The Pillow & Beyond: Summer Dance Programs Near NYC

Written by Susan Reiter on . Posted in Arts & Film, Dance.


As summer gets underway, there’s no dearth of dance events in the city, indoor and outdoor, expensive and free. But if you’re escaping New York for somewhere greener or closer to the sound of the waves, there are plenty of first-rate dance offerings available.
The verdant Berkshires, the culture-rich area in western Massachusetts, offer the richest and most varied schedule of dance performance, thanks mainly to the venerable Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, which is marking its 80th anniversary. Located in Becket, Mass., “The Pillow,” as many refer to it, bustles with activity from June through August.
In addition to amazingly diverse programming in its two theaters—companies perform Wednesday through Sunday in each—there is the Jacob’s Pillow School, which welcomes students from around the world; numerous free performances on its beautiful renovated outdoor stage; free PillowTalks with artists and scholars offering additional insights on the performances; and exhibits.
The programming selected this year by Ella Baff, The Pillow’s executive and artistic director, offers well-known American companies, rarely-seen international troupes and adventurous unique events. This weekend, in the larger Ted Shawn Theater, Morphoses is premiering WITHIN (Labyrinth Within), a new work by Swedish choreographer and filmmaker Pontus Lidberg that merges dance onstage and dance on-camera. New York City Ballet’s Sara Mearns and Adrian Danchig-Waring join several Morphoses regulars in the cast.
Crystal Pite, a young Canadian choreographer who has received acclaim for her darkly dramatic works, brings her company Kidd Pivot Frankfurt RM to the more intimate Doris Duke Theater for a return engagement of Dark Matters.
Two of The Pillow season’s notable events bring together male dancers from an amazingly broad range of backgrounds. From July 10–14, a program entitled The Men Dancers: From the Horse’s Mouth will pay homage to the tradition of the Men Dancers, an ensemble formed by Ted Shawn, the pioneering choreographer who founded and directed Jacob’s Pillow. The notably eclectic rotating cast of performers ranges from veterans like Arthur Mitchell, Lar Lubovitch and Gus Solomons to young tappers Jason Samuel Smith and Cartier Williams, as well as Trent Kowalik, from the original Broadway cast of Billy Elliot. Also performing will be former New York City Ballet principal Jock Soto and Robert Swinston, Merce Cunningham Company dancer and director of choreography.
Much attention will surely be paid to CURTAIN, a collaboration between Jonah Bokaer, the young, adventurous dancer/choreographer with a busy international career, and David Hallberg, the American Ballet Theater luminary who also dances with the Bolshoi Ballet. This U.S. premiere will be seen in the Doris Duke Theater July 11–15.
August highlights include the Trey McIntyre Project (Aug. 8–12) and a rare opportunity to catch up with the Joffrey Ballet (Aug. 22–26). The season’s international offerings include Israel’s Vertigo Dance Company (July 4–8); Finnish choreographer Tero Saarinen’s Borrowed Light (July 11–15); Hong Kong Ballet (July 18–22); Royal Winnipeg Ballet (Aug. 1–5); and Brazil’s Compagnie Käfig (Aug. 15–19). For more details, visit www.jacobspillow.org.
Also in the Berkshires, the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, a lovingly restored 700-seat former vaudeville theater and movie palace in Great Barrington, has begun to program dance events in recent years.
Momix will perform its lusciously imaginative Botanica there July 6 and 7. The Paul Taylor Dance Company will also perform two alternating programs (twice each) July 26–28. The repertory includes such landmarks as Aureole and Esplanade, the large-scale masterworks Mercuric Tidings and Syzygy and two of Taylor’s most recent works.
While you’re waiting for New York City Ballet’s fall season to begin in mid-September, you can catch recent repertory as well as a world premiere by company member and rising young choreographer Justin Peck, during its annual two-week run at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (July 10–21). The programs include the recent revivals of Balanchine’s Symphony in C and Kammermusik No. 2, along with works by Robbins, Martins, Wheeldon, Ratmansky and Millepied.
Held in a setting that can’t be replicated anywhere, the Fire Island Dance Festival (FIDF) is not only a worthy fundraiser but a hot event that draws a trendy, in-the-know crowd. A diverse array of dancers and companies give three performances on a stage created on a private property right on the bay, so the view is spectacular. One of Dancers Responding to AIDS’ annual events, now in its 18th year, FIDF always attracts notable performances.
This year’s programs (July 20-22) include a pièce d’occasion by Broadway’s Rob Ashford (Evita) and performances by Ballet Hispanico, Monica Bill Barnes, David Grenke, Rennie Harris and Momix. Humorist/TV commentator Mo Rocca will do the hosting honors.

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