Jacob’s Pillow’s year-round premiere dance center for research and development

Read about the Spring 2021 Pillow Lab Artists

The Pillow Lab is a residency program that supports U.S.-based and international dance artists during crucial development, research, and technical stages of choreography-driven projects, and offers the opportunity to work in the Pillow’s retreat-like atmosphere, regenerative landscape, and state-of-the-art studio spaces.

Now in its fourth year of serving artists, the Pillow Lab reimagined a residency program that has existed in various forms since the Pillow’s inception in the early 1930s. Built from a field-wide scan which included interviews with a diverse group of 36 U.S.-based choreographers and examined existing choreographic residency programs at peer institutions, the Pillow Lab fits into the overall national and international dance ecology with a distinctive mission, vision, set of values, and approach.

Go inside the Pillow Lab with Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award-winner John Heginbotham and acclaimed illustrator Maira Kalman:

Customized residencies offered through the Pillow Lab give artists the time and space to research and develop new work with varying levels of technical aspects and research components, including the opportunity to fund an essential “outside eye.” They include access to the Pillow’s Archives, free housing, a stipend, filmed archival video footage, and most conclude with a virtual public showing as part of the series “Inside the Pillow Lab,” with additional opportunities for members at the $500 level and above and partners of the College Partnership Program to provide reactions, feedback, and questions to the artists.

The Spring 2021 Pillow Lab season includes 7 residencies, bringing artists from around the United States to the Pillow’s site. The work created during the residency may be at varying stages of development and may or may not be performed at the Festival. Artists that take part in the Pillow Lab are chosen through a closed selection process.

The development of new work is of the utmost importance to the Pillow and the dance field at large.

Built from the Jacob’s Pillow mission to support dance creation, presentation, education, and preservation; and to engage and deepen public appreciation and support for dance, the Pillow Lab strengthens the artistic core of the Pillow while expanding opportunities for year-round programming. Realizing the goals of Vision ’22, the Pillow Lab enhances artist development while nurturing the process of choreography.

Creative development residencies have been offered to artists in past years, supporting hundreds of artists including Mark Morris and Yo-Yo Ma, Big Dance Theater, Kate Weare, Kyle Abraham, Jessica Lang, Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener, Bryan Arias, Suzanne Farrell, The Cambodian Project, Kimberly Bartosik, Jodi Melnick, Monica Bill Barnes, Chet Walker, John Jasperse, Dorrance Dance, and many more. A more robust and varied program is now possible through recent upgrades to facilities, including the opening of the Perles Studio, the acquisition of stage lighting equipment for the Doris Duke Theatre, and the addition of winterized housing, allowing for technical and research residencies as well as artistic.

Spring 2021 Pillow Lab Artists

Dorrance Dance returned to Jacob’s Pillow for two weeks at the end of 2020 to develop new choreography and music, celebrating their first in-person rehearsals together since March. Led by the artistic team of Michelle Dorrance, Josette Wiggan, and Nicholas Van Young, Dorrance Dance is one of the nation’s leading tap dance companies, exploring what is most thrilling, brilliant, and beautiful about tap dancing—that it is, at once, movement and music.The short film documenting this in-process work screens Thursday, January 14 on YouTube, and remains available to watch thereafter.

Already a celebrated principal dancer with the New York City Ballet, Taylor Stanley had a breakout moment in 2018 with what Dance Magazine called an “epic” performance in Kyle Abraham’s The Runaway, a commission for NYCB that featured Stanley dancing to music by Jay-Z and Kanye West. Stanley now joins a growing number of ballet stars who are pursuing new movement frontiers, coming to the Pillow with a team of artists including Lloyd Knight (Martha Graham Dance Company), Jacquelin Harris (Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater), Allysen Hooks (Gallim Dance), and Ned Sturgis (Dušan Týnek Dance Theater) in a new Pillow-commissioned ensemble work by postmodern choreographer Jodi Melnick. Recent Pillow Lab artist and 2020 Guggenheim Fellow Shamel Pitts will also choreograph a solo for Stanley. With an unpretentious movement style noted as being “elegantly forceful…calm, confident, divinely cool,” (Brian Seibert, The New York Times) Stanley is a natural fit for these exploratory contemporary ventures.The short film documenting this in-process work screens Thursday, February 18 on YouTube, and remains available to watch thereafter.

Hailed as “magnificent” and “utterly compelling” by The New York Times, Nélida Tirado has received international recognition for her grace, style, and dynamics as a Spanish/flamenco and Latin dancer. Noting immense differences in the two genres stylistically, and links between the two due to histories such as Spain’s colonization of Puerto Rico, Tirado connects deeply to the musical qualities of both and their capacity to reflect deeply personal themes and sentiments such as loss, love, pain, and joy. Based in New York City, Tirado choreographs, performs, and teaches in both styles, earning accolades such as Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch” and presenting her work at venues such as Joe’s Pub, Gibney, and many others including an appearance in the forthcoming film version of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical In The Heights. During her Pillow Lab residency, Tirado and collaborators will continue development on Dime Quien Soy, an exploration of Andalusian flamenco and Nuyorican salsa that offers a prismatic perspective on politics, race, and diaspora.The short film documenting this in-process work screens Thursday, April 15 on YouTube, and remains available to watch thereafter.

INSPIRIT began as a performance ensemble and educational conglomerate dedicated to gathering female choreographers to collaborate, show new works, and expand perceptions of women. Founding Artistic Director Christal Brown’s vision has grown to encompass an all-male ensemble and to contribute to the legacies of JoyeMovement, Angela’s Pulse, Sydnie L. Mosley and Dancers, Brotherhood Dance, and Maverick Dance Ensemble. Brown has an extensive history as a performer, appearing with Chuck Davis’ African-American Dance Ensemble, Andrea E. Woods/Souloworks, and Gesel Mason Performance Projects as well as apprenticing with the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange and the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company before finding a home with Urban Bush Women, where she spent three seasons as a principal performer and community specialist. Brown will continue work on a multiyear project entitled What We Ask of Flesh, which began in collaboration with poet and scholar Remica Bingham. Aligning Bingham’s text with personal narratives, soundscapes by Faria Malianga, and the clarifying eye of dramaturg Arielle Brown, What We Ask of Flesh delivers a comprehensive analysis of the capacity of a human life.The short film documenting this in-process work screens Thursday, April 22 on YouTube, and remains available to watch thereafter.

2020 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award recipient and frequent Festival artist Ronald K. Brown will return to the Pillow with his ensemble to develop The Equality of Night and Day, a new work examining balance, equity, and fairness in light of the conflicts and issues that young people, women, and people of color face amidst rising exploitation, gentrification, racism, and xenophobia. The Equality of Night and Day, which draws its title from the two times a year when day and night are nearly equal in length, will portray ease and disruption, peace and rapture, awakening and effort, resolving in an honest reflection of reality. With an original score by Jason Moran, text by Angela Davis, and visuals curated by Deborah Willis, the project will result from a collaborative process that includes conversations via artistic expression about shared responsibility and safety, among other timely themes. Brown is celebrated for his pioneering work portraying the struggles, tragedies, and triumphs of the African-American community through dance for more than three decades. A highly sought-after choreographer, he has created over 100 works for his own company, in addition to companies like Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, PHILADANCO, and Ballet Hispánico.The short film documenting this in-process work screens Thursday, May 6 on YouTube, and remains available to watch thereafter.

Directed by tap dancer and choreographer Leonardo Sandoval (recently named one of “25 to Watch” in 2021 by Dance Magazine) and composer and multi-instrumentalist Gregory Richardson, Music from the Sole is a ten-member tap dance and live music ensemble. Richardson, who is the co-musical director of Dorrance Dance, and Sandoval, a dancer with the company, incorporate various Afro-diasporic dance and music styles in their creations with Music from the Sole, drawing on traditions from Sandoval’s native Brazil such as passinho (Brazilian funk) and samba as well as house and other social dances. These juxtapositions allow not only for insight into the similarities and common roots of different styles, but also for the development of narratives and questions surrounding race, cultural identity, and the intersectionality of the Black experience. During their Pillow Lab residency, Richardson, Sandoval, and their ensemble will continue developing a new work commissioned by Guggenheim Works and Process.The short film documenting this in-process work screens Thursday, May 20 on YouTube, and remains available to watch thereafter.

Zoe Scofield, a dance and visual artist whose work often incorporates complex multimedia elements, will be in residence at nearby presenting partner MASS MoCA with additional funding and support provided by Jacob’s Pillow. During her residency, Scofield will continue to develop always now (AN), a dance, video, and sound performance (originally developed in a 2018 Pillow Lab). Designed for a non-proscenium space, AN redesigns the relationship between audience and performer by literally shifting the audience’s perspective, creating a work that is viewed from lying on the ground. This shift of orientation expands notions of power, and of how and where dance can exist in space and time. Scofield is also developing a Virtual Reality version of AN to be experienced at home, as well as a durational installation version with the audience free to move about while a soloist performs a ritual for an extended period. Based in Seattle, Washington since 2002, Zoe Scofield is the Co-Artistic Director and choreographer of zoe | juniper (zj), a dance and visual arts team comprised of Scofield and visual artist Juniper Shuey. A 2015 Guggenheim Fellow, Scofield has been commissioned by and presented work at Jacob’s Pillow, On the Boards, Dance Theater Workshop/NYLA, ICA Boston, The Joyce Theater, and others. The short film documenting this in-process work screens Thursday, June 10 on YouTube, and remains available to watch thereafter.

Future of the Pillow

The Pillow Lab plays a vital role in strengthening the Pillow’s artistic core, a main thread of Vision ’22.

Learn more

Michaela DePrince; photo Jordan Matter