As Third Thursday resumes, dance solidifies its presence at annual block party

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PITTSFIELD — Dance will have a permanent spot at Third Thursday this year.

The "Dance Zone" makes its debut Thursday, the newest wrinkle for the 12th season of the city's downtown monthly block party.

Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival in Becket will headline the dedicated space at Bradford and North streets, in front of St. Joseph Church, solidifying the performing arts organization's presence at Third Thursday. The festival first performed at Third Thursday in 2016.

Last year, Jacob's Pillow brought its "Pillow Pop-Up Performances," featuring dance troupes from across the U.S. and overseas, to all five Third Thursdays. The festival will do the same this year.

"We are committed to taking dance ... to people who least expect it," said Jacob's Pillow Director Pamela Tatge.

On Thursday, the Dance Zone will debut with Wild Rhythms, one of New York's most decorated swing duos. With nearly 20 years of experience between them, Nathan Bugh and Gaby Cook travel the world regularly, sharing their knowledge and passion of swing, jazz and vintage-dance entertainment, according to Third Thursday organizers. Wild Rhythms also will perform as part of the festival's Inside/Out series in June.

In June, Scottish company Janis Claxton Dance will make its U.S. debut in the Berkshires with Pillow Pop-Up Performances in Williamstown and Great Barrington before performing in Pittsfield on June 21.

"The caliber of performances Jacob's Pillow brings to Third Thursday is amazing," noted Jen Glockner, the city's director of cultural development.

In addition, Jacob's Pillow also is teaming up with a variety of regional dance groups to entertain the thousands of visitors during the three-hour street festival. On Thursday, Aimee Gelinas and Berkshire Pulse Youth Drummers, Funk Box Dance Studio and Berkshire Salsa will perform in the Dance Zone.

"Everyone performing on the same stage matters," Tatge said.

General Dynamics Mission Systems returns as the May sponsor, having made its debut last year by also introducing the company's season-long interactive engineering demonstration near Columbus Avenue and North Street.

The demonstration is one of the many kid-friendly activities for the traditional youth theme season opener featuring young showstoppers.

Kids 4 Harmony, Rock On, the Reid Middle School String Ensemble and the Pittsfield High School cast of "Fame" will perform on North Street from Park Square to Linden Street/Maplewood Avenue. Berkshire Theatre Group will stage an excerpt from "Billy Bud and the Breadbox" at the Persip Park Main Stage.

Another addition this season is the Third Thursday Courtyard between Columbus Avenue and Summer Street. Folks can grab a seat, enjoy food from vendors and meet up with family or friends in a central location.

Third Thursday continues to be pedestrian-friendly, blocked off to vehicular traffic and smoke-free for the third consecutive year.

Dick Lindsay can be reached at rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com and 413-496-6233.


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