Jacob's Pillow plays on a world stage Saturday night

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Editor's note: This article was updated to clarify that "Dance We Must" will live stream on Jacob's Pillow website. The "Post-show Dance Party" will take place on Zoom. 

BECKET — "All the world's a stage," Jaques says in William Shakespeare's "As You Like It."

"Especially when it's virtual," he might have added had he said those words today instead of 1599.

Saturday evening, all the world will indeed be a stage for Jacob's Pillow when the 88-year-old dance center and festival in the Becket hills presents a free streaming event — "Dance We Must: A Virtual Event in Support of Jacob's Pillow" — beginning at 7 p.m. on its website, followed at approximately 8:30, on Zoom, by, what else, a free post-show dance party, hosted by Christal Brown, with DJ DP One. 

Co-hosted by Wendy Whelan and Kyle Abraham, "Dance We Must" features performances from various locations around the United States by A.I.M by Kyle Abraham, Michelle Dorrance, Irene Rodr guez, Jabu Graybeal, Daniel Ulbricht & Danielle Diniz, and Christopher R. Wilson. In addition, dancer/choreographer Ronald K, Brown will be presented with the 2020 Jacob's Pillow Dance Award.

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Over 6,000 people have registered thus far for "Dance We Must," Jacob's Pillow artistic and executive director Pamela Tatge said in a telephone interview Wednesday from the Madison, Conn., home she shares with her husband and their son when she is not in Becket. "We expect more over the next few days."

While Tatge said she already misses the energy generated by the flow of people moving about the Pillow grounds and buildings, "it gives me such joy to know their eyes will be on the screen."

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Saturday's event, she said, provides an opportunity "to bring the Pillow's story to the world. We wanted to make the evening free so people around the world, people who otherwise might not be coming to Becket, can participate without financial restriction." Still, Tatge is hopeful that viewers will make donations in support of the storied institution.

Under ordinary circumstances, Saturday would have been the night of the Pillow's annual Gala, the official celebratory opening of the Pillow season; an evening of dance performances and the presentation of the annual Jacob's Pillow Dance Award in the Ted Shawn Theatre; food and drink in the large dining tenet across the path from the Shawn; and dancing under the stars on the Pillow's Great Lawn. But these are not ordinary circumstances. COVID-19 has seen to that.

The Pillow's 2020 season was in place by January. Tatge called Brown that month to notify him of the award. Everything was good to go. Then, along came the coronavirus pandemic and everything changed. In March, Tatge and the Pillow board made an unprecedented move to cancel the season.

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At the same time, Tatge said, "We felt we needed a Gala; some way of bringing people together."

So, wearing her cap as producer and director, Tatge reconceived the original Gala. She got together with filmmaker Neo Shelby, a former Jacob's Pillow intern who lives in Becket, where she runs Neo Shelby Productions. The result is Saturday's Zoom gathering.

All the dance pieces that will be performed Saturday are Pillow commissions. "No one is donating their work," Tatge said. "I felt it was important that the artists be compensated for their time."

Tatge acknowledges that in a society that is changing, dramatically, this also is a time of change for the Pillow; a time for rebuilding "in a manner that becomes our field," she said. "We are thinking a great deal about rebuilding; about what rebuilding means." At the very least, Tatge said, it means crafting the Pillow as the institution "the dance world needs us to be; the institution the community at large needs us to be."


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