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A Diversity of Dance and Culture at Jacob’s Pillow


The arts in the Berkshires are back in full swing this summer, and the gorgeous Jacob’s Pillow campus in Becket, Mass., is already thrumming with dance and music.

The 2022 season, the Pillow’s 90th anniversary, features world premieres and returning favorites, pre-show talks, photo and art exhibits, community events, and even classes open to anyone.

The Ted Shawn Theater has been completely renovated, and now features a new cooling and air ventilation system, orchestra pit, expanded accessibility for artists and audience members, an increased stage depth (by 10 feet) and enhanced technology, among other improvements. (The smaller Doris Duke theater burned down in November 2020; construction of a new theater is in the planning stages.)

Whether your taste is classical ballet, edgy modern, something from a country you may never get to visit, or something that makes you want to leap out of your seat and join in, you’ll find something to love.

Old and New in a Pas de Deux

Some of my old favorites coming up in the next few weeks are A.I.M. by Kyle Abraham,  the Limón Dance Company, and Black Grace.

Abraham, winner of a MacArthur Fellowship, blends modern and hip hop, and is presenting an hour-long piece set to R&B by D’Angelo, called “An Untitled Love.” The New York Times described it as “a theatrical love letter to social dance.”

The Limón Dance Company is dedicated to the legacy of the great José Limón. Their performance will also feature new work by Olivier Taparga, a choreographer and musician originally from Burkina Faso.

Black Grace, based in New Zealand, blends contemporary and indigenous Samoan dance genres.

Later in the season, the Alonzo King Lines ballet, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Miami City Ballet will all bring their world-class dancers to the Shawn Stage.

Free events on the outdoor Leir stage include, as always, companies representing many cultures and countries including the New York Korean Performing Arts Center presenting traditional Korean dance (July 9),  Les Ballet Afrik, encompassing West African, Afrobeat, House and Vogue styles (Aug. 3); and professional Hustle champions Abdiel and Kristine Bendul (Aug. 18).

New in recent years at the Pillow are performances on the grounds, traveling across multiple sites on the campus. New Orleans-based Michelle N. Gibson and NOJO 7 perform July 29 and 30. Gibson’s work is described as emerging from the Black dance traditions of New Orleans, touching on Modern, Afro funk, jazz and more. The performance features NOJO 7, an ensemble drawn from the larger New Orleans Jazz Orchestra.

Also traversing the grounds will be Liz Lerman, presenting an evening-length piece that is described as “creating a world of old crones, shape-shifters, familiars and imps leading us into a post-extinction tale”  (Aug. 10-13).

Enlightening PillowTalks

As always most of the main-stage performances will feature live music, and free pre-show talks will illuminate the choreographic process and make the performances more accessible.

The PillowTalks range from historical subjects to current challenges in dance, and include a talk on W.E.B. DuBois and the Black Berkshires that was offered on July 10; a reflection on how dance could be a meaningful part of every child’s education, called Dancing the Core Curriculum (July 24), and  a talk by the founder of Brown University’s Center for Research on Choreographic Interface about Technology and Dance (Aug. 28.)

This year’s exhibit in Blake’s Barn features dance portraits by photographer Christopher Duggan.


Tickets and performance information are available at www.jacobspillow.org, or by calling 413-243-9919.

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