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Jacob's Pillow Presents World Premiere of Archie Burnett's LIFE ENCOUNTERS

Life Encounters explores New York City Club Dance styles through treasured memories from Burnett's own life with a cast of illustrious dancers.

Jacob's Pillow presents the world premiere of a new work by legendary club dancer Archie Burnett entitled Life Encounters on the Henry J. Leir Stage from July 28 - August 1.

Life Encounters explores New York City Club Dance styles through treasured memories from Burnett's own life with a cast of illustrious dancers including Abdiel Jacobsen, Princess Lockerkoo, Ephrat Asherie, Samara Cohen, Maya Llanos, and Deandre Browne. This Pillow-exclusive production was commissioned by Jacob's Pillow and produced by Jacob's Pillow Associate Curator Ali Rosa-Salas.

Also on-site this week are site-specific performances with Emily Johnson / Catalyst, a PillowTalk about Warren Davis, the local entrepreneur and craftsman who fashioned the Ted Shawn Theatre's immense beams, and Jacob's Pillow On The Road events throughout Berkshire County with Ladies of Hip-Hop Dance Collective. Online events include the digital premiere of Ballet Hispánico and a PillowTalk entitled Curatorial Voices.

"This will be one of the busiest weeks of the summer as we experience two new works created for our site and take dance off the mountain and into communities across Berkshire County," says Jacob's Pillow Executive & Artistic Director Pamela Tatge. "Legendary club artist Archie Burnett will take the Leir Stage by storm with his charismatic presence and generous spirit as he walks us through his dance life journey. Yu'pik artist Emily Johnson will a work-in-process that takes place across our campus and invites us to consider how we might come into a better balance with our non-human kin in order to build a better future."

Life Encounters journeys through cherished moments from Burnett's life by exploring the impressive variety of club and social dance forms he has mastered. The work begins with an homage to the iconic music and dance television program Soul Train. It also references Burnett's experience at The Loft, the first underground dance party hosted by DJ David Mancuso which led to the founding of famous dance clubs including The Warehouse and Paradise Garage, and continues through explorations of House, Hustle, Waacking, Soul Train, post-modern dance, and Vogue Ballroom. Revered as a master Vogue artist, Burnett is a founding member of the Vogue crew House of Ninja created by Vogue master Willi Ninja, who he met in a chance encounter after leaving Mancuso's club one night in 1980. Life Encounters shows how social dance forms created by Black and queer communities are not only important political statements, but also vehicles for bringing people together. Burnett says, "in this world you have to make whatever little happiness you can" (Spike Art Magazine).

Bessie Award-winning choreographer Emily Johnson will present a site-specific in-process presentation of Portals Into, Being Future Being on July 30 and August 1. Featuring a newly commissioned soundscore by Raven Chacon and a cast of more-than-human creatures, the work builds a visual, aural, and ancestral landscape of Indigenous power created for Jacob's Pillow through two residencies on the Pillow campus and a residency at the Guggenheim Works & Process series with support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. By (re)building new visions of the forces that brought this world into being, Johnson brings forth new futures with the potential to reshape the way we relate to ourselves, and to the human and more-than-human cohabitants of our world. Johnson and her collaborators spent ten days on this work in the Pillow Lab at Jacob's Pillow in November 2020. "One of the elements [of Portals Into, Being Future Being] is the dancing, choreography, [and] embodiment of being in the future," said Johnson in an interview for Inside the Pillow Lab. "And last year, late last year, pre-COVID, pre-all of this, I just felt like we need that better future now, we just need to be in it, and so I want to create a work wherein we are in that better future." (Inside the Pillow Lab).

First founding father of the New York City-based House of Ninja, Archie Burnett has been a well-respected force in the underground dance world for over 40 years. As a master of Whacking, Voguing, Hustle, and many other styles, Burnett moves with profound clarity and striking geometric body-lines. Burnett is an avid weightlifter and graphic artist, and splits his time between work, family, clubs, and teaching House dance at NYC's Peridance. He also teaches worldwide in countries including Germany, Austria, Poland, Belgium, France, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Russia, the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Italy, Japan, and Brazil, and has given lecture/demonstrations and been on scholarly panels at Yale University, Duke University, Harvard University, New York University, and Florida State University. His bodies of work range from music videos to features in magazines like Dance Ink and the former Village Voice dance section to performance coaching for up-and-coming recording artists. He is featured in the documentary Check Your Body at the Door, which chronicles the lives and lifestyles of six remarkable underground House dancers in New York City during the golden decade of the 1990s. Burnett also performs for concert-dance choreographers Doug Elkins, David Neumann, and Cori Olinghouse and he has shown his own work at Dance Theater Workshop, PS122, Danspace, Dixon Place, 92nd Street Y, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, and Théâtre Suresnes JeanVilar in Paris.

Emily Johnson is an artist who makes body-based work. She is a land and water protector and an activist for justice, sovereignty, and well-being. Johnson is a Bessie Award-winning choreographer, Guggenheim and United States Artists Fellow, and recipient of the Doris Duke Artist Award. She is based in Lenapehoking / New York City. Johnson is of the Yup'ik Nation, and since 1998 has created work that considers the experience of sensing and seeing performance. Her dances function as portals and care processions; they engage audienceship within and through space, time, and environment-interacting with a place's architecture, peoples, history, and role in building futures. Johnson is trying to make a world where performance is part of life; where performance is an integral part of our connection to each other, our environment, our stories, our past, present, and future.

Johnson's choreography and gatherings have been presented across the United States and Australia. Recently she choreographed the Santa Fe Opera production of Doctor Atomic directed by Peter Sellars. Her large-scale project, Then a Cunning Voice and A Night We Spend Gazing at Stars is an all-night outdoor performance gathering taking place amongst community-hand-made quilts. It premiered in Lenapehoking (NYC) in 2017, and was presented in Zhigaagoong (Chicago) in 2019. Her newest work, Being Future Being, considers future creation stories and present joy.

Archie Burnett co-directed the Street & Club Dances Program at The School at Jacob's Pillow in 2020.

Emily Johnson was in residency at the Pillow Lab at Jacob's Pillow in November 2020 developing Being Future Being. She also participated in the Festival 2019 week-long landmark celebration "The Land on Which We Dance."

Available to watch online August 12-16; Online premiere August 12 at 7:30pm Eastern. Tickets are on sale now; online at, and via phone 413.243.0745.

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