Dancing at The School at Jacob’s Pillow means living and working as an artist in a historically significant dance setting, among a community of international dance artists. School programs are fully immersive, demanding creativity, collaboration, stamina, perseverance, and curiosity. School dancers keep a company-life schedule, are Festival performers, attend Festival events, and study in the Archives– all while building life-long career relationships. Through these experiences, dancers are connected to the past, present and future of the art form in meaningful ways.
Experience Company Life
Studio and stage experiences in The School at Jacob’s Pillow are of professional caliber for the transformational shifts required to prepare you for the field and evolve a unique artistic voice. Artist faculty who teach and create in The School are among the field’s most revered choreographers, artistic directors, performers, and teachers. They hold you accountable to professional work standards, share their breadth of experiences and points of view, and become connector points for your own career aspirations.
Performance Ensemble dancers interact with different choreographers each week. As each artist creates a work or work in progress on the ensemble, you gain insights into varied creative approaches and aesthetic preferences. Collaborative movement development, improvisational sessions, and coaching in performance expectations provided by the choreographers prepare dancers to work successfully in the field.
A fast-paced studio-to-stage experience places the Performance Ensemble before in-person and livestream audiences weekly. Informal showings are held in the Perles Family Studio and dancers appear in a final performance on the iconic outdoor Henry J. Leir Stage. Audience members, in-person and online from around the world, include invited artistic directors, School Sponsors, families, and the public.
The School experience equips you to continue reaching toward your career goals while thriving in the field’s multifaceted, rapidly shifting, and diverse professional environments.
Studio days run 9am-5pm, six days a week. After 5pm, you can expect an additional four to six hours to attend Festival performances, events, career-building seminars, or an evening rehearsal. This time may also be used to complete assignments, research in the Archives, or work independently in Pillow studios.
Experience Career Building and Networking
Embedded in studio days and Pillow evenings are rigorous career-building practices and seminars. Each is an opportunity to gain experience and insight into managing the business of working as an artist and helping achieve your full career potential and aspirations.
As an exemplary member of the Jacob’s Pillow community, you will be a spokesperson for dance, the Pillow, and your work as a dance artist. Introducing yourself, speaking to living legends, mentors, and dance supporters, engaging first-time audience members in conversations about dance, or documenting your experiences and discoveries are constants throughout the program. As you greet studio observers, share a meal or coffee with a School Sponsor, attend donor events, host a social media takeover, or interact with audiences after performances, the ability to compellingly express your ideas strengthens.
Managing your career requires working with an entrepreneurial mindset, being business-savvy, and building and maintaining a supportive network. To move you forward in these areas, Artist Faculty and The School’s alumni lead seminars with time for discussion and questions. Topics range from job searching, community work, wellness practices, contract negotiations, to commercial vs. concert work, paid vs. unpaid work, managing multiple revenue streams, and freelancing.
By the end of your Pillow experience you have formed meaningful connections with artistic directors, choreographers, performers, scholars, historians, photographers, videographers, filmmakers, administrators, your peers, and members of the incredible Pillow Alumni. Next, as an alum, you will experience the family-nature of this network and realize how quickly these relationships foster life-long bonds and impact the trajectory of your artistic journey.
Experience Your Role in the Festival
The School’s long-established commitment to dance education and training has been unequivocally partnered with the richly dynamic and prolific Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. When Ted Shawn founded The School, he ensured that dancers experience all aspects of the Festival for free and perform before Festival audiences. Today, as The School’s Performance Ensembles perform weekly, they acquire critical studio-to-stage performance skills and exercise the artistry they can bring to a choreographer’s work.
The unique opportunity to train in the creative development process, witness companies perform, and be a part of the Festival, all on the same day and same campus, is unmatched. As a dancer in The School, you contribute to the artistic vitality of the Festival as both a performer and audience member.
Experience the Past, Present, and Future of Dance
Major dance figures have been coming to Jacob’s Pillow since the 1930’s to teach and perform: Asadata Dafora, Bronislava Nijinska, Agnes De Mille, Pearl Primus, Maria Tallchief, Balasaraswati, Manolo Vargas, Joseph Pilates, José Limón, Martha Graham, Alvin Ailey, Merce Cunningham, and Robert Joffrey, among many others. Your visits to the Jacob’s Pillow Archives will help you learn more about the luminaries who have shaped the dance world and evolve your own aesthetic as you research personal dance interests and assigned topics. Home to a rich collection of videos, historic films, photographs, programs, costumes, and other materials, the Archives cover more than a century of dance and provide insight into Festival and School artists, past and present. On these visits, you will find yourself alongside Festival artists who are also using every ounce of spare time to expand their understanding of dance in this treasure trove of dance history.
Everyone departs The School at Jacob’s Pillow transformed. With confidence in themselves, a powerhouse network, and a more attuned artistic practice, The School’s alumni go on to define, shape, and lead the field of dance worldwide. They remain connected to the Pillow community, always having an artistic home here.
Jacob’s Pillow, America’s longest-running dance festival, typically showcases more than 50 national and international dance companies at its on-campus venues, collectively giving over 150 performances during the nine-week festival. There are 300+ performances, talks, tours, open classes, exhibits, book signings, film screenings, open rehearsals, movement research labs, community projects, and other events; all designed to further share the art of dance with the public and the Festival’s artist community.
As a dance artist in The School, you see two different companies each week, free of charge; a priceless education in and of itself. The works on stage represent a full spectrum of choreographic and performance approaches, traditions, and innovations including ballet, contemporary, culturally-specific dance, dance theatre, hip-hop, jazz, multimedia driven work, tap, and more.
When not on stage, Festival artists lead a Sunday Workshop or School Guest Artist Class, research in the Archives, or are available for a chat in the dining hall or on the pathway. Dance curators and scholars are in-residence to give pre-show talks, moderate post-show discussions, lead hour-long PillowTalks with artists, and are available in the Archives to answer questions and facilitate your research.
Encounters with these forms and artists help inform your vision of what the possibilities in dance can be.
A COMMUNITY OF ARTISTS
Dancers of The School are an international mix of young professionals at the beginning of their careers and advanced level pre-professionals. Many are Grand Prix finalists, Presidential Scholars in the Arts, corps and company members, trainees, apprentices, or upper division dancers in professional training programs.
The Festival community is comprised of choreographers, artistic directors, performers, collaborating artists, scholars, research fellows, School Sponsors, and teams of production and arts administration interns and staff. Performance Ensemble dancers have the opportunity to meet and interact with School Sponsors, who provide financial support to The School and valuable networking to dancers during and after their time at the Pillow. Thought-provoking conversations and invaluable relationships for the future are fostered by working with, and alongside, these professionals and arts supporters.
You might find yourself chatting with Kyle Abraham after he observes your class, browsing in The Pillow Store beside Brian Brooks, having lunch with Darrell Grand Moultrie, mingling with Wendy Whelan at a cast party, or chatting after a Q&A session with Dennis Powell, a Pittsfield Moves! participant and President of the NAACP-Berkshire County branch, after a Q&A session.
Jacob’s Pillow is a National Historic Landmark and recipient of the National Medal of Arts, the highest arts award given by the United States Government; making the Pillow the first dance presenting organization to receive this prestigious award. Dance professionals, lovers of dance, tourists, School Sponsors, and other visitors travel here annually to experience and celebrate the art of dance set against the backdrop of idyllic gardens and woodlands.
Nestled in the heart of campus, the 7,373-square-foot, state-of-the-art Perles Family Studio is home to The School at Jacob’s Pillow. Large windows bring the beauty of the natural setting onto the 3,500-square-foot dance floor as you dance and create. The public, including families and School Sponsors, are welcome to view classes and rehearsals in a dedicated observation area. A dancers deck is perfect for journaling during downtime. The Perles Family Studio also offers space to talk to new-found friends and School supporters, meet with Artist Faculty, discuss last night’s performances, or relax and rest your body. The space is more than a studio; it’s an artistic home and stepping stone to the professional world; frequently referred to by dancers as “a dance haven.”
Ted Shawn’s students and company members built and maintained much of the property, including roads, studios, wells, and residential cabins. Campus residential areas for The School’s dancers, staff, and artists are an easy walking distance to Festival spaces. Archival photographs of famous dancers line the walls of all spaces. 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 is centered around the historic, proscenium Ted Shawn Theatre; the first theatre built exclusively for dance in the United States. Other performance venues include the iconic outdoor stage and the Pillow’s natural landscape which transforms into site-specific performance spaces. There are five dance studios, including the Perles Family Studio, which also serves as a multifunctional rehearsal-showing space for Pillow Labs. Also onsite are exhibition galleries, the Archives, a health office, public food venues, The Pillow Store, gardens, and a woodland trail.
The artist community living onsite shares responsibility in caring for the beauty, history, and integrity of the Pillow. Together we uphold the Pillow’s core values and engage the public in deepening their understanding and support of dance.
It is with gratitude and humility that Jacob’s Pillow acknowledges that we are learning, speaking, and gathering on the ancestral homelands of the Muh-he-con-ne-ok or Mohican people, who are the Indigenous peoples of this land. Despite tremendous hardship in being forced from here, today they reside in Wisconsin and are known as the Stockbridge-Munsee Community. We pay honor and respect to their ancestors and elders past and present as we commit to building a more inclusive and equitable space for all.
Located in Western Massachusetts, in an area known as the Berkshire Hills, visitors come to enjoy the scenic vistas, outdoor activities, farm-to-table food industry, and renowned arts scene. Nearby are the Appalachian Trail and cultural institutions such as Tanglewood, The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, MASS MoCA, Norman Rockwell Museum, and the Williamstown Theatre Festival.
New York City and Boston are each less than 3 hours away.
The School at Jacob’s Pillow is committed to assisting any dancer needing assistance with program tuition fees. Applications are reviewed need-blind. Scholarship applications are reviewed only following acceptance determinations. A Scholarship Application is located within the Program Application and should be completed at time of submission.
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Explore our online Archive resource, Dance Interactive, to experience an invaluable tool able to support your growth as an artist.