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Curtains Rise at Jacob’s Pillow: Everybody Dance Now!
Cultural correspondent Bess J.M. Hochstein reports from Becket
In a region rife with galas, there is perhaps none as widely anticipated as Jacob Pillow’s, which took place on Saturday, June 18. One might assume this is because the Pillow gala hews 100% true to the organization’s mission. Invariably, it begins with the unveiling of an exhibition of dance-related art in Blake’s Barn – in this case, a wide-ranging selection of photographs by Annie Leibovitz. It continues in the Ted Shawn Theatre, where the audience is presented with a taste of what the summer has in store. First up, students from The School at Jacob’s Pillow performed a feat of magic, flawlessly executing the world premiere of choreography by Stanton Welch that they began to learn just four days earleir. After welcoming the crowd, executive and artistic director Ella Baff presented the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award to choreographer Crystal Pite, who was visibly overcome with emotion by the honor. A smorgasbord of dance delights followed, including work by Mark Morris, David Neumann, honorary co-chair Benjamin Milllepied (Closer, a heart-achingly beautiful pas de deux performed by Ballet Genève), and Larry Keigwin (in photo above, with honorary co-chair Mercedes Ellington), whose 2008 piece Runaway electrified the audience and heightened anticipation of this week’s performance by Keigwin + Company. The cherry on top: a live piano solo by Philip Glass, who noted that while his music has accompanied scores of dances at the Pillow, he had never before played there. Appetites whetted (for both the summer schedule and food), the crowd heads into the tent for dinner and more dance, this time the participatory kind, propelled by the rhythms of Bev Rohlehr and the Colbys. This final phase may be the true reason everyone loves the Pillow gala; the dance floor, flooded with lithe and limber terpsichorean students and performers, proves irresistible, and ultimately, everyone gets in on the act.
Attorneys Vicki Bonnington and David Schecker in typical sartorial splendor; interns Laura Quinton and Katy Dammers.
New York City Ballet physical therapist Katy Keller with voiceover artist and bon vivant Colter Rule; Berkshire Mountain distiller Chris Weld and Berkshire International Film Festival founder Kelley Vickery.
Dance critic Deborah Jowitt with Murray Ralph, WAMC chief Alan Chartock and MCLA professor emeritus Roselle Chartock; Licia Conforti and Michael Conforti, who heads the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute.
Filmmaker Ben Hillman, producer Jeff Diamond, and Berkshire Film and Media Commission executive director Diane Pearlman; photographer David Dashiell, Chrissie Constable, production manager at The Colonial Theatre, and Pillow preservation director Norton Owen.
John Hoffee with actor, Pillow board member, and gala co-chair Hunter Kerr Runnette, Artisan House president Mickey Atehey, NYC psychologist Alice Piscotto, and Larry Condon.
Choreographer Crystal Pite of Kidd Pivot, performing July 6 - 10, accepts the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award from Ella Baff; Philip Glass plays Dreaming Awake, in his first Pillow performance. Photos by Cherylynn Tsushima, courtesy of Jacob’s Pillow.
Pillow head Ella Baff with Philippe Cohen, artistic director of the Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève and assistant director Vitorio Casarin; School at Jacob’s Pillow dance students Melissa Gelfin, Jong Suk Park, Claudilan dos Santos, and Joanna Schmidt.
Approximately 400 celebrants enjoyed dinner and dancing.
Colter Rule gets down on the dance floor with an interpretive improvisation, joined by a phalanx of Keigwin + Company dancers.