Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival
- Norton Owen
It is widely regarded as the oldest and most extensive dance festival in the world, located on a National Historic Landmark site in the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts. Founded by the modern dance pioneer ted Shawn in 1933, the Pillow dates its origins to the first performance by Shawn and his Men Dancers, a company that was synonymous with the festival until it disbanded in 1940. For the first decade, all performances were afternoon events in a simple barn studio with no electricity. In 1942 a formal board organized and raised funds to build America’s first theater especially for dance, designed by Joseph Franz, who also built the Music Shed at nearby Tanglewood. In this 620-seat theater, which has continued to bear his name, Shawn instituted an ambitious program encompassing a full range of dance styles, nurturing indigenous American dance and importing international artists, while serving as a showcase for leading performers and newcomers alike....