Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival
ON THE ROAD WITH DGDC: THOUGHTS AND PHOTOS FROM OUR TRIP TO THE PILLOW
Click on the photos to enlarge
Wednesday night’s storm, July 18, caused thousands of power outages and hail the size of quarters. As we danced before a plucky crowd of supporters, lightning lit up the dark Manhattan sky through the studio’s windows. Daniel, Stefanos Milkidis, our Production Manager, and Ryu Cruz, our Wardrobe Supervisor, picked up the 15-passenger van and drove it up to Northern Manhattan, DGDC’s home. Costumes were washed and hung to dry (helped by fans), the night’s showing was reviewed for notes, last minute emails were sent to the dancers, and bags were packed.
In the morning the Company assembled early and by 8am we were on the road, Berkshire-bound. Gloom and light rain in Connecticut did not dampen our moods as you can see from this snapshot Ryu took of us during a stretch and bathroom break.
Crossing the Massachusetts state line the sun broke through along with a collective sigh of relief. The Company enjoyed a lunch outside behind The Pillow’s Stone Dining Room while Pillow videographer Nel Shelby and her crew interviewed Daniel, an alum, for the Festival’s archives.
In the heat of the early afternoon sun we spaced through the entire show, from start to finish. Daniel decided everyone would start on stage for the beginning of Olympiad rather than run up the four sets of stairs during the music’s introduction, a change that was met with enthusiasm. After all had been worked through we had a Dress Rehearsal, finishing at 4:30.
The Company was invited to a photo shoot with the Pillow’s resident photographer Christopher Duggan. During the hour break before the show, Stacy and Daniel visited his outdoor natural light studio where he captured the two in Museum. We look forward to sharing images from this shoot!
During this time Ryu and Eliza Wiener, our wardrobe and stylist assistant, prepared the dancers’ hair (in summertime braids) and made sure all of the costumes were accounted for the show. Dancers either stretched on the stage, reviewed some of the choreography (Micah was going through the paces of King Porter Stomp with his headphones), or stayed in the shady dressing room, an open-air area just below the stage facing the mountains. At 6:15, we were introduced by Laura Paige Kyber, The Pillow’s Program Coordinator, and Daniel called places!
Olympiad opened the program, a vibrantly costumed, driving, go-for-broke, ensemble piece featuring sweeping runs, intersecting lines, explosive jetes, flamenco-inspired duets and a circle known as Wildfire. A feat of stamina and speed, the athletic Olympiad earned the audience’s first applause of the night, before the work had finished!
Commissioned by the 2011 Nazareth College Arts Center’s Dance Festival in Rochester, NY, where it had its premiere last July, the piece, with its shifting patterns, was originally created to be performed on a lawn, an appropriate dance to bring to the Pillow, a barefoot tribute to the many lawn dances of years past. Daniel remembers being part of a famous one Mark Morris led years ago on the Great Lawn at The Pillow when a student at the school.
Museum, a companion piece to Olympiad, immediately followed. Created for five couples, Museum is sensuous and slow moving, in contrast to Olympiad‘s sprint. The music is an original score by our longtime collaborator, Philadelphia-based composer Jeff Story.
The program continued with several of the audience and critical favorites from Encore. Opening this selection was South to music of the same name by Benny Moten and featuring Becky, Jeff and Daniel. Their raucous interactions signal to the audience, and to each other, that a show is definitely starting, with musicality and humor! This dance has always opened Encore, good-natured presentational fun with inventive partnering.
Automobile Ride, to Jerome Kern’s lively music, was performed by Stacy, Becky, Madeline, Jeff and Derek. Rose Room, recorded by Benny Goodman and His Orchestra, deconstructs ballroom dancing. The duet was danced by Becky and Daniel, a duet they have danced for years. To witness their attraction was an intimate sight. One of the dancers’ favorite pieces, Rose Room had the easy languor and love of a special summer romance.
Madeline Hoak ripped out the first minute of the infamous Harlem Congo, to music of Chick Webb, as a soloist. As she said afterward: “After five years, it’s finally in my body.” The inestimable King Porter South, another favorite of the dancers, meets Jelly Roll Morton’s composition, played by Benny Moten, head on. Stacy, Becky, Courtney and Micah danced this with verve and style. Porter is one of the dances that really gets under your skin as a dancer. Congrats to Micah and Courtney for making their debut!
The infectious show-stopping Well, Git It!, raised the pulse of everyone in attendance. Anything you can do, I can do better. Sy Oliver’s composition is performed by The Dorsey Brothers, one for the ages.
The Summertime Suite spools six dances together with the narrative thread of a young girl separating for the summer from a parental figure. Tisket, an audience favorite, uses a hip rendition of the song we all know, features a great dress, a tiny basket, and a heaping of humor.
Character is the first dance from which all of Encore came and its heart. The music is The Basin Street Blues composed by Spencer Williams and played by Louis Armstrong and His Hot Seven. Depicting the complex emotions of an entertainer, the attraction to and separation from an audience, Character questions the boundaries between performing and not performing. When is one? When is one not? It has been performed at many venues including The Kennedy Center and this August will be performed by Daniel at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
The suite includes the 1902 hit In The Good Old Summertime, Mungo Jerry’s 1970s hit In The Summertime and Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer performed by Nat King Cole. A refreshing repertory for an outside summer festival. This suite of six dances evokes the wonderment and joy of summer from various perspectives. As the publication Back Stage wrote, “Of all the dances in Encore, Summertime is the best of them all.”
What a success it was! 500 people were there to see us, a record for a Thursday night performance on the Inside/Out stage according to The Pillow’s staff. Our very long curtain call was also a record. One Pillow supporter, who has attended the Inside/Out programming for fourteen years, remarked to us that she had never seen a standing ovation for a troupe in this venue. And Christopher Duggan, the Pillow’s photographer, called it “one of the best performances I’ve ever seen on that stage.”
Many families and children were attracted to the event and stayed engaged for the entire program. Most gratifying of all was the woman we met in a wheelchair who said her daily chronic pain was alleviated during our performance. Calling it the best performance she had ever seen at The Pillow she said that for the time we were dancing she was so full of delight and happiness that she was unaware of her own situation. For the Company this is the highest compliment an artist can receive, to know that we can impact someone at that deep a level. Audience members, during our question and answer, and after, remarked on the total joy of the program.
We are grateful to have had the support of the weather and to have danced in such a stunning setting. As it is hard to describe the magic of the performance and the beauty of the setting, we are thrilled that Christopher’s photos capture us so brilliantly. To see a collection of more of his photographs, visit our Facebook page!
Following the performance we celebrated with friends and family of the Company’s who had come from as far away as Florida.
We stayed over in The Berkshires enjoying the celebration late into the night. The next morning, in the driving rain, we returned to the City.
With love and gratitude for your support!