The 1999 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival will reach across three continents, bringing national and local debuts to Becket, MA from companies as far afield as Peru, Russia, Cuba, China, and Brazil. What else does the Festival have up its 1999 sleeve? Try commissioned world premieres by major American dance troupes such as Trisha Brown Company, Doug Varone and Dancers, Ronald K. Brown/Evidence, and Seán Curran Company, for instance. This year’s festival, which runs June 23 – August 29, features an historic amount of live music.
“One of the ongoing glories of the Pillow is the rare chance it offers audiences to see unusual work by artists working in all–and unexpected– aspects of the art form,” said Ella Baff, the Pillow’s Executive Director in announcing the 1999 season. “In planning the festival, I looked worldwide, as well as in our own backyard to create what I hope the public enjoys as a compelling and varied 10 week dance experience.“
The result: Dance in all its definitions — classical, modern, mime, puppetry, futuristic folk, improvisation, theatrical, social — will be celebrated with over 100 performances indoors in the Ted Shawn Theatre and the Doris Duke Studio Theatre, and outdoors on the Inside/Out stage.
TED SHAWN THEATRE: The summer will open on Wednesday, June 23 with the Pillow debut of Grupo Corpo Brazilian Dance Theater, a 19-member troupe from Rio de Janeiro whose irrepressible dancers promise a powerful program that fuses modern dance with neoclassic ballet and Brazilian dance.
One of the great glories of the dance world, The Paul Taylor Dance Company will take over the Ted Shawn stage, Tuesday, June 29-Sunday, July 4, bringing with it two of Taylor’s classics, “Roses” and “Sunset,” as well as the revival of “Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rehearsal),” and the hilarious “Cloven Kingdom.” Also watch for “Oh, You Kid!,” Taylor’s most recent dance, which captures the spirit of vaudeville in a darkly humorous way that is uniquely Taylor. Two pianists from the Tanglewood Music Institute will provide live music for “Le Sacre du Printemps.”
An important first is scheduled for the Trisha Brown Company’s engagement, Wednesday, July 7 – Sunday, July 11: The world premiere of Brown’s first work with a jazz score. The dance, a collaboration with composer and jazz trumpeter Dave Douglas (who will perform live with his quartet) and visual artist Terry Winters, also features lighting by Jennifer Tipton. (Brown and Winters will discuss the premiere as a part of an exhibition of Brown’s drawings at MASSMoCA in North Adams, MA on June 26 at 7pm.)
Highlighting the Parsons Dance Company’s return to the Pillow, Tuesday, July 13 – Sunday, July 18, will be the local premiere of “Fill the Woods with Light,” with an original score by Jazz Hall of Famer Phil Woods. A work for nine performers who dance in and out of light, “Fill the Woods with Light” evokes a forest at night, whose partial illumination creates a world of suggested, but untold stories.
Martha Clarke’s full evening “Vers la flamme” is scheduled for Wednesday, July 21 – Sunday, July 25. Based on the poetry and prose of Anton Chekhov, the cast will include dancers Margie Gillis, Paola Styron, George de la Peña, Kate Coyne, Felix Blaska, Alexandre Proia, as well as a child and a dog.
Michael Moschen, whose definition-defying, magical mime has inspired him to be called a kinetic sculptor, image spinner, space shaper, dancer-physicist, will return to The Pillow, Wednesday, July 28 – Sunday, August 1.
“Dancing Honeymoon,” set to songs by Gershwin, Kern and Porter, and an untitled duet, two new works by the ever-inventive Mark Morris will receive their Pillow premieres during the Mark Morris Dance Group’s six day engagement, Tuesday, August 3 – Sunday, August 8.
Los Muñequitos de Matanzas, the legendary Cuban troupe that includes three generations of singers, dancers and drummers, will present a combination of street music and dance, and the religious dance of their native culture, Wednesday, August 11 – Sunday, August 15. Of special note will be the performances of three forms of the rumba, the most popular dance in Cuba. The Pillow debut of Batoto Yetu (Swahili for ”our children”) will be celebrated by the Harlem-based troupe of 5-18 year old youngsters with performances combining dances, stories and songs of Africa, Wednesday, August 18 – Sunday, August 22.
The 1999 season will conclude, Wednesday, August 25 – Sunday, August 29, with a Pillow first: The local debut and exclusive U.S. engagement of prima ballerina Nina Ananiashvili and a new generation of principal dancers from the Bolshoi Ballet, who will present the US premiere of two ballets by Bolshoi dancer/choreographer Alexei Ratmansky, as well as a series of pas de deux from the Russian classical repertoire.
DORIS DUKE STUDIO THEATRE: The Doris Duke Studio Theatre will once again offer programs of original and category-challenging work. Take Pepatián, for instance, which will present a preview performance of “Pasaporte,” Thursday, July 1 – Sunday, July 4, highlighted by live salsa music. A multi-media music/dance performance work, “Pasaporte” traces Afro-Cuban music’s fusion with European, Jazz, Afro-Latin, Caribbean and urban Black American pop, and incorporates a monologue by Obie-Awarding winning poet Ntozake Shange. The next week, Thursday, July 8 – Sunday, July 11 will offer “Water,” a Pillow-commissioned world premiere that joins the work of New York choreographer Ronald K. Brown and Trinidadian poet and visual artist Cheryl Boyce Taylor.
Yet another world premiere, and also a Pillow commission, will be presented,Thursday, July 15 – Sunday, July 18, when Doug Varone and Dancers perform “Democracy,” inspired by the Bauhaus artists of the 1920’s and set to music by Bang on a Can co-founder Julia Wolfe.
33 Fainting Spells, a company of three women from Seattle, will present the local premiere of “Maria the Storm Cloud,” a wry and sympathetic look at the frailties of the human heart, Thursday, July 22 – Sunday, July 25. The Bessie Award-winning “Underground River,” will be seen when Jane Comfort and Company makes its Pillow debut, Thursday, July 29 – Sunday, August 1. Puppetry, flying fish and paper birds take part of Comfort’s theater dance work that has a set by Basil Twist and uses music by Toshi Reagon.
Knees, elbows, hands and feet are only some of the body parts that are turned into the wild cast of characters that populate the amazing work of Teatro Hugo & Inés, which performs “Short Stories,” Thursday, August 5 – Sunday, August 8 and then again, Wednesday, August 11 – Sunday, August 15. “Empty Tradition/City of Peonies,” a untraditional cross-cultural mix of dance, theater, and music that draws on the talents of a Chinese choreographer (Yin Mei), an Indonesian composer (Tony Prabowo, performing live with The New Jakarta Ensemble), a Chinese visual artist (Xu Bing), Tibetan modern dancer (Sang Ji Jia), and a Chinese martial artist (Shi Hengzxin), will be performed Thursday, August 19 – Sunday, August 22.
Finally, the luck of the Irish will be given to Pillow audiences in the form of the Seán Curran Company, which performs Thursday, August 26 – Sunday, August 29. A world premiere (title to come) that features an original score by contemporary Irish composer Seamus Egan is on the boards, along with Curran’s witty take on Irish step dancing, “Folk Dance for the Future.” Egan will be on hand for the world premiere, performing live with members of his group Solas.
FURTHER NEWS: The Pillow grounds will again be the scene of many free and informal events including the popular Inside/Out showings, which take place selected Tuesdays (June 29, July 13 & August 3), Wednesdays and Thursdays at 6:30pm, and Fridays and Saturdays at 7pm on the outdoor stage. There are also many chances to meet festival artists, hear, talk and learn about dance at the Pillow: The Picnic Series will again take place near the Cafe and Great Lawn on Wednesdays at 5pm, weekly video-illustrated talks in Blake’s Barn on Saturdays at 5pm, as well as pre-performance and post-performance talks in both the Ted Shawn Theatre and the Doris Duke Studio Theatre.
Nestled in the Berkshire Mountains in the Massachusetts township of Becket, the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival was established by the legendary dancer, teacher and choreographer Ted Shawn in 1933 as a showcase for his own company of male dancers. What began as a series of “Tea Lecture Demonstrations” to promote Shawn’s work has grown into 10-week annual seasons of dance from the four corners of the world. Attracting thousands of people to its three theaters, the Festival also consists of a school that draws an international roster of students and faculty, presenting year round education and community programs.
The 1999 summer marks the first season to be programmed by Ella Baff, who was appointed Executive Director of Jacob’s Pillow in spring of 1998.