Dancing in the Woods: Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival 2010

Jacob’s Pillow is one of the longest running dance festivals in North America and I had been looking forward to seeing it for months, since I first found out about it during this year’s Dublin Dance Festival. The setting is beautiful, if difficult to reach without a car, as Becket is about 45 minutes away from the nearest bigger place.

My couchsurfing host Lauren was scheduled to do a volunteer shift at noon and the volunteer let me join her for the day. We were helping Pillow visitors to park their cars in the most efficient way on three large carparks right beside the box office. That already gave me a pretty good idea about the audience demographics, largely middle aged, arts interested people. The shift was over in no time and then we got taken to see the show in the Doris Duke Theatre in a trolley usually transporting visitors with mobility problems around the campus. I had seen Lucy Guerin’s Structure and Sadness in Dublin in 2009 before but it felt like an all new experience. The theatre is a beautiful wooden structure, like all buildings at the Pillow, and we had great seats in the centre. Lauren loved it too, it’s a stunning performance with lots of interesting structural elements besides the dancing.

As we had had a really late night last night we were dying to get a coffee afterwards and then wandered around the grounds a bit. Jacob’s Pillow was first founded in 1931 by Ted Shawn as a retreat for himself and his dancers. The spirit of the past can still be felt today with a huge dance archive available for visitors to explore, dance photography exhibitions and talks related to the dance performances. We caught an intriguing talk about Degas, Picasso and the Bolero, which one of the currently running shows is based on.

A little later we got our picnic stuff out and settled down to watch the Inside/Out performance by the current summer dance students at the Pillow. It was a pleasure to watch new talent show off their skills on the large outdoor stage with the most amazing view of the lush green valley behind the Pillow. Afterwards I had a chat with one of the dancers, a greek woman called Sia Koskina who also sang two musical songs during the show. She was training here for a few weeks and is trying to bring musical style dancing and singing to Greece, where it is not so popular yet.

Our last event of the day was a visit to the Dream Away Lodge, a quirky restaurant, bar, café, music venue in the middle of the woods with a long and interesting history. They happened to have a live outdoor music weekend festival on and we caught two really good bands, one called Mike and Ruthy and the other Vertiver. It was such a lovely location, the night sky above us, a drink in hand and lots of friendly, happy people all around.

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