July at Jacob’s Pillow: A Month of Beautiful Moves
By Robin Catalano
Dance aficionados, rejoice: As the Berkshire cultural season kicks into high gear, so too does the Jacob’s Pillow 2013 festival. With a variety of fresh performances on tap, July is the perfect time to sample dance that runs the gamut from accessible to avant-garde, and from an intriguing array of companies. “There is a lot of brand new work and presentations with live music,” says Pillow Executive and Artistic Director Ella Baff, as well as unusual programs from international companies, some of them making their U.S. debut. Here are our top picks for the month.
Cedar Lake Contemporary
Photo courtesy of Cedarlakedance.com
One of the most exciting companies currently working in the United States, the New York–based Cedar Lake is a diverse, intercontinental group whose mission to acquire and commission new works by emerging choreographers usually has extraordinary results — as in their 2009 performance at the Pillow. Cedar Lake’s utterly fearless dancers are equally at home hanging from an architectural set, chucking themselves (and each other) around with abandon, and performing a touching, same-sex pas de deux. They’ll be performing Grace Engine by Crystal Pite (artistic director of Pillow favorite Kidd Pivot), Necessity, Again by Norwegian absurdist Jo Strømgren, and several other dances.
Wednesday, July 3, through Saturday, July 6, at 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, July 6, and Sunday, July 7, at 2:00 p.m.
Forget the Bollywood bastardization of traditional Indian dance: Indian-born, Paris-raised Shivalingappa’s work is deeply rooted in the rhythmic 2,000-year-old classical style Kuchipudi, which uses dance as an expression of devotion and divine beauty. Meticulous, sharp, and seemingly weightless, Shivalingappa brings joy and meaning to the tiniest inclination of the head, flick of the fingers, and pop onto relevé. Featuring live music.
Wednesday, July 3, through Saturday, July 6, at 8:15 p.m.
Saturday, July 6, and Sunday, July 7, at 2:15 p.m.
Photo: Michael Slobodian, courtesy of Jacob’s Pillow Dance
No matter the choreographer or the work, Ballet BC (which has rebounded brilliantly after narrowly escaping bankruptcy in 2009) is always ambitious, athletic, and intensely technical. Although the three pieces on the bill — A.U.R.A. (Anarchist Unit Related to Art), Petite Cérémonie, and Aniel — were created in different time periods by different choreographers, each explores, among other themes, the humanity of the collective. The latter two, by Medhi Walerski and Ballet BC Artistic Director Emily Molnar, respectively, are also insightful and funny; no easy feat in an art form that’s frequently associated with drama. “Humor requires such a precise and accurate sense of timing,” Molnar observes. “I was not trying to be funny with, for instance, a handshake. We adopted this perspective where people are just walking sideways into a world they don’t know. . . . You just have to be fully invested in these interactions.” Safe to say, Ballet BC hits every note just right.
Wednesday, July 17, through Saturday, July 20, at 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, July 20, and Sunday, July 21, at 2:00 p.m.
Tere O’Connor Dance
Photo: Julieta Cervantes; courtesy of Jacob’s Pillow Dance
One of the more intimate and personal dances on the Pillow program this month is O’Connor’s Cover Boy, an abstract interpretation of the closeted gay experience, with its attendant feelings of isolation from the larger community and tight connections within the smaller one. The piece is filled with contrasts of emotion; sudden shifts between dance vocabularies; and O’Connor’s signature small, often poignant gestures. O’Connor, who is also a professor of dance at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, says, “There’s a convergence of history in the work, layers of styles of movement. Some is the realm of invention. I don’t necessarily make a value system about the styles. But I’ve included many, many references. I’m just looking for a full range of expression, of how the style of dance gets its form.”
Wednesday, July 17, through Saturday, July 20, at 8:15 p.m.
Saturday, July 20, and Sunday, July 21, at 2:15 p.m.
Photo: Gadi Dagon, courtesy of Jacob’s Pillow Dance
Founded by odd-couple collaborators Gai Behar, an underground art and rave producer, and Sharon Eyal, whom Pillow Executive and Artistic Director Ella Baff calls “probably the most talked-about choreographer in contemporary dance right now,” L-E-V is a new contemporary company out of Israel. For its U.S. premiere, the troupe offers HOUSE, an avant-garde exploration of sensuality, sexuality, and androgyny. (A shorter version was originally performed by the Batsheva Dance Company, whom Eyal danced with and choreographed for, in 2011.) The experimental style of movement is by turns sinuous, intense, alien, and mesmerizing. Not for dance newbies.
Wednesday, July 24, through Saturday, July 27, at 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, July 27, and Sunday, July 28, at 2:00 p.m.
Photo: Matthew Murphy, courtesy of Jacob’s Pillow Dance
Prodigiously talented 33-year-old tap dancer Michelle Dorrance — the winner of this year’s Jacob’s Pillow Award — has toured with some of the best-known shows in recent history, and two years ago formed her own company, Dorrance Dance, to highlight a form that’s pretty much fallen off the average person’s radar. And Dorrance does it with gusto, negotiating complex rhythms, tempo changes, dynamics, and emotional shading, all with the ever-present smile and ease of a woman out for a morning walk. Dorrance Dance’s The Blues Project is said to loosely examine the historic parallels in the development of . . . Oh, who are we kidding? The troupe is amazing, as are the live musicians. Go see them, already.
Wednesday, July 24, through Saturday, July 27, at 8:15 p.m.
Saturday, July 27, and Sunday, July 28, at 2:15 p.m.
Photo: Steve Murez, courtesy of Jacob’s Pillow Dance
If you like your classical technique — stretched legs, pointed toes, pirouettes that go on forever, and curtain-grazing jetés — mixed with a bit of wit and modernism, 3e étage (Third Floor) is for you. An independent company comprised of some of the top dancers from the Paris Opera Ballet, 3e étage loves to thumb its nose at classical conventions, as well as indulge that singularly French penchant for mime. But make no mistake: Le Pillow Thirteen is a Pillow-commissioned, hard-core ballet suite by twenty-something choreographer/director Samuel Murez. “Sam likes to create programs that weave a story and characters together — not like a conventional narrative like Giselle, for example, but his own way that connects themes and characters we see on stage,” Baff explains. “He makes the audience feel very included.”
Wednesday, July 31, through Saturday, August 3, at 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, August 3, and Sunday, August 4, at 2:00 p.m.