A Glimpse Into Jacob's Pillow's Past

August 26, 2012

Any weekend at Jacob’s Pillow is glorious, but I happened to be there on the last weekend of the 80th-anniversary season. I got to see one of the three “back by popular demand” programs chosen to celebrate the anniversary—Doug Elkins’ over-the-top, hilarious Fraulein Maria. (Read director Ella Baff’s “Quick Q&A” about her plans for the 80th.) I also got to see the Joffrey Ballet’s dazzling program of three contemporary works. (My review will be posted on the reviews page soon.) And I was lucky to catch the last two days of the anniversary photo exhibit in Blake’s Barn that was mounted by the ever inventive Pillow archivist, Norton Owen.

Instead of organizing the exhibit chronologically, Norton has divided these treasures into categories that stretch back to the 1930s and forward to the present. One theme was “Celebrated Partnerships,” and it included this early shot of Merce Cunningham and Carolyn Brown.


Carolyn Brown and Merce Cunningham in
 1955. Photo by John Lindquist, copyright Harvard Theatre Collection.

Another category was “Icons.” Of course Pina Bausch is an icon, but Norton dug up an early photo of her that has never been printed before.


Pina Bausch in a work by Jean Cebron, 1968. Photo by John Van Lund.

Going back to almost the beginning, the Pillow was always interested in dances of “Cultural Diversity,” because both Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn drew inspiration from dances in faraway places. This photo belongs in that category.

Ted Shawn and His Men Dancers in
Ponca Indian Dance, 1934. Photo by Shapiro Studios.


The above is just a taste of the exhibition that was up all summer. If you haven’t had a chance to visit the Pillow this summer, there’s always next summer. But I hope you know that you can also partake of the Pillow archives just by clicking. Read our Dance Matters on the Pillow Interactive and get ready to enjoy the Pillow’s treasures all year long. —Wendy Perron


All photos are courtesy Jacob’s Pillow.