In March of 2011, President Barack Obama honored Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival with the National Medal of Arts at the White House. In the spring, the Pillow expanded worldwide access to dance with the launch of Dance Interactive, an online video resource and game, recently called "priceless" and "the closest thing the dance world has to an online museum" by Sarah Kaufman of The Washington Post.
During its 79th Festival season, Jacob's Pillow hosted more than 89,100 free and ticketed visitor experiences, the highest number in the organization's history. Providing access to dance and expanding audiences is a vital part of the Pillow's mission, and more than half of the 2011 Festival offerings were free, including the exclusive Annie Leibovitz: DANCE photography exhibit; a PillowTalk with Ms. Leibovitz and choreographer Mark Morris; 9 events presented as part of Lift Ev'ry Voice: Celebrating African-American Culture and Heritage in the Berkshires; and free Inside/Out dance performances seen by 16,500 audience members.
Claudia La Rocco of The New York Times summed up the Festival succinctly: "Two-plus months, more than 300 total dance-related events, companies traveling from all over the globe: the Pillow isn't messing around."
Jacob's Pillow Executive and Artistic Director Ella Baff states, "Along with presenting premieres and company debuts from all over the world, we are passionate about providing access to dance for everyone. The Pillow is dedicated to bringing new people to dance - both on site during the Festival and at all times online, through Virtual Pillow. Given the current economy, this year marked some of the highest attendance numbers ever for our free events: free performances, free talks with artists, film showings, and photography and art exhibits. The video viewing room at the Archives was consistently packed throughout the Festival and every day people around the world discover new artists through our online resources. This is all good news. People are spending more time enriching their experience with dance and expanding their ideas about it - that curiosity strengthens the art form and gives it staying power."
YEAR-ROUND OUTREACH AND A KEY ANNIVERSARY
Founded in 1933 by modern dance pioneer Ted Shawn, Jacob's Pillow is a National Historic Landmark and home to America's longest-running international dance festival. Though the 2011 Festival has concluded, the Pillow's outreach continues. New online resources, videos, and talks are added to Virtual Pillow throughout the year, and have already amassed more than 700,000 views to date worldwide. Artist residencies in schools bring the innovative Jacob's Pillow Curriculum in Motion® program to 22 classrooms, advancing learning for 350 students and 28 classroom teachers. Creative Development Residencies help artists make new work in a retreat-like setting. Filmmaker Ron Honsa's new dance documentary Never Stand Still, filmed on location at Jacob's Pillow, is currently screening in festivals across the country and will continue into 2012. In the Berkshires, Never Stand Still will be shown at MASS MoCA on October 28, 2011 as part of the Williamstown Film Festival.
January 2012 marks the official beginning of the Pillow's 80th Anniversary. January through March, The School at Jacob's Pillow will hold auditions for its 2012 programs in New York City, Miami, Los Angeles, and internationally. March 24 and 25, Jacob's Pillow and MASS MoCA will host an annual co-presentation in North Adams; this year Australian contemporary dance company Chunky Move will return to the United States to perform Connected, choreographed by Gideon Obarzanek. The 80th Anniversary Season will kick off June 16, 2012 with the Season Opening Gala, and will include more than 300 free and ticketed performances and events, to be announced in January.
FESTIVAL 2011 - SEASON IN REVIEW
Executive and Artistic Director Ella Baff continued her commitment to presenting work that excites audiences and advances the art form. The 79th Festival presented 8 world premieres and 16 U.S. premiere works including several that were created at the Pillow as part of its Creative Development Residency Program; 3 U.S. debuts (Carte Blanche, DanzAbierta, and 3e Étage: Soloists and Dancers of the Paris Opera Ballet); live music; and exclusive programs from around the globe. Fifty-two dance companies and more than 400 dance artists from Canada, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Argentina, Cuba, South Korea, France, and across the U.S. participated in the season. Anniversaries of 3 major dance companies were celebrated: Trisha Brown Dance Company, Mark Morris Dance Group, and Aspen Santa Fe Ballet.
The fourth annual Jacob's Pillow Dance Award, including a $25,000 cash gift made possible by a generous anonymous donor, was awarded to Crystal Pite, renowned choreographer and Artistic Director of Kidd Pivot Frankfurt RM. Pite's company performed in a week-long engagement in July, leading as the highest selling Doris Duke Theatre performances of Festival 2011.
In 2010, Jacob's Pillow was required to replace its outdoor stage by the 2011 Festival. Thanks to widespread support, Jacob's Pillow celebrated the opening of the Henry J. Leir Stage at the Marcia and Seymour Simon Performance Space, home to the free Inside/Out performance series. This season, the Pillow welcomed 16,500 people of all ages for 41 free performances on a completely re-built, larger and improved stage. Highlights included Boston-based Urbanity Dance; the world premiere of Bluegrass! by tap group Dorrance Dance; Sabrina Avilés' Flamenco Dance Project; performances by John Heginbotham of the Mark Morris Dance Group and former Bill T Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company member Stefanie Batten Bland; and the "smoldering" (New York Times) Mark Stuart Dance Theatre. Seven alumni of The School at Jacob's Pillow returned to Inside/Out as artistic directors of their own dance companies, plus many more alumni performed as members of prominent companies on all three stages.
Free PillowTalks by esteemed artists, public figures, composers, authors, critics and journalists, filmmakers, and scholars included choreographer and artistic director Mark Morris; celebrated portrait photographer Annie Leibovitz; Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang; The Huffington Post's Debra Levine and Jennifer Edwards; and Humanities scholar and cultural critic David Kyuman Kim, among others. This season welcomed the highest number of visitors in Pillow history to Blake's Barn and the Archives- the location of Annie Leibovitz: DANCE, an exhibit of 320 images chosen by Leibovitz for an exclusive exhibit at the Pillow.