BWW Blog: Andrea D'Annunzio - The Divine Jacob's Pillow
Jacob's Pillow. Everyone in the professional dance world knows its name, and every professional company wants to perform there. The history of Jacob's Pillow is a reflection of the development of dance in America. It presents the highest quality of dance currently being performed around the world.
Jacob's Pillow, or simply, the Pillow, is located in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts. It was originally a farm but was bought by the modern dance pioneer Ted Shawn in 1930. Shawn and his company of all male dancers, appropriately named "Men Dancers," renovated the barn into a studio and used it as a creation and performance space. In their spare time they designed and built new living quarters, office buildings and dining quarters by hand, many of which are still being used today.
In the summer of 1941 Shawn leased the Pillow to Alicia Markova and Anton Dolin, who were international stars of ballet, for an "International Dance Festival." Performances were held in the barn studio and the Festival was so successful that the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival was born. The Festival has occurred every summer since 1941, making it the oldest dance festival in America. Jacob's Pillow has also received other honors including: the National Medal of Arts from President Obama in 2011, being listed as one of America's Irreplaceable Dance Treasures by the Dance Heritage Coalition, and in 2003, the Pillow was named a National Historic Landmark for its importance to America's cultural history. This last distinction is truly why the Pillow, and specifically the Dance Festival, holds such weight in the national and international dance community.
From the summer of its inception, the Festival has been a retreat where dancers of all ages and genres have gathered to learn, to teach, to explore movement and to push the boundaries of conventional dance. They have experienced all forms of dance from around the world, and in a natural environment that reminds us of dance's intimate connection with nature. Over the eight decades of its existence, the Festival has never failed to assemble the most acclaimed dance companies, individual artists and choreographers from all over the globe to its grounds. A few examples of pioneers in their fields to leave their mark on the Pillow include: Bronislava Nijinska, The Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, Antony Tudor, Nora Kay, Agnes De Mille, José Limon, Martha Graham, Maria Tallchief, The Royal Danish Ballet, The Joffrey Ballet, Merce Cunningham, Joseph Pilates, Lester Horton Dance Theater, Paul Taylor Dance Company, Suzanne Farrell and Mikhail Baryshnikov. Even Igor Youskevitch, one of the most renowned male dancer of the twentieth century and father to Princeton Ballet School's acclaimed teacher Maria Youskevitch, graced the studios and stages of the Pillow, along with his partner, Alicia Alonso. Each new company and dancer that is given the opportunity to perform at the Pillow becomes infused with the spirit of the legacies and traditions that have been passed down by these icons, and American Repertory Ballet is soon to become a member of the Pillow family.
We have officially been invited to perform at this summer's Jacob's Pillow on August 16th, as part of the Festival's Inside/Out performance series. We're elated! We are all so honored to have been invited. It has always been a dream of mine to perform on the famous outdoor stage and to experience the rich culture and history on the grounds, and to see the buildings that the Men Dancers constructed by hand. I have this expectation that it will feel like breathing in tradition, culture and history. I hope to make all of those who worked so hard to revolutionize their respective dance styles, proud that ARB is keeping faith with their vision and that their spirits surround me as I take the stage.
(If you'd like to support ARB's pilgrimage to The Pillow, please consider donating to our Kickstarter campaign!)