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Jacob's Pillow In and Out

by Kathryn Boughton

It has been chancy this summer to plan outdoor events. A cloudy morning can yield to a clear skies and sun—or vice versa. Or one day of sun can be followed by a week of gloom and rain.

But Jacob’s Pillow in Becket MA has the perfect solution for the problem: its Inside/Out series of performances by emerging and established dance companies and presentations by dancers studying at its school. The performances, held at 6:15PM Wednesdays through Saturdays throughout the summer, are free and open to the public. A brief question and answer session follows each performance.

Past performances have included classical ballet, contemporary, tap, hip-hop, flamenco, swing, traditional Korean dance, India’s bharata natyam, and many other genres, all performed in the recently rebuilt Henry J. Leir Stage and Marcia & Seymour Simon Performance Space.

“The Inside/Out stage is one of the Pillow's most iconic and cherished spaces,” said Director Pamela Tatge. “Artists from all around the world travel to The Berkshires just to perform here. With free programming, it is a truly democratic space accessible to all.”

The Inside/Out stage was built in 1981, and performances have been held on the stage ever since. “The stage was the brainchild of our previous director Liz Thompson,” said Tatge. “It was designed to provide even more dance artists with the opportunity to perform, while at the same time extending the Pillow experience for audiences, giving them the opportunity to witness performances outdoors with the stunningly dramatic backdrop of the Berkshire hills.”

As with the popular lawn seating at Tanglewood in Lenox MA, patrons are welcome to arrive early to claim a seat or to bring chairs from home. Food and drink are welcome in the performance space. “Each night it attracts between 500 and 1,000 people, from local community members and tourists,” said Tatge. “Some bring their dogs or have elaborate picnics before or after the performances.”

But, if the clouds roll in, the venue can quickly alter course and move the performances indoors to a studio that seats up to 80 people. Seat passes are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis and, when possible, a live video simulcast is shown in a nearby studio with limited seating.

While some performances are cancelled altogether, passes for performances that are moved inside are distributed beginning at 5:20PM. Patrons are encouraged to arrive no sooner than that time if it is raining as they may have to wait in the rain for pass distribution. They can check with the box office to find out if the performance has been moved indoors by calling 413-243-0745 and what to expect in terms of availability.

As in past years, a diverse array of talent has been scheduled for August. Wednesday, Amy Seiwert’s contemporary ballet company Imagery, based in San Francisco, will show excerpts of Wandering, Seiwert’ first evening-length contemporary ballet.

The work has been set to Winterreise, a piano-and-voice cycle by Franz Schubert. The dramatic monologue reflects the story of a wanderer who feels lost from himself and lost from the world.

Seiwert had a 19-year career with the Smuin, LA Chamber and Sacramento Ballets. and became Choreographer in Residence with the Smuin Ballet upon her retirement from dancing in 2008.

On Thursday METdance from Houston TX will appear on the Inside/Out stage for the third time. The program features New Second Line, inspired by the events of Hurricane Katrina and choreographed by Guggenheim Fellow, and Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award winner Camille A. Brown; The Clean-Cut American Stage Show, a fusion of vintage Americana and contemporary design by founder and director of Dark Circles Contemporary Dance Joshua L. Peugh; and Snow Playground, a look at the organized flurry of a winter snowfall by choreographer Katarzyna Skarpetowska.

Friday brings the Inlet Dance Theatre from Cleveland OH, a contemporary dance company founded in 2001 by choreographer and artistic director Bill Wade. Its program includes This Could Hurt, inspired by Ted Shawn and His Men Dancers and the book Wild at Heart by John Eldredge, centered around a group of men having an adventure full of risk; Doppelganger, a duet that plays with balance, dependency and weight sharing; and excerpts from Easter Island Memoirs, the result of a residency on remote, volcanic Easter Island.

This week ends with performers from the Musical Theatre Dance Program sharing excerpts of song-and-dance numbers they are preparing for A Jazz Happening, a benefit for The School at Jacob’s Pillow to be held in the Ted Shawn Theatre August 20th. Under the direction of Broadway choreographer/director Chet Walker, award-winning Broadway choreographers, directors, composers and musicians collaborate to create original numbers on the performers.

In coming weeks, performances will be by the DASH Ensemble on August 9th, performing Ways to Handle, created by Artistic Director Gregory Dolbashian. The Collage Dance Collective from Memphis, Tenn., arrives on August 10th; with excerpts of Testament by Dwight Rhoden; Wash, a new commission by Joshua Manculich; and Beyond the Veil and Lineage by Darrell Grand Moultrie. August 11th brings Etudes-Extended in a dance dialogue between Preeti Vasudevan, classical Bharatanatyam dancer, and Craig Hall, soloist at the New York City Ballet.

Xan Burley and Alex Springer, members of Doug Varone and Dancers, perform on August 16th in a site-specific work making its premiere that night. Periapsis Music and Dance are the guest artists on August 17th with The Portrait Project, comprised of four different short works, each featuring a solo dancer and solo musician. And on August 18th the Stilo Dance company explores Latin social dance.

On August 23rd, Brazilian tap dancer Leonardo Sandoval, takes the stage to present excerpts from his first full-length work, Music from the Sole, an hour-long show created with bassist and composer Greg Richardson. He is followed on August 24th by the American college Dance Association, which will present highlights from its regional festivals. And, on August 25th, the program will take on an Asian aspect when Charya Burt presents her program, Heavenly Garden, a demonstration of classical Cambodian movements and gestures; Sentimental Dance from the classical repertory; and Intersections Through Time, which explores her personal journey as an immigrant artist.

The season closes with Red Sky Performance on August 26th, Canada’s leading company of contemporary Indigenous performers in dance, theater, music and media.