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Pillow Lab

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

Read about the Fall 2020 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 third 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 Fall 2020 Pillow Lab season includes 4 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.

Fall 2020 Pillow Lab Artists

Brian Brooks/Moving Company

The Moving Company, based in New York City, creates and performs new work by founding choreographer Brian Brooks. Since 2002 the group has toured internationally, with presentations and residencies provided by The Joyce Theater, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Jacob’s Pillow, NY City Center’s Fall for Dance, The Guggenheim Museum, Lumberyard Performing Arts, the American Dance Festival, Lincoln Center Out of Doors, and the 92nd Street Y Harkness Festival. A Guggenheim Fellow, Brooks recently completed a Mellon Foundation Creative Artist Fellowship at University of Washington, researching the intersection of performance and augmented reality technologies. He has collaborated with New York City Ballet Associate Artistic Director and former principal dancer Wendy Whelan since 2012, including the Jacob’s Pillow co-commissioned project Restless Creature.
Brooks will revisit "Closing Distance," which premiered in January 2020 and is a prescient exploration of the human desire to connect physically and emotionally, with dancers in close contact, often arranging and rearranging one another’s bodies. "Closing Distance" is set to Caroline Shaw’s Pulitzer Prize-winning suite “Partita for 8 Voices,” recorded by Williamstown, MA-based vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth. Brooks and The Moving Company will also develop a new, outdoor site-based performance for audiences to experience while indoor venues remain restricted.

A.I.M by Kyle Abraham

Artistic Director Kyle Abraham is a recipient of the Princess Grace Statue Award (2018), Doris Duke Artist Award (2016), MacArthur “Genius” Grant (2013), and Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award (2012). In addition to his own company, Abraham has set work on Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, New York City Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and American Ballet Theatre principal dancer Misty Copeland, among others.
The mission of A.I.M is to create an evocative interdisciplinary body of work with a sincere provocation of cultural pride and history. Born into hip-hop culture in the late 1970s and grounded in Artistic Director Kyle Abraham’s artistic vision, the goal of the work is to delve into dance-based storytelling that addresses personal history through movement hybridity and abstraction. Through live and pre-recorded performances, education, and community-based workshops, A.I.M is a righteous representation of black art and culture. As an organization, community and artistry work in tandem as a way to lift and highlight our voices while making the space to see and recognize voices beyond our own.
Abraham and A.I.M will build two new works during their residency. "An Untitled Love" was originally set to premiere during summer 2020 as an evening-length work set to the music of D’Angelo and The Vanguard; Abraham will also develop an untitled work scheduled to premiere in summer 2021.

Emily Johnson/Catalyst

Emily Johnson is a Bessie Award-winning choreographer, Guggenheim Fellow, and recipient of the Doris Duke Artist Award. Originally from Alaska and now based in New York, Johnson is of the Yup’ik Nation and since 1998 has made work that considers the experience of seeing and sensing performance. Her works have included opera (Doctor Atomic at the Santa Fe Opera, directed by Peter Sellars) and durational performance gatherings (Then A Cunning Voice and A Night We Spend Gazing At Stars, an all-night outdoor event that took place in the midst of 84 community-hand-made quilts, premiered on the Lower East Side of Manhattan), and have been presented across the United States and Australia. Johnson is a lead organizer of First Nations Dialogues and part of a US-based advisory group—including Reuben Roqueni, Ed Bourgeois, Lori Pourier, Ronee Penoi, and Vallejo Gantner—who are developing a Global First Nations Performance Network.
Working with one other dancer as well as Indigenous scholars, Johnson will develop "Being Future Being," a new, richly layered evening-length performance for the stage and beyond. "Being Future Being" contains narrative elements from Johnson’s own family history, a commissioned score sung by a BIPOC community chorus, a soundscape by Diné composer Raven Chacon, and movement, projections, and scenic design that build a visual and aural landscape of Indigenous power.

Shamel Pitts/TRIBE

TRIBE is a New York City-based arts collective dedicated to creating, developing, and sharing multidisciplinary art projects and inspired by the afro-futuristic movement. Artistic Director Shamel Pitts is a Guggenheim Fellow (2020), NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellow (2019), and Princess Grace Award winner (2018). Born in Brooklyn, Pitts studied dance at LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, The Ailey School, and The Juilliard School before beginning his dance career in Mikhail Baryshnikov’s Hell’s Kitchen Dance and Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal. He went on to dance with the Batsheva Dance Company for seven years, under the artistic direction of Ohad Naharin. Pitts was the choreographer for the play Help by poet and playwright Claudia Rankine, directed by Taibi Magar at The Shed in New York. TRIBE is a 92Y Harkness Dance Center Artist In Residence for the 2020-2021 season.
During his residency, Pitts will develop the second piece in his RED series, "Touch of RED." An intensely personal duet performed by Pitts with Tushrik Fredericks, "Touch of RED" addresses the power of vulnerability and offers its dancers, two Black men, space to soften. As Pitts and Fredericks meet in a performance space akin to a gladiator’s arena, heat between them builds, not from aggression but rather from a healing, electrifying effeminacy.

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