Ballet Program students bow at the 2008 Gala; Hunter Runnette (top) & Helice Picheny's (bottom)

Meet Hunter Runnette and Helice Picheny, two Jacob's Pillow Board Members on a mission to make the famous Pillow Season Opening Gala even more fun and fabulous than ever. Here the Gala co-Chairs give us a sneak peak at what they've got in store for this year's bash.

PillowPages: What do you think are the most important elements of a good party?

Hunter Runnette: I think the elements of a good party are threefold. When one enters a good party, the excitement and anticipation from a buzz generated over the preceding months sets a tone that is almost hypnotic. Secondly, the talent, the dance. and quality of an evening well spent makes the evening fly by. Thirdly, and I think most importantly, when all is said and done, it is so gratifying to know that each connection, each dollar, each moment of dance either on or off the stage has secured the future of Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival.

Helice Picheny: Yes. [chuckling] All that and great music to DANCE, DANCE, DANCE!

PP: If someone has never been to a Pillow Gala before, how would you describe the event to them? What's the most enjoyable aspect of the evening to you?

HP: The Pillow Gala is the Gala to expect the unexpected. A fabulous mix of people who get to experience what the Pillow represents: dance at its best. I always delight in the amazing, and I mean amazing performances by students who have been taught by a master dance artist for an extremely short period of time. Their performance is always an incredible highlight.

HKR: I find it indescribable in many ways, because to say that it is all about dance narrows it to the listener's preconceived ideas of dance, so I much prefer to say it is a place where you will experience a worldly expression of dance, theatre, a celebration of movement, of great celebrity, and young students of dance that have extraordinary merit. You will leave knowing why the Pillow is the National Landmark for dance.

PP: The Gala kicks off with an amazing performance in the Ted Shawn Theatre, programmed by Ella Baff. What are you particularly looking forward to at this year's show?

HKR: Every year that I have gone to the Gala performances, I have been told it gets "better and better," so I am always looking for the performance, or the speech, or the combination of events that make it a cut above the last year. Like Helice, I can without doubt say that I am always, always, always enthralled by our students' performances, there is an energy that is unequaled for that moment in their lives, which sends a chill of exhilaration down the audience's collective spine.

HP: That is an extremely difficult question to answer, but I am really looking forward to seeing the amazing Nina Ananiashvilli dance.

PP: Do you have a favorite Gala memory?

HKR: It seems to happen every year. Watching dance come alive on the stage, then later on the dance floor. Seeing the art and the sharing of the art form between students, professionals, and all lovers of the dance is always a joy.

HP: I love that too! I also love the excitement of the live auction. What could be better? Witnessing so much generosity to ensure a future for dance, dancers, and Jacob's Pillow itself is a true thrill.

PP: Who are you hoping to dance with at this year's Gala?

HP: Besides my husband, I love interacting with all the young people at the Pillow. They bring great life to the party.

HKR: I'm hoping to dance with first-time Jacob's Pillow Gala attendees!

To purchase tickets to the Season Opening Gala and secure your place on Hunter's dance card, call 413.243.9919 x126.

Read the next article: New Pillow Members

PillowPages April 2010:
Hunter and Helice Q&A

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