Documentary NEVER STAND STILL: DANCING AT JACOB'S PILLOW to Be Released in NY, 5/18

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Winner of Best Documentary at both the San Francisco Dance Film Festival and the Dance Camera West Festival in Los Angeles, the spectacular dance film NEVER STAND STILL will have its theatrical premiere on May 18th at New York's Quad Cinema, to be followed by openings in Los Angeles and additional cities.

Directed by veteran documentary filmmaker Ron Honsa, the beautifully crafted NEVER STAND STILL reveals the passion, discipline, and daring of those who choose a life in dance. Performances filmed live at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, interviews with extraordinary artists, rare archival footage, and behind the scenes insights bring dance to life, as NEVER STAND STILL visits the iconic international nexus for dance: Jacob's Pillow.

Founded in the 1930s by visionary dance pioneer Ted Shawn on a farm in the Berkshires, today the Pillow is an idyllic mecca for artists and audiences from around the world, a place where dance in all its forms - from ballet to jazz to contemporary - is studied, created, performed and celebrated.

Intimate and candid conversations offer personal portraits of leading choreographers and dancers: Suzanne Farrell, one of the greatest ballerinas in the world, recalls some of her first performances; Tony Award-winner Bill Irwin marvels at the physical humor of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton; celebrated dancer Rasta Thomas discusses his "bad boy" image; former Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo star Frederic Franklin recalls the early days of the Pillow, where Joseph Pilates taught his now ubiquitous body-strengthening methods; Mark Morris talks about his love of music; and Merce Cunningham, in one of his last interviews, describes why dance "is not for the timid."

Also interviewed are Paul Taylor, Judith Jamison, and a new generation of artists and companies including Chunky Move, Shantala Shivalingappa and Stockholm 59° North, who appear in performance and off-stage during their creative workdays.

The release of NEVER STAND STILL coincides with the 80th Anniversary Season of America's longest running dance festival. This collection of converted barns and farmhouses from the 1700s in the Berkshires of Massachusetts evolved into "the dance center of the nation" (The New York Times) - a destination for artists and audiences from all over the world. Like Wim Wenders's Pina, NEVER STAND STILL immerses us in the lives of extraordinary artists and the power of dance.

Ron Honsa first came to Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival in the early 1980s on a film assignment and was struck by the beauty and intelligence of the work that was being created at this exceptional place. This experience ultimately led to the making of Honsa's award-winning 1985 documentary The Men Who Danced, the story of Ted Shawn and the first all-male dance company in America. On his new film about the Pillow, Honsa states: "From the youngest dancers in this film to the legendary masters, it was obvious to me that a deep and creative vibration has always resonated at Jacob's Pillow. Never Stand Still is a love letter to a rare place and the artists who dare to express the inexpressible through movement." Throughout his career, Honsa has had a personal passion for directing dance for television, including his work with Dance Theatre of Harlem, the Limon Dance Company, Savion Glover and video projects for the Balanchine Trust. His television and film credits include: CBS Reports, NOW with Bill Moyers, Saturday Night Live, America's Most Wanted, Sesame Street, US Tennis Open, Head of State, Cadillac Man, The Fallen, True Colors, She Devil and Live from Lincoln Center.

Jacob's Pillow began in the late 1700s as a New England farm named after biblical story of Jacob, who laid his head upon a rock and dreamed of a ladder to heaven. In the 1800s, Jacob's Pillow played a role in American history as a station on the Underground Railroad for slaves escaping to Canada. In 1931, when modern dance pioneer Ted Shawn bought the abandoned farm he and his wife, Ruth St. Denis, were America's leading dance couple. Their Denishawn Company had popularized a new dance form rooted in theatrical and ethnic traditions rather than those of European ballet. Together they spawned a new generation of dance and dancers in America, including Denishawn company member, Martha Graham and many others.

In 1933, Shawn recruited eight men for his new company. The tall and burly Shawn and his athletic dancers were intent on challenging the image of men in dance. They forged a new, boldly muscular style celebrating Pawnee braves, toiling sharecroppers, and Union machinists. The Men Dancers began performing for the public in 1933, and the Pillow's programming expanded to encompass other artists after the Men's company disbanded in 1940.

Despite hardships during World War II such as gasoline and tire rationing, audiences climbed the hill on foot and horseback to attend a wide array of programs at the Pillow: ballet, modern, mime, ballroom, folk, and classical dance. In 1942, the Ted Shawn Theatre opened, built by the noted architect Joseph Franz, as the first theatre in the U.S. designed specifically for dance.

Shawn's trail-blazing spirit resonates in the 21st century, and the Pillow has been celebrated with many recent distinguished honors. In 2003, the Federal Government named Jacob's Pillow a National Historic Landmark for its importance in America's culture and history, thus distinguishing the Pillow as the country's first and only Landmark dance institution. In 2007, the Pillow was formally dedicated as a site on the Upper Housatonic Valley African American Heritage Trail, which celebrates people and places that hold pivotal roles in key events of African American heritage. On March 2, 2011, Jacob's Pillow received a National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama at the White House, becoming the first dance presenting organization to receive this prestigious honor.

NEVER STAND STILL
74 minutes, color, 2011
Directed by: Ron Honsa
Written and Produced by: Ron Honsa, Nan Penman
Narrated by: Bill T. Jones
Cinematography by: Jimmy O'Donnell, Etienne Sauret

 

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