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Witnessing the power of the human body through dance: A new season at Jacob’s Pillow

“Jacob’s Pillow has been a haven and a refuge for dancers and dance companies for nearly 100 years,” said Jacob's Pillow Executive Director Pamela Tatge. “Audiences should feel what I call the ‘Pillow Magic’ as they drive up George Carter Road, and when they arrive here to see a performance."

Becket — Dancers from around the world will be taking part in the 92nd season of the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. The nine-week-long season will start in late June and end in late August.

Performers this year include The Royal Ballet of the United Kingdom, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, Shawn Stevens and Friends, and Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève, among many other performers. The performers will be coming from worldwide, including England, Switzerland, Italy, Argentina, Spain, and Canada, with performances in multiple dance styles including ballet, Indigenous, and modern dance.

Pamela Tatge, who has served as the organization’s executive director since 2016, said that attendance for last year’s festival returned to pre-pandemic levels. “Back in 2022, we overestimated the speed at which people would return to our shows post-pandemic,” Tatge told The Berkshire Edge. “But I’m happy to say that, last summer, we were able to return to 2019 levels of attendance, which is remarkable. We’re very grateful to the audiences who came to support us.”

Tatge credited the levels of event attendance to a supportive Berkshire County community. “I think that the Berkshires is an extraordinary place to experience art,” Tatge said. “I think that with Jacob’s Pillow, the idea of these creative bursts of art set against the generative energy of nature, I think that is our special sauce. I also think that when people returned to live performances, they wanted to experience the feeling that Jacob’s Pillow gave them. We always work very hard to have depth and breadth of a season that would appeal to multiple audiences. We always think deeply when we create our programming.”

Tatge said that, while watching live performances in person is important, so are video performances recorded and broadcast on the internet. The organization has its own YouTube channel that includes videos of performances, behind-the-scenes footage, and interviews. “Experiencing performances on tablets or television is important when it comes to engaging audiences and providing access to the work we do at Jacob’s Pillow,” Tatge said. “We want to provide access to the work we do here for people who might never be able to come to this part of the country, either because of accessibility barriers or socio-economic barriers. Digital representations of dance are really important. That said, experiencing dance performances live, I believe, enables an audience member to witness the power of the human body. When we see that human body in that space of a stage, creating a moment, a gesture, an exclamation, we feel the potential of what it means to be human. I think seeing that gives us hope at a time when we are navigating such a complicated and tragic world. To me, I think people need that because dance is a healing force, and watching dancing live is a way for someone to experience joy and the possibilities of humanity.”

In Tatge’s eyes, dance “explores the power and the beauty of the human body,” she explained. “When it comes to dance, there is a power and beauty of the human body to express a feeling, an emotion, and to tell a story without words that we can connect to viscerally because we have a shared humanity,” Tatge said. “As for our performances, our criteria at Jacob’s Pillow, as an international center for dance, is that we need to represent dance that is going on across the globe, as well as representing the astonishing breadth and diversity of dance expressions from ballet to art forms that begin in social settings like tango, through traditional forms of dance. We need to have that international breadth of performances at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, or it won’t be the festival we have become known for over the past 92 years. Because of this breadth of performers and performances, you get a sense of the power of this art form.”

When asked if she had any favorite performers in this year’s schedule, Tatge said she couldn’t choose. “I absolutely can’t pick because it’s too hard,” Tatge said. “But I can say that I am excited about The Royal Ballet of the United Kingdom coming over for both outdoor and indoor performances.” The Royal Ballet will be at Jacob’s Pillow from July 3 to July 7 for a series of performances, which will be their sole performances scheduled this year in the United States.

“This is the first time they’ve been here, and I think that this is a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence,” Tatge said. “This is particularly exciting. It took a lot of extra fundraising to make this work and to make this engagement happen.”

This year the season will kick off with a season-opening gala on Saturday, June 22. At the gala, choreographer Pam Tanowitz is scheduled to receive this year’s Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award. As described by a press release through the organization, the award is presented each year “to an artist of exceptional vision and achievement.”

During her career, New York City-based Tanowitz created work for the New York City Ballet, The Royal Ballet, Martha Graham Dance Company, Paul Taylor American Modern Dance, Juilliard Dance, and Ballet Austin. She has also created work for Jacob’s Pillow, including her work “Secret Things,” which will have its U.S. premiere at this year’s festival from July 3 to July 7. The work will be performed by The Royal Ballet of the United Kingdom in the company’s only American performance this year.

“There are very few contemporary choreographers who have created their own singular and theatrical language as Pam has done,” Tatge said in a press release after her interview with The Berkshire Edge. “It’s one grounded in ballet, but through the bodies of the amazing dancers she casts, it is transformed, personal, and new. When she creates ballet companies, she allows those dancers to discover new ways to express themselves, and they are better for it. Her collaborations with artists from other disciplines have been hugely inventive and ambitious in ways that the field needs right now. It is an honor to celebrate her with this award.”

As for the rest of this year’s schedule, Tatge told The Berkshire Edge that she is looking forward to the performances. “Jacob’s Pillow has been a haven and a refuge for dancers and dance companies for nearly 100 years,” Tatge said. “Audiences should feel what I call the ‘Pillow Magic’ as they drive up George Carter Road, and when they arrive here to see a performance. They should be transported, provoked, and inspired, in ways that they haven’t or haven’t been before, let’s say, or maybe differently than other experiences they’ve had. And I think they should feel a sense of belonging and welcome that Jacob’s Pillow is for everyone.”

For more information about Jacob’s Pillow, including a full schedule of events and ticket sales, visit its website.

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