Rising from the ashes, Jacob’s pillow welcomes back dancers, Crowds: NPR


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Faced with limited access to traditional theaters, bands like Contra-Tiempo are taking advantage of Jacob’s Pillow’s stunning outdoor spaces this summer.

Christopher Duggan Photography / Jacob’s Pillow


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Christopher Duggan Photography / Jacob’s Pillow


Faced with limited access to traditional theaters, bands like Contra-Tiempo are taking advantage of Jacob’s Pillow’s stunning outdoor spaces this summer.

Christopher Duggan Photography / Jacob’s Pillow

In 1931, modern dance pioneer Ted Sean purchased a ranch in a secluded location in western Massachusetts, as a haven for his company. And over the years, Jacob’s pillow It has grown into one of the most important incubators of contemporary dance, not only for America, but for the world.

“Never in its history has this festival been canceled, not even in World War II,” says director Pamela Tateghi.

But the pandemic forced the festival to move into a virtual world last summer – new dances were created for live broadcasts and a professional preschool was held on Zoom. “The bright side at this time is the accessibility, the accessibility of the Jacob pillow,” says Tatge. “A lot of people know us, they know where we are, and they’d never be able to get here, but they’ve been able to get us online.”

However, there were layoffs and a loss of revenue. Then on November 17, 2020, the Doris Duke Theatre, the pillow’s experimental indoor space, It was completely burned out. For 30 years, it was a place where choreographers could experiment in an intimate setting.

“We had a great year,” says Norton Owen, festival archivist. “And of course, this is not unique. Many people have had a whole year. But I think our story has been particularly difficult. However I will also say, from loss comes renewal.”

The Duke will be rebuilt and the main theater, the Ted Sean Theatre, will receive a top-to-bottom renovation. So this summer it’s all about dancing on the center’s outdoor stage—with the mountains as a backdrop—and even around the 220-acre campus.

Dorance Dance’s Michelle Durance, Byron Tettle and Leonardo Sandoval performed on Jacob’s pillow floor in the opening week of the 2021 Festival.

Christopher Duggan / Jacob’s Pillow


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Dorance Dance’s Michelle Durance, Byron Tettle and Leonardo Sandoval performed on Jacob’s pillow floor in the opening week of the 2021 Festival.

Christopher Duggan / Jacob’s Pillow

Dorance dance The tap dance company that’s been coming to The Pillow for the past 10 years was the first to do live shows this summer. Michelle DoransMacArthur’s colleague, who founded the company, says they made a dance piece all over Jacob’s pillow—in front of an old shack, in the pub, on a gravel road.

“We love the opportunity to create something site-specific and something that honors, you know, [the] “A certain environment” explains Dorrance. And to be the cushion and that we were allowed and actually encouraged to explore the edges of the campus that we might not have experienced before, to bring some audiences to those places. “

Their week-long stay was tough: Rain canceled all but one of the company’s regular theater performances. Nonetheless, Dorrance says, “We were able to do this roving outdoor performance every day. And the audience bore it. They wore their raincoats and boots, and they came to hang out with us.”

next weekend, setback, a dance theater for Afro-Latino activists from Los Angeles, has also seen many of its shows drop. Founder and Choreographer Picture of Ana Maria Alvarez It was philosophical. “We couldn’t do all the shows we were planning on doing,” she says. “But in some ways, it feels like Mother Nature is, like, ‘Sit back and… you remember the things we’ve learned really from this year are moving at the speed of society. And the company, which has not danced together during the pandemic, has taken advantage of downtime to hold dance lessons in a tent, to continue building the community.

The students are back on the pad this summer, too. There were fewer attendees, and they were kept in a strict bubble. Nolan Fahey, of Vancouver, was in quarantine, about to start a two-week program in contemporary dance. “It’s a place where you really immerse yourself in dance and art,” he says. “And especially after the whole pandemic and being somewhat deprived of dance and art, it seems like a good way to get back in.”

With only four hundred people allowed to watch each show outdoors, Tatge says it’s committed to creating high-quality videos of this summer’s shows, and making them freely available on demand. Of course, she hopes viewers will donate to Jacob’s Pillow. Regardless, all dance companies will receive additional fees for videos.

“This field has been destroyed,” she explains. “It will take years for her to come back, and it is the role of organizations like Jacob’s Pillow to do what we can to support artists in this recovery.”


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