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Jacobs Pillow — Summer 2011
August 8th Update
Etage 3e
3e Étage
(Photo: Steve Murez)
Given my schedule, the Jacob's Pillow season has brought its share of I wish I could have seen that performances -- like the spectacular Korean Dance group in July. Fortunately, I did get to see the Paris Opera Ballet's 3eEtage. These first time visitors to the Pillow take the art of classical ballet to a decidedly 21st Century level. The group takes its name from the Palais Garnier theater's system of dancers working their way from the third floor dressing room to the more experienced performers' lower level rooms.

The program, under the umbrella title of The Disorder Program, seeded a tsunami of word-of-mouth raves such as "the best dance performance I've seen all season" and "the best and most unusual ballet dancing I've seen-- ever!" Not surprisingly, tickets were as hard to come by as agreement among the current crop of Democrats and Republicans.

With its mix of astounding leaps and pirouettes and comic mime story telling this is indeed a one of a kind ensemble that's as adept at acting -- especially Marcel Marceau type comic riffs -- as dancing. The dancing was classical ballet but shaded with touches of modern dance. The physical humor that permeated the program included one dancer leaving the stage to hide from his partners in the audience. Each vignette had a story to tell (in the theater performances that are my regular beat-- this would fall under the rubric of one-acts, or ten-minute plays. For example, in a piece entitled Epiphenomenes we see a couple push-pulled together and apart by a manipulative Trickster. Me2, A very poignant piece inspired by a bilingual poem " Me Too" by holocaust survivor Raymond Federman is a choreographic treatment of Fderman's thems of identity, duplication, schizophrenia and confusion. A terrific solo piece was a choreographic translation of a famous song by Jacques Brel.

I could go on raving about this truly thrilling program. My only regret is that I can't urge you to rush to Jacob's Pillow to experience it for yourself. Let's keep our fingers crossed that the Pillow's artistic director Ella Baff can persuade this branch of the Paris Opera Ballet to return for another visit. In the meantime, there's plenty on the menu for the rest of August.

Coming up at the Ted Shawn Main Stage: s the return of long-time Pillow favorites Trisha Brown Dance Company, August 10-August. . .Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, August 17-August 21, 2011. . .Mark Morris Dance Group, August 24-August 28, 2011 . . .and A Jazz Happening August 21, 2011

Forthcoming to the smaller Doris Duke: Jodi Melnick and David Neumann in a world premiere Pillow commission, August 10-August 14, 2011 . . . David Dorfman August 17-21, 2011. . . Kyle and Camille, August 24-August 28, 2011.

For full details see

Ted Shawn Main Stage
No neons, no pedicabs, no taxi noises. . .just gardens, like this small oasis in front of the Ted Shawn Main Stage
(Photo: Elyse Sommer )
The magic of Jacob's Pillow is that while it's become a major tourist attraction for dance enthusiasts with, it's retained its rustic flavor. Even its upscale restaurant is under a tent (and there's still a tent for those who prefer a picnic, as well as a woods-y pub eatery). Wandering around the grounds, experiencing one of the FREE Inside/Out performances are as much integral to the Pillow Experience as a performance at its main space, the Ted Shawn Theater, or its smaller Doris Duke Theater.

Under the leadership of Executive Director Ella Baff (The Pillow, like three of the Berkshires' major arts organizations is headed by a woman) you can be sure that each season will give audiences a chance to see the work of a new group or new work by companies familiar to Pillow regulars. With Shakespeare's plays showing up here there and everywhere at Curtainup, I was sorry to miss a chance to see one of the Bard's favorites, Romeo and Juliet set to music by the Ballet Genève to launch the Ted Shawn season. (I hear it was magnificent).

Jacob's Pillow
Carte Blanche in Killer Pig (Photo: Erik Berg)
Though I missed the Bard set to music, I did get to see my first ballet by a Norwegian company, Carte Blanche. While these dancers displayed an incredible athleticism the U. S. premiere of Israeli choreographer Sharon Eyal's Killer Pig had a good deal of hypnotic power but fizzled into tedium by going on too long, so that the eerie sound mix music by Ori Lichtik became irritating. The premiere was paired with a much earlier Eyal piece called called Love which except, for having six male dancers join the six women of Killer Pig and a less frenzied musical score, seemed to want to identify the company with a particular style rather than to demonstrate a fuller range. Given that art from Norway tends to be associated with the dramatic works of Henrik Ibsen than ballet, that's too bad. Come to think of it, all this intense eroticism and propulsive music might make a fascinating dance adaptation of Hedda Gabler.

Doris Duke Studio Theater
For those eager to see the latest trends in dance, the Doris Duke Studio Theater is a favorite destination. (Photo: Elyse Sommer)
At any rate, the dance menu for the rest of the season at both the Ted Shawn Theater and the Doris Duke is varied enough to please all tastes. At the Doris Duke, mystery thriller set to dance by the rubber limbed Kid Pivot dancers and a dance adaptation of the Greek tragedy Alcestis by Big Dance Theater look especially exciting. And if you like the tango (and who doesn't?) Tangueros Del Sur will show off some fancy Argentinian footwork at the Ted Shawn Theater which will also see the return of the ever popular Lar Lubovitch company.

What makes "The Pillow Experience" unique, of course, is the lovely wooded setting is awash in history, going back to the 18th Century when it was a family farm that became a station in the Underground Railroad during the mid-1850s. In terms of its history as a dance mecca, that story dates back to the 1930s when Ted Shawn turned it into a school and performance space for dancers.

The Inside/Out stage where FREE performances are presented with the ever-present scenery provided by Mother Nature.
(Photo: Elyse Sommer )

For the full menu of what's happening at the Pillow, check out the Jacob's Pillow web site.
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