Pillow Power: Pamela Tatge Curates Her First Jacob's Pillow Season

June 14, 2017

It may be Jacob’s Pillow’s 85th season, but it’s director Pamela Tatge’s first time presenting her curatorial vision at its summer dance festival. “The stakes are high,” admits Tatge. “I needed to honor the past, consider the artists who have had a long association with the Pillow, and introduce my favorites, as well.” Keeping with Pillow tradition, audiences can expect a wide range of genres, from ballet (Miami City Ballet, The Washington Ballet, Ballet Hispanico) to flamenco Afro-Cuban fusion (Compañía Irene Rodríguez).

Both the personal and the profound entered into her choice to bring Paul Taylor Dance Company back after a long absence. “I saw Esplanade when I was 13,” recalls Tatge. “That joy was so powerful onstage. I saw what dance can be.” And on a more bittersweet note, just months after Trisha Brown’s death, the Trisha Brown Dance Company returns, performing a specially curated program highlighting the company’s history, along with other works.

Presenting companies from across the nation remains high on Tatge’s priorities. The Los Angeles–based Ate9 dANCE cOMPANY graduates from the Inside/Out stage (last summer) to the Doris Duke this summer. Several other artists are making their Pillow debuts, including the Israeli company Roy Assaf Dance (which is also making its U.S. debut), Faye Driscoll, Aakash Odedra, NW Dance Project and Canadian choreographer Marie Chouinard, whose Pillow visit is long overdue, according to Tatge. “She’s such a risk taker and a provocateur,” says Tatge.

Younger artists who have made a home at the Pillow are also represented, including Jessica Lang Dance and Jonah Bokaer, as well as several Pillow Award winners: Michelle Dorrance in the role of curator for the first time at the festival, Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion, Camille A. Brown and John Heginbotham, who collaborates with illustrator Maira Kalman for the world premiere The Principles of Uncertainty.

Pilobolus will premiere a work made specifically for the iconic Inside/Out stage. Photo by PeiCheck Productions Photography & Visual Arts, Courtesy Jacob’s Pillow.

Building on everything the storied festival has stood for over the decades, Tatge demonstrates that it is indeed possible to look ahead and be mindful of the past in one sweeping season.

Beyond the Festival

Pamela Tatge, who served as director of the Center for the Arts at Wesleyan University for 16 years, is infusing the Pillow with programs aimed at students and faculty. The launch of the College Partnership Program supports academic research and curriculum development, along with more access to the Pillow’s treasured archives. The year-round Creative Development residencies have been expanded to a total of 10, and also welcome college students and dance faculty for residency showings. Expect a more robust outreach program, too, with Pillow Pop-Up performances in nearby Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

Eiko Otake brings her acclaimed “A Body in Places” series to the Pillow this summer. Photo by William Johnston, Courtesy Jacob’s Pillow.