Week two (and a half) of Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival 2016 recap… go.
The brilliant, energetic, strong, proud, extremely talented men from Argentina. After two hours of watching this performance in the Ted Shawn Theater, I felt not only a sense of pride of culture and of country, but a genuine honor and poise from each and every performer. As the fifteen or so dancers slash musicians rumbled and roared across the stage, I couldn’t help but think about their origins. If you aren’t privy to the happenings at The Pillow, you should know that with every single performance comes a free pre-show talk from a visiting scholar-in-residence. Fifteen minutes of insight into the work, the company, and the dance style gives you a bit of context before settling into your seat. Before Che Malambo, I learned that these men come from all nooks and crannies of Argentina, none hailing from dance backgrounds. Construction workers, businessmen, people of all trades and industries were rounded up by the artistic director to create a masterpiece of Argentinean culture. As a result, audience members saw fast, intricate footwork blended with the showmanship of what appeared to be seasoned professionals. A non-stop blur from the waist down, the men also brought drumming, boladeros (jump-rope-like percussion instruments), and even bare-footed sections to add both visual and sound effect. What’s more was their passion. The audience gave the men a standing ovation as the show began to close. These performances are some of the first times they’ve ever been presented on a big stage, and dang, what a stage to perform on. I sat close enough to see one of the men posing on his knees choke back tears as the 600 people surrounding me rose and erupted with awe and applause. I can’t even imagine how that must’ve felt.
Bereishit Dance Company
From South Korea, these dancers brought something I have never, ever seen before. A blend of athleticism, precision, fluidity, and confidence, the men and women from Seoul were a complete inspiration. Bow spoke in every language. The duet-turned-trio with two men and an old school bow was a simple yet endearing display of the evolution of this weapon. As audience members, we were left at the ending being targeted by the shooter, placed behind the opponent in such a way that we were left feeling unsafe and unsettled. Balance and Imbalance was on a whole different level… The lifts, the partnering work was unlike any Western contemporary dance I’ve ever seen before. Seamless transitions and disciplined movement combined to create an utter spectacle. Although in total the performance ran at only an hour, we were left entirely speechless. In the next few years, this company will without a doubt be on the radar of every dance lover in our nation. Just you wait.
- DANCEWAVE Company – from Brooklyn, NY, this pre-professional youth company is mature, well versed, and passionate as ever. They made me miss my days at my Maryland home studio, and the camaraderie among my fellow company members as I worked my way through school, through pre-teen years, through growing up. DANCEWAVE performed work by Andrea Miller of Gallim Dance and Kyle Abraham of Abraham.In.Motion. With content spanning a wide range of depth and maturity, these dancers handled each piece with poise and professionalism.
- Ate9 dANCE cOMPANY – so, after our gaga master class with Danielle Agami, we got to see her do a performance-demonstration of sorts. Three of her nine company members joined her here, and each performed a solo or two giving us a snapshot into the choreographic mind of the former Batsheva dancer. If these dancers are any indication of what the full company could offer, I can’t wait to see what an evening of work may look like. I appreciated her willingness to share her process so genuinely, as well as her effortless ability to get the audience moving and experiencing the essence of gaga through our hands and arms. This is how more artists should approach their work – as work for all.
July 4th, Tanglewood, a picnic with cheese and wine, Country Road, Carolina In My Mind, Shower the People, Fire and Rain. Some of my earliest memories are road tripping with my family to Canaan Valley, WV or Salisbury, MD singing along to the familiar Americana tunes of James Taylor. Sitting in the backseat behind the driver, watching the world whiz by as I hummed and wished I knew the words to every song. Seeing him live for the first time with my parents on either side of me was something I will cherish for a long, long time. The day was made even more special with an early morning fly fishing trip with dad, such a treat.
I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain…
Lately, upon witnessing the happenings of this world, each day has felt like a dose of rain among the bright fire of hope. This brings me to what I saw tonight…
And Still You Must Swing
Tap dancing experts Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, Derick K. Grant, and Jason Samuels Smith come together for an incredible percussive performance alongside guest artist and this year’s Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award winner, Camille A. Brown. As I sit here a mere two hours after having witnessed this performance, I can honestly say my blood is still pumping with the same rigor it did two hours ago. Never have I been moved to tears by performers so deeply engaged in their work, so passionate about their artistry, and so in tune with the world around them. These past two days have been utterly devastating on the news – gun violence, racial injustice. Our world seriously needs the arts right now. Each of the four choreographers, alongside a three-man band of extraordinary jazz musicians, had a solo moment throughout the performance. What we saw tonight were the makings of dance history. Letting the emotions of the past few days overcome them, the performers let loose. They abandoned all sense of self, instead channeling those unspeakable emotions into a singular, trustworthy place – their dancing. I was moved to tears, I was smiling ear to ear. Dialogue between audience and performer was so strong I could literally feel that electric connection. Goosebumps. During the post show talk, the artists spoke to that overwhelming emotion. I will not attempt to re-hash their eloquent words, but will rather point you toward the Jacob’s Pillow YouTube Channel, where hopefully you can watch and listen for yourself in a few days.
- Never, have I ever felt so at home, so surrounded by people who feel like I do. There is something magical, something all encompassing about dance that I simply can’t put into words. And that’s what I witnessed tonight.
- Never, have I ever felt so deeply moved by the people around me, like I could move a mountain with these semi-strangers that just so happen to be some of the most intelligent people you’ll ever meet.
- If this is only week THREE, I can’t even begin to imagine what the rest of the summer will look like. Holy guacamole.