Ceremony marks groundbreaking of new Perles Family Studio at Jacob's Pillow


BECKET — "We need a building that parallels the worldwide reputation of our school."

That was the message on Friday from Pamela Tatge, director of Jacob's Pillow Dance Center.

And so it shall be.

Tatge spoke on a brisk autumn evening as the board of trustees, administrators and other alumni of the renowned dance venue gathered in huddled clusters to celebrate the inauguration of the new Perles Family Studio.

Ground had been broken earlier in the season, but the official event took place adjacent to the Sommers Dance Studio, presently the home of The School at Jacob's Pillow.

The new space, designed by the award-winning Flansburgh Architects of Boston, and executed by Allegrone Construction of Pittsfield, will cost $4.5 million. The 7,373-square-foot building will feature a 3,500-square-foot dance floor — nearly double the size of the Sommers floor.

The studio will be fully air conditioned, eliminating the temperature control challenges faced by dancers and faculty members at Sommers during the summer season.

The new home of The School at Jacob's Pillow will be named the Perles Family Studio in recognition of a lead donation from the Perles Family Foundation.

Throughout the fall, winter and spring seasons, the added room will expand the space for offices, dressing rooms, year-round programming and creative development residencies. In addition it will increase the numbers of students involved with the community program "Curriculum in Motion."

The space will accommodate up to 25 seats for spectators to view classes and up to 200 seats for Inside/Out performances in the instances of rain and inclement weather. It will feature a viewing deck and private porch overlooking the campus. And picnic tables will dot the grounds for students and faculty and provide ease in family gatherings during Inside/Out presentations.

The foundation will be poured before the ground freezes, with the exterior expected to be finished by May 2017. The building's final form is projected by the end of next year's dance festival, during which a ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned to commemorate the new studio and celebrate Jacob's Pillow's 85th anniversary.

Joining Tatge as speakers for the ceremony were board Chairman Mark Leavitt and trustee and lead donor Claudia Perles.

"We look into the future," Leavitt said, "but are firmly embedded in the past."

After speaking of his experience with Jacob's Pillow and giving a round of thanks to all contributors, he introduced the Claudia Perles.

"I am so excited to be associated with this project," she said warmly. "My first deep connection to the Pillow was seeing the students at Inside/Out and I have never lost that wonderful joy and connection with the students."

Tatge, the director, spoke of the dancers, describing their time at the school as the "catalytic moment in their careers where every student experiences some kind of transformation or epiphany changing them for life."

A celebration followed in Blake's Barn, where guests were served drinks and light fare as they meandered within its rustic walls surrounded by colorful architect's illustrations of studio, including a projection of the design to show it from every angle, and historic photos of Jacob's Pillow founder Ted Shawn.

Alumna Melissa Tolgood, a member of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, was a guest speaker.

"For a dancer, the studio is a sacred place where possibility lives," said Tolgood, who was named in Dance Magazine's "25 to watch" list in 2014.

Standing in front of a three-dimensional model of the studio, encased in glass, Flansburgh President David Crouteau spoke of the project.

He began with a nostalgic look into his past, speaking of his grandfather being a dowser and how watching his parents build their family cottage on Narragansett Bay instilled in him a passion for architecture.

He spoke of the soft footprint of the Pillow's farm buildings as his tool in drawing out plans for the new studio and added that the landscape's boulders will be reused to give the building the natural appearance of sitting on stones.

"The idea that the people who are using the place," Crouteau said, "are the people who are making the place.

"The Pillow is a place in the Berkshires everyone should see."

The new studio, Education Director J.R. Glover said, "is a dream for every student yet to come."


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