The world comes together at Jacob's Pillow

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BECKET — For its director, Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival is more than a place to watch performers, world-renowned and upstart alike.

"We want people to know this is a place to linger," said Pamela Tatge, who in April marked a year on the job. "Enhancing experiences beyond performance is part of our goal."

During its 85th anniversary year, there are myriad opportunities to experience all that the country's venerable dance festival has to offer. There are about 350 events planned for its season, more than half of which are free and open to the public.

Its opening fundraising gala, set for Saturday, is sold-out. However, tickets are still available for a dance after-party with music from Paul Loren and His One Night Only Band.

The New York City-based Loren's music, with bits of soul, rhythm and blues and the American songbook, is described as "golden-tone pop" on his website.

When she joined the organization last year, Tatge oversaw the programming set in place by then outgoing director Ella Baff. In curating her first season, and a festival anniversary year, Tatge said she set out to balance elements of dance from its past, what's relevant now and where the art form is headed, she said.

Performances by Paul Taylor, Trisha Brown and Pilobolus, companies that have long visited the festival, and Jacob's Pillow Jumps, a photo exhibition of dance aerial feats curated by Norton Owen, director of preservation, help meet that goal of honoring its past.

"Dance is a part of every culture," she said. It is about recognizing "dance as a form of expression. It is a wonderful way to bring the world together."

The season, June 21-August 27, includes a number of national and international artists who will perform a variety of genres and styles. Among them: modern, contemporary, ballet, hip-hop, improvisation, flex — a style of rhythmic street dance — tap, step, Brazilian social, traditional Native American, Bharatanatyam, classical Cambodian, Latin ballroom, capoeira, as well as traditional Korean movement styles.

As President Donald Trump focuses on putting "America first" and technology makes it easier to live and work in isolation, Tatge said fostering inclusion is vital.

"At this time in our history it is important to find things that we have in common," she said. "Dance allows you to be touched in a nonverbal way — connecting without words — and I think that is really powerful."

One way Tatge is making those connections is through expanded community partnerships, including bringing free live dance off its campus to Pittsfield's Third Thursday outdoor street festival.

And the festival is preparing for moves it plans to make in the years ahead; details of which will be announced at its gala and unveiled to the public at large in the coming days and weeks, she said.

The season also includes live music, world premieres, commissions, and site-specific work.

"I am very interested in the site of Jacob's Pillow," which was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2003. The site is home to expansive grounds nestled in the woods, as well as a its pre-professional dance school, studios, theatres, archives, and a number of buildings handcrafted by founder Ted Shawn and His Men Dancers in the 1930s. All of which is open for the public to explore the majority of the time free of charge.

Tatge has commissioned Pilobolus and invited Japanese-born artist Eiko Otake to perform site-specific works that honor the festival's unique spaces. The former is free and the latter a ticketed event.

The new work from Pilobolus will be created for and performed on its Inside/Out stage June 21-23.

Otake's work, called "A Body at the Pillow" and set for performance on July 22, is another connection to its roots.

Tatge said the dance will take viewers on a tour of some of the boulders that dot the Pillow's land. The festival grounds, initially a farm, were named for a large rock "pillow" located behind the farmhouse. The Book of Genesis includes the story of Jacob who lays his head upon a rock and dreams of a ladder to heaven.

Fitting for a season Tatge says she designed, in part, to connect people and transcend differences.


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