Jacob’s Pillow announces summer lineup for outdoor performances, virtual events | Arts And Culture

Dancing Trousers

BECKET — Jacob’s Pillow has announced its full artist lineup for the summer season, including world premieres, site-specific performances across the campus and a new “On the Road” series that will bring free dance performances to neighboring towns.

The 2021 summer Festival will be the first to feature on-site and online programming. 

On-site events will run June 30-Aug. 29, with online streaming through Sept. 23. The newly imagined Festival — with the safety of artists, staff and audiences at the forefront of all planning — will feature commissioned works and world premieres and engage hundreds of artists who have had incredibly limited performance opportunities for the past year because of the global coronavirus pandemic. (Jacob’s Pillow was forced to cancel its 2020 summer season in response to COVID-19.)

The 2021 Festival also is the first organized by an expanded curatorial team made up of Artistic and Executive Director Pamela Tatge and Associate Curators Melanie George and Ali Rosa-Salas.

“It is essential that we find safe and inventive ways to return to dance, to bring people back together, and put artists back to work,” Tatge said in a statement. “The 2021 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival will share the restorative and uplifting power of dance: in-person at our campus, in our surrounding communities, and through live and on-demand events online to reach audiences across the world.

“The works featured in Festival 2021 will delve into the multiple histories that exist in the land of Jacob’s Pillow; center the work of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) artists, providing platforms for their stories to be told and archived; examine our relationship to the environment and bring us into dialogue with our magnificent site; and highlight artists who are experimenting with innovative ways to integrate augmented and virtual reality into their performances.”

Brian Brooks / Moving Company

Brian Brooks / Moving Company will perform July 21-25, with a piece set to a Pulitzer Prize-winning score by composer Caroline Shaw, and featuring the Williamstown-based ensemble Roomful of Teeth.

Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival will run in person June 30-Aug. 29 (with a special online gala June 12). Online presentations of works captured during the company’s on-site performances will premiere soon after and will be available to stream on demand. Short performances — of less than one hour in duration — will be presented on the Henry J. Leir Stage, the Pillow’s outdoor amphitheater space.

Highlights include an all-campus takeover with world premieres by Dorrance Dance (June 30-July 4); a new production, Life Encounters, with legendary figure in the social dance scene Archie Burnett and collaborators that chronicles the evolution of New York City underground dance history (July 28-Aug. 1); and Ballet Coast to Coast, a Pillow-exclusive production that features artists from Boston Ballet, Houston Ballet and Pacific Northwest Ballet (Aug. 25-29).

Performances also will be held around the Pillow’s campus in site-specific creations. Highlights include Eastern Woodland Dances, an event featuring the breadth of Indigenous performance traditions within the Eastern Woodland region and its diaspora (July 17); real-time Augmented Reality performance from Brian Brooks (July 24); and a world premiere from Okwui Okpokwasili and Peter Born, telling the story of a Black girl with hair so powerful that it allows her to receive and send messages through time (Aug. 6-7).

The PillowTalk series, featuring thought leaders in the field, will happen on-site for small audiences and stream online weekly; The School at Jacob’s Pillow Performance Ensemble will take the Henry J. Leir Outdoor Stage on selected Saturday afternoons; in-person workshops with Festival artists will happen weekly on Sunday mornings; and the beloved intergenerational Families Dance Together classes will happen weekly online.

Blake’s Barn, home to the Jacob’s Pillow Archives and the newly expanded Norton Owen Reading Room, will be open daily, Tuesday through Sunday, with free, advanced ticketing to browse collections that include memorabilia, books, photographs and footage of performances at Jacob’s Pillow from the 1930s to today; and also feature the exhibition, “Build Me A Theater,” which chronicles the history of performance spaces at Jacob’s Pillow, including the Ted Shawn Theatre, currently under renovation.

International companies will be featured in online-only, Pillow-exclusive streams. Jacob’s Pillow will present the exclusive U.S. premiere of Crystal Pite’s “Body and Soul,” choreographed for and performed by Paris Opera Ballet at Palais Garnier (July 1-15), as well as a new performance film by Nrityagram Dance Ensemble, highlighting an evening of Odissi dance as well as a rare, inside look at the one-of-a-kind Nrityagram Dance Village on the outskirts of Bangalore, India (July 8-22).

Cirque Barcode & Acting for Climate Montréal will be the only international company to perform on the Pillow’s grounds this Festival (Aug. 13-15).

Pillow Pop-Ups will occur around Berkshire County in a new “On the Road” series that will bring free dance performances to neighboring towns over two weekends on a portable stage. Companies to be featured are the intergenerational Ladies of Hip-Hop Dance Collective (July 31-Aug. 1) and Philadelphia-based Kulu Mele African Dance & Drum Ensemble (Aug. 7-8).

For additional details, visit jacobspillow.org. Member presale for on-site performances begins May 6. Tickets for on-site events and all online events go on sale to the public June 1. To purchase tickets, visit jacobspillow.org or call 413-243-0745.


CONTRA-TIEMPO, a bold, multilingual dance theater company, will perform July 7-11.

In-person season at a glance


Single tickets start at $45. Bench seating for up to four individuals is $150. Performances are outdoors and subject to cancellation with full refunds in case of inclement weather. In the event of cancellation, audiences will be invited to a private Zoom presentation to meet the artists and view prerecorded performance excerpts. Most performances will be captured and streamed within two weeks of the premiere date for online audiences. 

• Dorrance Dance Plays the Pillow: June 30-July 4. Dorrance Dance will perform a world premiere full-company work by Nicholas Van Young with new original music by Dorrance Dance musicians.

Developed during a COVID-compliant residency at the Pillow Lab this past winter, the work is inspired by this past year’s global experience of isolation and the concept of chaos and order. This tap dance piece is framed by an excerpt from “Praise: The Inevitable Fruit of Gratitude,” created by Josette Wiggan-Freund and features the music of jazz trumpeter extraordinaire Keyon Harrold. 

• CONTRA-TIEMPO: July 7-11. Founded by director Ana Maria Alvarez in 2005, CONTRA-TIEMPO is a bold, multilingual dance theater company that draws on its Los Angeles lineage with work rooted in Salsa, Afro-Cuban, hip-hop and contemporary dance.

In the company’s Pillow debut, it performs the evening-length work “joyUS justUS,” an embodiment of radical joy and justice. Featuring original music by East Los Angeles Chicano band Las Cafeteras and d. Sabela grimes, this “joyous celebration of community” (San Francisco Bay Guardian) engages local communities as participants and collaborators as an exuberant reminder of our capacity to connect, come together, and celebrate. Available to watch online July 22-Aug. 5; online premiere July 22 at 7 p.m. 

• Ballet Hispánico: July 14-18. A Festival favorite known for “piercing stereotypes” (The New York Times), Ballet Hispánico is celebrated as the nation’s renowned Latinx dance organization and one of America’s Cultural Treasures.

Under the direction of former company member, Artistic Director and CEO Eduardo Vilaro, the company is recognized for bringing communities together to celebrate and explore Latino cultures through innovative dance performances, transformative dance training and enduring community engagement experiences. Available to watch online July 29-Aug. 12; online premiere July 29 at 7 p.m. 

• Brian Brooks / Moving Company: July 21-25. A “master of momentum” (Chicago Tribune), Brian Brooks has choreographed for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Miami City Ballet, Wendy Whelan and his own New York-based company.

In The Moving Company’s first Pillow performance since 2013, it performs two world premieres and revisits “Closing Distance,” which premiered just before the pandemic and hasn’t been performed since.

“Flight Study,” a new work set to a dynamic string quartet piece by Grammy Award-winning classical composer Bryce Dessner, was developed in multiple residencies over the past year. Brooks also performs a new, untitled solo work for himself for the first time in over five years.

“Closing Distance” is set to a Pulitzer Prize-winning score by composer Caroline Shaw, and features the eight-voice Williamstown-based ensemble Roomful of Teeth. The program was shaped, in part, by the company’s time spent at the Pillow Lab last October. Available to watch online Aug. 5-19; online premiere Aug. 5 at 7 p.m.

• Life Encounters: Archie Burnett: July 28-Aug. 1. Directed by the legendary Archie Burnett, first father of the New York-based House of Ninja, Life Encounters invites audiences to witness the evolution of New York City underground dance histories by way of Burnett’s most cherished personal memories.

From long nights spent at New York City’s iconic underground dance party The Loft to developing kinships with the Hustle, Waacking, Vogue and postmodern dance communities, Burnett and a dynamic cast of guest artists — Abdiel Jacobsen, Princess Lockerkoo, Ephrat Asherie, and more — embody the adage that there is nothing quite like a life well-danced. Available to watch online Aug. 12-26; online premiere Aug. 12 at 7 p.m. 

• Dallas Black Dance Theatre: Aug. 4-8. Founded in 1978 by Ann M. Williams and currently led by Artistic Director Melissa M. Young, Dallas Black Dance Theatre has captivated audiences in its native Dallas Arts District and nationwide for over 45 years with contemporary modern dance by the nation’s leading choreographers.

In a highly-anticipated Jacob’s Pillow debut, Dallas Black Dance Theatre performs a Pillow-commissioned world premiere by sought-after choreographer Darrell Grand Moultrie, celebrated for his work with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, American Ballet Theatre and Dance Theatre of Harlem. Available to watch online Aug. 19-Sept. 2; online premiere Aug. 19 at 7 p.m.

• LaTasha Barnes presents The Jazz Continuum: Aug. 11-15. The Jazz Continuum exploration centers on the prolific artistry of jazz music and dance as a cornerstone of Black American dance forms.

Through this world premiere of the second exploration of the Jazz Continuum series, LaTasha Barnes and her cast of masterful dancers and musicians embody, amplify and showcase the power of Jazz dance and Lindy Hop to their personal dance journeys and the art form as a global phenomenon. Available to watch online Aug. 26-Sept. 9; online premiere Aug. 26 at 7 p.m.

• STREB: Aug. 18-22. Taking flight by pushing the boundaries of aesthetics and kinesthetic bravery, MacArthur Award-winning choreographer Elizabeth Streb is known for “her loud, unflinching explorations of physics” and has, “devised what looks like her own Olympic sport” (The New York Times).

Returning to the Pillow for the first time in over 20 years, the STREB Extreme Action Company revisits its roots with a retrospective of Elizabeth Streb’s classic solos from the 1970s and ’80s, early equipment experimentations from the ’90s, and jaw-dropping extreme-action opuses with the large-scale “action machines” the company has since become known for from the early 21st century. Available to watch online Sept. 2-16; online premiere Sept. 2 at 7 p.m.

• Ballet Coast to Coast: Aug. 25-29. Leading artists from Boston Ballet, Houston Ballet and Pacific Northwest Ballet take the stage in a Pillow-exclusive program that highlights the stunning range of ballet in the United States today.

The program will feature performances from eac
h company and culminate with the dancers performing together for the first time in “Second to Last,” a work by Pacific Northwest Ballet’s resident choreographer, Alejandro Cerrudo, inspired by and set to the music of Arvo Pärt. Available to watch online Sept. 9-23; online premiere Sept. 9 at 7 p.m.

• The School at Jacob’s Pillow Performance Ensemble: July 3; July 24; Aug, 14. Performances by The School at Jacob’s Pillow Performance Ensemble provide an inside look at The School experience and feature repertoire created on the dancers by leading choreographers who serve as program faculty. Available to watch online as a livestream at date and time of performances.


Above: Returning to the Pillow for the first time in over 20 years, the STREB Extreme Action Company will take the outdoor stage Aug. 18-22. Below: CONTRA-TIEMPO, a bold, multilingual dance theater company, will perform July 7-11.


Single tickets range from $10-$45. Performances happen on and around the Pillow’s 220-acre campus with limited capacity group settings and are subject to cancellation with full refunds in the instance of inclement weather.

• Dorrance Dance Plays the Pillow: June 30-July 3, $45. In a site-specific world premiere, Dorrance Dance explores the unique and enchanting environment of the Pillow grounds. These special daytime performances will take audiences on a roving journey that showcases the Pillow’s campus in a never-before-seen (nor heard) way.

• Commemorating the Opening of Jacob’s Garden: July 10, $25. In a pilot partnership with Adam Weinert and Brett Perry of the Dancing Farmer LLC, Jacob’s Pillow inaugurates Jacob’s Garden.

Drawing direct inspiration from Ted Shawn’s original 1931 “friendship garden,” the shared cultivation of a 1.5-acre garden will be at once a working farm, a living archive and invite coordination with local community members.

• Eastern Woodland Dances: July 17, $25. Local Indigenous dancers of the Mashpee Wampanoag, Seneca, Cayuga and Nipmuc nations come together to highlight the breadth of Indigenous performance traditions within the Eastern Woodland region and its diaspora.

This event is curated by local Nipmuc elder Larry Spotted Crow Mann and Annawon Weeden of the Mashpee Wampanoag Narragansett, and Pequot nations.

• Viewpoint / Brian Brooks Immersive Technology: July 24, $25. On the grounds of the Pillow or in your living room, Brian Brooks creates a real-time Augmented Reality performance, experienced as a 3D-hologram through the lens of a smartphone.

This new form of media, called Volumetric Video, allows the viewer to control the point of view of a live-action performance and superimpose the experience into whatever environment they are in.

• Emily Johnson / Catalyst: July 30-Aug. 1, $25. Award-winning choreographer Emily Johnson has created a distinguished body of dance works and social choreographies that unite audiences in a shared experience of movement, place, history, collective action and the continuance of Indigenous cultural practices and perspectives. Her newest work delves into the power of creation.

• Okwui Okpokwasili and Peter Born: Aug. 6-7, $25. MacArthur Fellow Okwui Okpokwasili and collaborator Peter Born present the world premiere of “Swallow the Moon.” This installation on the Pillow grounds is guided by a sonic score that tells the story of a Black girl with hair so powerful that it allows her to receive and send messages through time. 

• Cirque Barcode & Acting for Climate Montréal: Aug. 13-15, $25. Cirque Barcode and Acting for Climate Montréal, two Montréal-based circus companies, started collaborating in 2019, with a mission to work toward a more sustainable future by combining performing arts and environmentalism.

Their new work, “Branché,” is an acrobatic circus performance for all ages that happens outdoors, in and around trees. Revolving, climbing and jumping around each other, the acrobats adapt and are directly influenced by the environment and location they perform in. 

• Soul Line Dance Party: Aug. 21, $10. The New England Soul Line Dance Network believes Soul Line Dancing is empowering, evolving and inspiring. (It is also performed with social distance!) The Pillow’s first-ever Soul Line Dance Party is designed for every body and every dance ability and is a fun way to connect and groove to R&B and hip-hop music.

• jumatatu m. poe: Aug. 26-28, $25. In the “Let ’Im Move You” series, jumatatu m. poe and collaborator Jerome “Donte” Beachman distill decade-long research of J-Sette performance, a “high step” march popularized by the women’s majorette teams at historically Black colleges in the United States.

An amalgam of the performance and complexities of Black joy, poe and Beacham investigate rhythm, pattern and attention in this iteration of the work.

• Festival Finale (socially distant): Aug. 28, $10. In true Pillow fashion, ring in the end of summer and celebrate Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival 2021 with a joyous, socially distant dance party on the Great Lawn under the stars and a live DJ set. Tickets to the evening performance of jumatatu m. poe include admission to the party.

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