BECKET, MASS. — Deep in the Becket woods, there's a whole lot of shakin' going on — and stretchin' and swayin' too. If it's summer, dance is in the air, and everyone can join in the fun on Saturday, June 11, at the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival Community Day.
From noon to 3 p.m., a full schedule of performances, classes, tours and family friendly activities for young and old will fill the historic property. Once a station for fleeing slaves on the Underground Railroad, in 1933 Ted Shawn, husband of dance pioneer Ruth St. Denis, and his Men Dancers set in motion what is now America's longest running festival to celebrate the art of dance.
Each year, Jacob's Pillow invites dance companies from across the U.S. and around the world to tread its hallowed boards. On Saturday, dance troupes from around the Berkshires will quite literally follow in the footsteps of dance legends Martha Graham and Mikhail Baryshnikov as they perform ballet, hip hop, modern dance and more on the outdoor Inside/Out stage, famed for its spectacular backdrop of woodland nature.
"We've invited a number of dance schools in the county to perform, so that will be a great opportunity for the students to experience the Pillow," said Managing Director Andrea Sholler by phone. "It's the beginnings of the way we will make more effort to be part of the community than we have in the past. Our new director Pamela Tatge is really committed to this, she did a lot of collaborative community work when she was at Wesleyan in Connecticut."
Area companies slated to appear will include the Olga Dunn Dance Company, Earthdance, Berkshire Pulse, dysFunkcrew and Berkshire Dance Theatre. The Albany Berkshire Ballet will perform its popular "Norman Rockwell Dances," which bring to life famous paintings by the acclaimed illustrator.
Community day participants can watch performances, tour the property, take part in classes from Modern to Zumba and even learn a hip-hop routine, all free of charge. Little ones can listen to stories, go on a scavenger hunt, try out a ballet class and enjoy dance-themed games and activities.
The expansive campus is available to explore, from the storied Tea Garden and Bakalar and Sommers studios to the massive rock "pillow" that gave the former farm its name. "It's such a gorgeous piece of property to walk around and picnic," Sholler said. "Our grounds are always open and you're always welcome."
Community Day is a prelude to the main Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, which opens with a Gala on June 18 and runs through Aug. 28, and this year includes companies from Chicago to Seattle, Argentina to Korea, many accompanied by live musicians.
The well-attended Inside/Out program presents free 45-minute open-air performances at 6:15 p.m. nightly from Wednesday to Saturday all season long, and features artists both emerging and established from Boston to Los Angeles and beyond. Students from the renowned School at Jacob's Pillow showcase their substantial skills on Saturdays.
"All season long we have tons of free events: Inside/Out, exhibits going on, presentations at Blake's Barn, classes for free or minimal cost," Sholler said. "We have a whole brochure on community activities."
Community Day will take place rain or shine, with performances moving indoors to the Doris Duke Theatre if needed. Bring bug spray and umbrellas, Sholler suggested, and be sure to wear comfortable shoes.
"You don't have to move if you don't want to," she said, "but there will be plenty of opportunities if you do."
If You Go ...
What: Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival Community Day
When: Saturday, June 11, noon to 3 p.m.
Where: 358 George Carter Road, Becket, Mass.
Admission & Activities: All free of charge
Information: (413) 243-0745 www.jacobspillow.org
Henry J. Leir Inside Out Stage (rain venue: Doris Duke Theatre)
12:10 p.m. Olga Dunn Dance Company
12:30 p.m. Norman Rockwell Dances with the Albany Berkshire Ballet
1:20 p.m. Earthdance
1:40 p.m. Berkshire Pulse
2:20-3 p.m. dysFUNKcrew & Berkshire Dance Theatre
12-12:40 p.m. Beginner Ballet, Bakalar Studio
12:40 p.m. Story Time, Tea Garden
1 p.m. Historic Tour, departs from Tea Garden
1:30 p.m. Games & Activities, Tea Garden
All Day Scavenger Hunt, pick up clues in The Pillow Store
Noon-12:50 p.m. Modern Class with Chuck Paquette, Sommers Studio
1:30-2 p.m. Zumba with Rachael Plaine, Sommers Studio
2:30-3 p.m. Learn a Hip-Hop Combo, Marcia & Seymour Simon Performance Space