Life at the Pillow

The School at Jacob’s Pillow experience includes intensive studio work, performing weekly for Festival audiences, attending all Festival performances and events, and interacting with an international dance community on beautiful, historic grounds.

Immersion in Dance

The School at Jacob's Pillow; Photo by Christopher Duggan

Living and training on the beautiful historic grounds of Jacob’s Pillow involves a full day of studio work, performing weekly for Festival audiences, attending performances, master classes, scholar-led talks, and interacting with an international dance community. Working six days a week, from 9am-5pm, demands strong technique and performance skills, stamina, perseverance, risk-taking, and creative collaboration. The inspiration to excel is motivated by your peers, the artist faculty, weekly lunches with Festival performers, performances, and other events that celebrate dance.

As a dancer here, you gain free access to all Festival events including performances, master classes, community classes, artist talks, book signings, film screenings, exhibits, and open rehearsals. Within the Jacob’s Pillow Archives, rich collections of videos, historic films, photographs, programs, costumes, and other materials cover more than a century of dance. This immersion deepens your dance history knowledge and leads to profound artistic and personal growth.

A Community of Artists

photo by Em Watson

The Festival community of artists, scholars, research fellows, interns, and staff fosters thought-provoking conversations and invaluable relationships for the future. Major dance figures have been coming to the Pillow since the 1930s. Ted Shawn’s faculty and performers included Asadata Dafora, Bronislava Nijinska, Agnes De Mille, Pearl Primus, Maria Tallchief, Balasarawati, Joseph Pilates, José Limón, Alvin Ailey, and Robert Joffrey, among many others. Today, Festival artists and programs represent a wide range of choreographic and performance approaches, traditions, and innovations.

The School’s teaching roster include the most celebrated and influential international dance artists. In the summer of 2017 you might find yourself browsing in the Pillow Store beside Michelle Dorrance, having lunch with Peggy Hickey, mingling with Miami City Ballet dancers at a cast party, or chatting with Camille A. Brown after a Q&A session.

Dancers of The School are an international mix of young professionals and pre-professionals, from Grand Prix finalists and Presidential Scholars in the Arts, to corps and apprentice company members.


Contemporary Student; photo Jamie Kraus

Jacob’s Pillow, located in the Berkshire Hills of Western Massachusetts, is home to the longest running Dance Festival in the United States. Fifty companies from all over the world present over 150 performances of ballet, contemporary, dance theatre, hip-hop, jazz, tap, culturally-specific dance, and more.

Campus Life

Student Life at The School at Jacob's Pillow, photo Morah Geist

Ted Shawn’s students and company members built and maintained much of the property, from roads to studios to wells. Residents today share this same spirit of responsibility as they help care for the beauty, history, and integrity of the Pillow.

Dancers in The School live on campus during the Festival, residing near artists, faculty, and staff in cabins with archival photographs of famous dancers lining the walls. The Campus Center provides a place to relax or work out. Registered nurses assist with body maintenance and physician appointments. Three meals a day are provided in the Stone Dining Room, which was hand-built in 1935 by Ted Shawn’s Men Dancers. The 225-acre campus includes two theatres, an outdoor stage, five dance studios, exhibition galleries, the Archives, health office, food venues, store, and gardens.

World-class cultural institutions are nearby, including Tanglewood, The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, MASS MoCA, Norman Rockwell Museum, and Williamstown Theatre Festival. New York City and Boston are each less than 3 hours away.

A Typical Day at The School at Jacob’s Pillow


Hot breakfast, warm-up in studio, or take an all-levels community class


Technique class


Repertory class by program director or
Master class with Ted Shawn Theatre artists (Thursday)
Master class with Doris Duke Theatre artists (Sunday)



Career-building discussions with Ted Shawn Theatre performers (Thursday)

Career-building discussions with Doris Duke Theatre performers (Friday)


Mingle with Festival artists, scholars, staff, interns, and visiting VIPs by the Pillow Rock (Wednesday)


Seminar: music, dance history, auditioning (Monday & Tuesday)


Guest Choreographer work-in-progress rehearsal




Performance by Festival artists on outdoor stage (Wednesday-Friday) and by The School (Saturday)


Pre-Performance Talk by Pillow scholars (Wednesday-Saturday)


Usher for a performance in one of two theatres or study in the Archives (Wednesday-Sunday)


Post-Show Talk by choreographers, collaborators, and performers; ask them about their work, travels, and the field (Thursday & Friday)

Later Rehearse, dance jam, chat, free time, or rest and reflect before another full day (weekdays)

Cast party with Festival supporters, artists, staff, and interns (Saturday)

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Immerse yourself in training, artistry, and history.

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