International performances take center stage at Jacob's Pillow this summer


Summer in the Berkshires means dance is on the move, and at the center of that movement is Jacob's Pillow in Becket.

Energized by a number of international performances and the presence of new director Pamela Tatge, the Pillow is offering a diverse and expansive summer festival — the last put together by former executive and artistic director Ella Baff before she stepped down at the end of last season — with more than 20 performing groups over a two-month period.

Jacob's Pillow will see the return of many of the venue's favorites, including the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet and Hubbard Street Dance and Pacific Northwest Ballet, and a number of dance programs that the audience will find less familiar and just as exciting.

The all-male Argentinian group Che Malambo will perform June 29-July 3 in the Ted Shawn Theatre, a huge treat for Pillow audiences, since the group is rarely seen performing in the United States.

"Their work emanates from traditions of the South American cowboy that evidences itself in this thrilling footwork," Tatge said. "This is percussive dance like you've never seen it, with the use of drumming and lassoes. It's really visual and physical and truly spectacular, and something we've not seen at the Pillow before."

Following a successful stint at Mass MoCA in the spring, Zvidance will return to the Pillow to perform Escher/Bacon/Rothko July 20-July 24, which choreographer Zvi Gotheiner spoke about at his post-show talk at Mass MoCA. Inspired by the three artists in the work's title, Gotheiner's piece wraps in strong visuals into its three sections.

"It's stunning," said Tatge. "That's the word I can use. It's a stunning dance."

Compagnie Hervé KOUBI is an all-male troupe of Algerian and Burkina Faso dancers based in France, who combine the very physical capuera-style competitive dancing with a whirling dervish presentation, with a combination of classical and traditional Sufi music. It will perform French-Algerian choreographer Hervé Koubi's "What the Day Owes to the Night" from Aug. 3 through Aug. 7.

"I saw this in New York maybe two years ago in a studio and it blew my mind," said Tatge.

Tatge said she is particularly excited by FLEXN, whose Aug. 17-Aug. 20 performances will introduce flex dancing, something never before featured at Jacob's Pillow.

"This is a dance tradition that is being done in Brooklyn reggae clubs, but it comes from a Jamaican dance style called Bruck Up," she said.

The program is the result of a collaboration by flex pioneer Reggie (Regg Roc) Gray and director Peter Sellars, and wraps in a social justice mission to fast-paced, original movements. In advance of the performance, Gray and the troupe will visit the Berkshire Museum on July 22 to perform the DREAM Ring.

"We're working in collaboration with the Berkshire Museum to identify hip-hop artists, breakers in the region, to have a competition," Tatje said, "and also a master class with Reggie Gray."

That performance will also take advantage of a Ford Foundation grant for anyone working in a youth group to get $10 tickets for Jacob's Pillow events.

Rounding out the season will be Souleymane Badolo from Aug. 24-Aug. 28. A star of traditional dance in Burkina Faso, Badolo arrived in the United States a decade ago and his traditional work became informed by contemporary dance. This all comes together in Yimbégré, which sees Badolo collaborating with dancer Sylvestre Koffitse Akakpo-Adzaku and drummer Mamoudou Konate.

"What I love about it is it's deeply rooted in the traditional, but has this spiritual uplifting piece," Tatge said. "He's a very spiritual man and I think it will be just beautiful to have this artist in the Duke. It's very athletic, just as African dance is, but it has a very powerful journey that the audiences will go on."


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