BECKET -- Three world premieres, three exclusives and a host of special presentations mark Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival's 82nd season.
The season begins June 14 with the annual gala, this year featuring Carmen de Lavallade -- who, in addition to performing at the gala. serves as its honorary chair -- and ends Aug. 20-24 with Aspen Santa Fe Ballet in the Ted Shawn Theatre and LeeSaar The Company in the smaller Doris Duke Theatre.
Following the gala, de Lavallade will stay on at the Pillow to perform the world premiere of "As I Remember It," June 20-22 in the Doris Duke Theatre, a theatrical memoir of her notable career on stage and film.
"We're talking Lena Horne, Harry Belafonte, Duke Ellington, Alvin Ailey," Jacob's Pillow executive director and artistic director Ella Baff said by telephone from her home in Becket. "She is one of the most important figures in American dance, film and theater.
"She's 82 and she's drop-dead gorgeous and we are so lucky to have her for these three performances.
"She said there are only three places in the world she wanted to do this and she wanted the Pillow for the world premiere."
The other two world premieres this summer at the Pillow are:
-A new show by tap artist and 2013 Jacob's Pillow Dance Award winner Michelle Dorrance;
- "Chalk and Soot," a collaboration between choreographer John Heginbotham and composer Colin Jacobsen, with live music performed by Brooklyn Rider.
All told more than 52 companies will be performing on the Pillow's three stages: the indoor Ted Shawn and Doris Duke theaters; and the open-air Henry J. Leir Stage, home of the Pillow's free Inside/Out Performance Series.
"I've already been getting calls from longtime supporters saying ‘Oh, my favorite dance company is coming this year,' " Baff said.
In addition to the new, the Pillow's summer of 2014 will be one of exclusives --
- "Unreal Hip-Hop," a mixed bill of some of today's most innovative hip-hop artists including Storyboard P, Decadancetheatre, Ephrat Asherie, and The Wondertwins;
- Ballet 2014, featuring principal dancers and soloists of New York City Ballet, directed by Daniel Ulbricht;
- and a weeklong "festival within the Festival" featuring choreographer Mark Morris and his company;
and specials --
- Compagnia T.P.O., from Italy, with the family-friendly interactive production "Bleu!";
- and a rare East Coast appearance by Pacific Northwest Ballet.
It's a summer of returns -- Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, LeeSaar The Company, Dance Theatre of Harlem.
And it's the summer of a farewell. Trey McIntyre Project, which made its official debut as a company in 2008 at the Pillow, will be giving its final performances as a company June 25-29 in the Ted Shawn Theater. And the company is saying goodbye in style with a new work inspired by the writing and illustrations of Edward Gorey, and the East Coast premiere of "Mercury Half-Life," a piece set entirely to the music of the iconic rock band Queen, including the band's signature "We Will Rock You" and "We Are the Champions," along with some lesser known songs.
The booking was virtually last-minute, Baff said. Just as she was putting the finishing touches on the schedule, she got a call from McIntyre saying he was breaking up the company so he could do other things and asking if she could make a place for him.
"I told him I would be honored to have his final performances at the Pillow," Baff said.
McIntyre and his dancers have made six appearances at the Pillow since their first as an informal collection of dancers in 2005.
"Audiences connect with his work in remarkable ways," Baff said. "This will be a very sad farewell."
Among other particular standouts for Baff are:
-Compagnia T.P.O., a dance-theater company from Italy that will be performing "Bleu!" an interactive dance-theater piece for children -- "of all ages," Baff said impishly -- July 2-6 in the Doris Duke.
-Dorrance Dance in a special two-week engagement featuring "American Idol" vocalist Aaron Marcelius, July 16-27 in the Doris Duke Theatre.
-Ballet 2014: Principals and Soloists of the New York City Ballet, July 16-20 in the Ted Shawn Theatre. (In a program featuring the work of Jerome Robbins, "Pillow audiences will see some of the greatest ballet dancers doing some of the greatest contemporary ballets and see them up close," Baff said.)
-and the season-opening Hong Kong Ballet, June 18-22 in the Ted Shawn. ("I don't want people to overlook this company," Baff said. "The dancers have a fresh, light style and they are bringing a terrific program that includes a piece by National Ballet of China's resident choreographer Fei Bo, and a truly powerful piece, ‘Castrati,' set to music by Vivaldi and by Karl Jenkins.")
Further programming announcements will be made in April.