As a legendary center for modern dance, Jacob’s Pillow, located in the Berkshires region of Massachusetts, has a long and proud history of celebrating and fueling the modern techniques that we know and love to day. In Issue 84 of American Lifestyle magazine, we take a behind-the-scenes look at the organizations summer festival, which brings in dancers from across the country to perform, to teach, and to learn.
An excerpt from “Jacob’s Pillow: The Performers’ Perspective“
It feels amazing just to step foot on that property. It’s a National Historic Landmark by law because that farm has been around forever. It was a stop on the Underground Railroad way before it was ever a training ground for dancing. Knowing the history of it and knowing what it created and how the entire modern and contemporary dance movement emerged from this festival—it’s very humbling to be on these grounds.
There’s an unspoken knowledge that you are with your family. It’s hard to overstate the emotional and historical significance of Jacob’s Pillow. Modern dance was popularized by Ted Shawn and his wife Ruth St. Denis when they formed the Denishawn Company and bought a retreat in the form of a farm called Jacob’s Pillow. After he and Ruth split personally and professionally, he began pursuing a new dream that began with a group of men he trained into a dance troupe. In their downtime, they built many of the structures that are still in use at Jacob’s Pillow. To raise money, they would host tea parties, with the dancers serving high tea outdoors to audience members, who would pay seventy-five cents for a cup. The audience would then be treated to a lecture demonstration. It’s a testament to all the ways in which these artists had to struggle to make ends meet. There is so much energy and electricity in the air. You can feel the history.
Read more about the historical significance of one of the largest dance festivals in the country by downloading “Jacob’s Pillow: The Performers’ Perspective” from Issue 84 of American Lifestyle magazine.