Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival Opens the 81st Season with Dance Theatre of Harlem, 6/19

Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival Opens the 81st Season with Dance Theatre of Harlem, 6/19

Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH), the groundbreaking and newly revitalized classical and contemporary ballet company, will open the 2013 Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival season in the Ted Shawn Theatre June 19-23. Led by founding member and former principal dancer, Artistic Director Virginia Johnson, the company will present a range of classic and new ballet work including George Balanchine's Agon, The Lark Ascending by Alvin Ailey, and Far But Close by Canadian contemporary choreographer John Alleyne.

The company performs three neo-classical and contemporary ballet works that span multiple eras of American and dance history. George Balanchine's Agon is a challenging work for 12 dancers, and features an iconic pas de deux originally created in 1957 for DTH founder Arthur Mitchell and ballerina Diana Adams as members of New York City Ballet. Created in in collaboration with composer Igor Stravinsky, Agon is one of Balanchine's most notable ballets. In an article reflecting onAgon's 50th anniversary, Alastair Macaulay of The New York Times called the work "astounding, full of shapes, phrases, rhythms, sounds that hadn't been encountered before, but embodied New York modernism itself."

Alvin Ailey's The Lark Ascending (1972) is set to an eponymous score by English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams created for violin and orchestra in 1920. While the music is inspired by the English countryside of Vaughan Williams' youth, Ailey's choreographic interpretation is a depiction of a young girl's maturation to young womanhood. As part of the American Masterpieces program of the National Endowment for the Arts, DTH received a grant to help reconstruct The Lark Ascendingfor inclusion in the repertoire of its revived professional company. One of the most balletic of Ailey's creations, DTH is the first American company to perform the work sur les pointes.

Far But Close (2012) is a narrative work by Canadian choreographer John Alleyne, with spoken word poetry by award-winning actor, singer, and writer Daniel Beaty and music by composer and violinist Daniel Bernard Roumain. In addition to commissioned works for major orchestras, Roumain has collaborated with Philip Glass, Bill T. Jones (with whom he performed at Jacob's Pillow), Savion Glover, and Lady Gaga. Commissioned by DTH and based on a short spoken word play conceived and written by Beaty, this modern day ballet tells the story of a young man and woman who meet on the subway and their journey toward trust. Alleyne's work has previously been performed at Jacob's Pillow in DTH's last appearance here in 1997, and by Ballet British Columbia (the company now known as Ballet BC who returns July 17-21).

The dancers of DTH come from a variety of backgrounds including Dance Theatre of Harlem School, American Ballet Theatre's Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, School Pacific Northwest Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Kirov Academy of Ballet, The Australian Ballet, Boston Ballet, and The Ailey School. Michaela DePrince, the company's youngest member, was recently featured in the documentary First Position, which will be shown at the Pillow's Member Appreciation Film Event on June 9.

In addition to the six performances, a DTH-related PillowTalk on Saturday, June 22 at 4pm will feature excerpts from the company's film and television appearances with commentary by artistic director Virginia Johnson. This programming serves as part of the Lift Ev'ry Voice Festival, a celebration of African American culture and heritage in the Berkshires, which kicks-offJune 19 at Jacob's Pillow. Correlated events continue throughout Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival. For a full listing visit:http://www.jacobspillow.org/festival/2013/06/lift-evry-voice-festival/