.[13] Anawalt continues to direct and teach as an associate professor in the MA program of arts journalism, a partnership with the five arts schools at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

In 2009, Anawalt resigned from the Pasadena, Calif. Arts and Culture Commission after the commission refused to display two pieces of public art.[14] She is the recipient of a Citizen Ambassador award from the City of Los Angeles and a Literary Arts Award from the Pasadena Arts Council. Anawalt served on the Pulitzer Prize jury panel for criticism in 2006 and 2007.[15][16]


  1. ^ "Faculty – Journalism – Sasha Anawalt". USC Annenberg. University of Southern California. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
  2. ^ Anawalt, Sasha (1996). The Joffrey Ballet: Robert Joffrey and the Making of An American Dance Company. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9780684197241. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
  3. ^ Anawalt, Sasha (Dec 29, 1999). "Best Footwork". LA Weekly. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
  4. ^ Anawalt, Sasha (Feb 3, 1999). "Zen Ballet". LA Weekly. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
  5. ^ Anderson, Jack (Feb 9, 1997). "Dance Fever". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
  6. ^ Jacobs, Laura (Nov 3, 1996). "Grace Under Pressure". The Washington Post. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
  7. ^ "Trailer: Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance". PBS. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
  8. ^ Prossnitz, Lindsay (Dec 20, 2012). "Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance". WTTW. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
  9. ^ Ono, Ian (Jan 27, 2012). "Sasha Anawalt on Joffrey".
  10. ^ Siegel, Marcia (May 8, 2012). "Joffrey Ballet gets its due". The Phoenix. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
  11. ^ Horgan, Richard (Feb 17, 2011). "USC Annenberg Gearing Up for Another Arts Journalism Boot Camp". MediaBistro. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
  12. ^ "Engine31 home page". Engine31. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
  13. ^ "Profile – Sasha Anawalt". Annenberg Innovation Lab. USC Annenberg. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
  14. ^ Itzkoff, Dave (Feb 2, 2009). "Rejection of Public Art Leads to Resignation". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
  15. ^ "The Pulitzer Prizes/Juors". Pulitzer Prize. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
  16. ^ Roderick, Kevin (March 4, 2007). "Responding to Pulitzer buzz". LA Observed. Retrieved 5 September 2013.