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Jacob's Pillow Expanding And Celebrating Past In 2015

David Bazemore

Coming off a record-breaking season with more than $2 million in ticket sales, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival will offer a range of performances and events in 2015. And for public radio listeners things will sound off with a familiar voice in a unique setting.Another side of Ira Glass, host of This American Life, will come out when he leaves the studio and steps onto the Pillow’s stages June 13th and 14th in Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host.  Jacob’s Pillow artistic and executive director Ella Baff says the stories depicted visually through dance are just like the ones heard on the radio show.

“You see Ira doing what he does on radio, but doing it in person,” Baff said. “Some of it is improvised and most of it is scripted the way his radio shows are. But you get to know him in a way that you don’t get to see on radio. He talks about dance and a lot of other things…about life.”

Glass joins the contemporary dance ensemble Monica Bill Barnes & Company for the show, which predates the Pillow’s season opening gala June 20th. Baff says she was won over after seeing a rehearsal performance.

“There’s the perfect and totally engaging Ira Glass and what an unlikely idea,” Baff said. “There’s a great quote from him what a great idea to have this improbable marriage of radio where you can’t see any dancing and dancing which is generally without words. It’s a terrific show. It’s absolutely human in the way that all of Ira’s stories are. It takes what’s mundane about life and somehow makes it extraordinary because it’s mundane.”  

An expansion of Blake’s Barn, home to the Pillow’s archives that contain items dating back to 1894, is expected to be completed in June. Coinciding with the 20th anniversary of public access to the archives, Baff says the renovation will triple the size of viewing areas and storage space.

“We’re going to expand our documentation, photography and videography-area downstairs,” Baff explained. “The public access room – we’re going to have more viewing stations. We have Jacob’s Pillow Dance Interactive station on-site where you can access all kinds of materials from the archives.”

The world premiere of INSTENIO is set for July 22nd at the Pillow’s Ted Shawn Theatre in Becket. Co-commissioned by Jacob’s Pillow, it features American Ballet Theatre principal dancer Daniil Simkin. Baff says the unveiling is much anticipated in the dance world, which obviously brings some angst.

“But you know when you work with artists who are that talented, who are exceptional it’s a pretty good bet that’s going to turn out OK,” Baff said. “You never know for sure, but it’s a pretty good bet.”

Credit Roberto Leon
Malpaso Dance Company

Perhaps having more significance after announcements concerning an easing of diplomatic tensions between the U.S. and Cuba, come August Baff is hopeful more people will see Havana-based group Malpaso featuring live performances by GRAMMY-award winning pianist and composer Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra.

“They are stunning dancers and I think it also gives everybody a little window into what is happening in contemporary dance in Cuba which we will probably see more of now that relations start to thaw a bit more between the countries,” said Baff.

Credit Richard Termine
New York Theatre Ballet in Cinderella

And in June, New York Theatre Ballet brings the ballet Cinderella, a story many kids and parents have fond memories of thanks to the Disney film.

Ten weeks of ticketed performances and free events created some 96,000 visitor experiences at Jacob’s Pillow in 2014, the most successful season on record. Tickets for the 83rd-annual Festival go on sale to members Jan. 12th. Single event tickets go on sale to the public April 1st.

Jim is WAMC’s Associate News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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