Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival —Phoebe Barnes talks about her experience

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Jacob's Pillow Dance is lauded worldwide as a "hub and mecca of dancing" (TIME Magazine), "one of America's most precious cultural assets" (Mikhail Baryshnikov), and "the dance center of the nation" (The New York Times).

Bottom left: the outdoor stage at Jacob's Pillow.
Bottom right: Phoebe with Marge Champion in front of Blake's Barn

Each summer thousands of people from around the globe visit the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts to experience Jacob's Pillow Festival with more than 50 dance companies and 200 free performances, talks, and events; train at The School at Jacob's Pillow, one of the most prestigious professional dance training centers in the U.S.; explore the Pillow's rare and extensive dance Archives; and take part in numerous Community Programs designed to educate and engage dance audiences of all ages.

In 2014, Phoebe Barnes's dream to attend this prestigious Festival came true. Here is what she had to say—

Visiting Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival has been a dream of mine since studying contemporary dance pioneer Ted Shawn in my undergraduate dance degree at Queensland University of Technology.

This year I spent two weeks soaking in the extensive amount of information all related to dance—it was an amazing and inspiring experience! Jacob’s Pillow is a wonderful place to develop career-enriching relationships with dancers, choreographers and dance academics. I was overwhelmed by the passion that the people at Jacob's Pillow have for our art form.

I did my best to participate in every opportunity possible in the two weeks I had the Festival:

  • saw professional shows by companies such as Circa, The Pacific Northwest Ballet and David Rousseve/REALITY;
  • listened to pre- and post-show talks/discussions delivered by dance academics;
  • took master classes with highly valued choreographers including David Rousseve (trained by Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham);
  • viewed dance documentaries such as Miss Hill: Making Dance Matter (a documentary about Martha Hill and her impact on contemporary dance);
  • observed Chet Walker Jr (valued Broadway performer and choreographer who received a Tony Award for his choreography in Fosse) vigorously train the Jacob's Pillow Jazz/Musical theatre students;
  • listened to Wendy Perron (former editor of Dance Magazine) discuss her career in dance as well as her career as a dance critic. Perron also focused her talk on the beginning of post-modern dance in New York in the 1970s;
  • took tours of the Jacob's Pillow grounds whilst learning about Ted Shawn, his choreographic style, his partnership with Ruth St. Denis and his impact on male dancers;
  • spent time in the extremely well stocked dance library.
  • met the Hollywood dance legend, Marge Champion!

I was also lucky enough to meet with J.R Glover, the Director of Education at the festival. We talked about strengthening the relationship between Australia and Jacob's Pillow and increasing attendance by Australian arists. Although Australian companies such as Chunky Move, Lucy Guerin Inc. and Circa have all performed at the Pillow, not many Australians visit the festival, attend summer school or apply for the internship programs.

It was truly inspiring to see so many people who nurture, cherish and love dance as much as many of my Australians colleagues do. It made me realise that pursuing a career in dance is possible!  I recommend that you put this Festival in your dance calendar!