Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival: Check your notions at the door


358 George Carter Road, Becket.

(413) 243-0745; jacobspillow.org

An international dance festival in Becket, founded in 1933 by Ted Shawn, who purchased the property, then a farm, in 1931 as a retreat for the summer school he ran in Westport, Conn. Now dance companies from the United States and around the world perform in two theaters -- Ted Shawn Theatre (620 seats) and Doris Duke (220 seats).

The festival also supports a school, dance residencies, a gallery and an outdoor area for its free Indoor/Outdoor series.

2013 season: June 15-Aug. 25

Tickets prices: Ted Shawn Theatre, $39-$59; Doris Duke Theatre, $22, $38.


• Pillow Pub. Bistro menu featuring wraps, sandwiches, salads, hot and cold beverages, wine and beer. Open Wenesday-Friday, 5 p.m.-midnight; Saturday, noon-midnight; Sunday, noon-5.

• Pillow Cafe. Sit-down served dinners. Open Wednesday-Saturday, 5-8 p.m. Reservations advised, (413) 243-0745.

• Ice cream bar.

• Coffee bar. Coffee, tea, cold beverages, snacks.

• Pillow Store. Souvenirs, jewelry clothing, DVDs, books.

Low or free admission highlights:

• Inside/Out. A variety of dance performances often by Pillow dance students, at the outdoor Marcia and Seymour Simon Performance Space. Wed.-Sat. 6:15 p.m. Free

• Pillow Talks. Presentations by noted artists, filmmakers, choreographers, writers. Blake's Barn. Fridays, 5-6 p.m.; Saturdays 4-5 p.m. Free

• The School of Jacob's Pillow. Observe dancers in classes and rehearsal as they work with faculty and resident choreographers and directors. Days and times vary. Free.

• Free exhibits. Blake's Barn.

• Community and special events.


1. In the 1850s, the 800-acre family farm that became Jacob's Pillow was a station on the Underground Railway for southern slaves fleeing to Canada.

2. The Pillow gets its name from an odd-shaped rock behind the farmhouse, clearly seen on the open lawn in front of the Ted Shawn Theatre.

3. While she's not an avid sports fan, Ella Baff, who is in her 16th season as Jacob's Pillow's executive director, says that, in addition to ice skating and gymnastics, she loves basketball because "you see beautiful [physical] execution."

The way Jacob's Pillow executive director Ella Baff sees it, you don't need to know a thing about dance to have a good time at the summerlong international dance festival.

"Check your preconceptions at the door and enjoy yourself," Baff said.

"Once you arrive," she says, "you will feel comfortable, engaged.

"You can spend a day, a weekend exploring dance. You can go into a dance studio and at your leisure watch students being trained by master dancers. We have people on site who will guide you, if you like."

The idea, Baff says, is to develop an audience for dance in particular and the arts in general. To do that, she says, "we've created an open campus here, offering a couple 100 free events. We want to open up the Pillow and the world of dance to everyone.

"Once people are here, they get curious and once they get curious they become engaged and engagement can lead to passion."

As a child growing up in New York, Yuki Cohen, 45, took ballet classes for 15 years but dance didn't become a passion until she saw an Inside/Out performance at Jacob's Pillow on her first trip to the Berkshires in 1998.

Attracted by the music of Radiohead, Cohen's first venture indoors at the Pillow was in August 2010 for Ballet Maribor's "Radio & Juliet," in the Ted Shawn Theatre.

Now Cohen, a wealth adviser at Berkshire Bank and co-owner of Moe's Tavern in Lee (which sponsors two Inside/Out events each season), goes to the Pillow as often as possible for performances inside the Pillow's two theaters, and outside, and she takes her two daughters, Sophie, 5, and Zoe, 3, both students at Cantarella School of Dance in Pittsfield.

"They love the Inside/Out stage," Cohen said by telephone from her Pittsfield condominium. "They can play and watch dance at the same time. Every time they come home from the Pillow, they put on a little dance performance for me."

Cohen says she appreciates the Pillow's immediacy and intimacy.

"In New York," she says, "you feel like a spectator at a dance performance. Here ... you feel part of the performance."


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