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New England News

Jacob’s Pillow Swings Into Year-Round Schedule

The entrance sign at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival in Becket, Massachusetts
Jim Levulis
/
WAMC

Jacob’s Pillow has been a seasonal dance center for more than eight decades. Now, it’s becoming a year-round venue. 

Since 1933, international dance center Jacob’s Pillow in Becket, Massachusetts has been a destination for its summer festival.

“We created this new beautiful studio for our school, that takes place for 10 weeks in the summer, and we thought, how could we animate our campus year round and use this amazing place to serve audiences and artists," said Pamela Tatge, Director of Jacob’s Pillow. She took over in April 2016, and shortly into her tenure, oversaw the announcement, construction, and opening of the 7,400-square foot Perles Family Studio. The space officially opened in August 2017, and gave the dance center an opportunity to expand its mission beyond the summer months.

“We’re an 86-year-old institution that has had an international and a national gaze, but we haven’t really spent time thinking about our local and our regional community, and how we can use the resources of Jacob’s Pillow to help address some of the issues that Berkshire County faces, that we’re all working together to try to ameliorate. So that gave birth to our community engagement project, and taking dance off the mountain into the communities that surround us,” Tatge said.

While Berkshire County is home to internationally acclaimed cultural institutions like Jacob’s Pillow, it also faces disproportionate levels of scarcity and need.

“What we face here is a declining population. We are also in a situation where we have challenges with transportation, with internet, with affordable housing, jobs, and how can Jacob’s Pillow contribute to the quality of life here in the Berkshires year-round,” Tatge said.

Saturday is the first event in what will be a series at the center aimed at achieving greater community engagement. The debut Pillow Party will feature internationally celebrated dancers Caleb Teicher and LaTasha Barnes teaching swing dance lessons alongside a local swing band.

“The Lucky Five is a hot swing jazz band — we like to call it hot swing, and gypsy jazz style of music that we play, and we’re based primarily out of the Berkshires, Great Barrington area mostly," said Kip Beacco, guitarist of the Lucky Five. The band cites Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke, and Count Basie among its influences, and counts the Berkshires’ large population of second home owners as one of its most reliable audiences.

“The fact that we’re playing Jacob’s Pillow is going to be — it’s an honor really. I’ve heard the name Jacob’s Pillow my whole life, it seems like, and I know it’s known internationally, has a great reputation, and we got a call not too long ago that they’re doing this — I believe it’s a new series called Pillow Party, and we’re going to be the first ones here, we’re going to be doing a swing dance,” said Beacco.

This will be familiar territory for the band, which plays dances regularly in the county, in venues like Sheffield’s Dewey Hall.

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