The School Experience

The School at Jacob’s Pillow is a fully immersive experience demanding risk-taking, creativity, collaborative skills, stamina, perseverance, and inquisitiveness. A hallmark of each program is living and working as an artist, among an international community of dance professionals, in a garden and woodland, historically dance significant, setting.  

Studio experiences that are essential for the transformational shifts required to evolve one’s distinctive artistic voice are led by the field’s most revered choreographers, artistic directors, performers, and teachers. Studio hours are 9am-5pm, six days a week, followed by an additional four to six hours of attending Festival performances, events, or evening rehearsals. Pillow studios are open to program dancers 24/7.

Professional advancement programs feature small ensembles of dancers who have new work created on them by leading choreographers. Dancers are coached in a range of practices intrinsic to soloist and ensemble roles, and prepared for the demanding expectations of today’s companies. 

Professional development programs provide individualized coaching and mentoring to choreographers and dance photographers on the unique aspects of their craft, style, and career practices.  

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, and Robert Joffrey, among many others. Artists who teach in The School today, continue to be the most distinguished and influential international dance leaders of our time. They will treat you as a professional, share their breadth of experiences and points of view, and create connections for you.

The School’s sessions take place in the state-of-the-art Perles Family Studio. Large windows bring the beauty of the natural setting inside as you dance and create. A dancers deck is perfect for journaling, talking to new-found friends and School supporters, meeting with Artist Faculty, relaxing between classes, discussing last night’s performances, or retreating to soak up some rays. The space is more than a studio; it’s a space you will get to know as home in your time at the Pillow, and one frequently referred to by dancers as “a dance haven.” 

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 dear and connected to the Pillow community, always having an artistic home here.

Participants of The School; photo Em Watson

FESTIVAL IMMERSION

Built into your schedule is free and immediate access to the Jacob’s Pillow Festival. America’s longest-running international dance festival showcases more than 50 national and international dance companies on three stages, collectively giving over 150 performances during the ten week festival. There are 300+ free 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 dancer in The School you see five different companies each week, free of charge; a priceless education in and of itself. The work on stage represents a full spectrum of choreographic and performance approaches, traditions, and innovations including ballet, contemporary, culturally-specific dance, dance theatre, hip-hop, jazz, tap, and more. Encounters with these forms help inform your vision of what the possibilities in dance can be, for you.

There are two dance scholars in-residence each week. They give pre-show talks before every performance, moderate post-show discussions with artists and audiences, lead hour-long PillowTalks with artists twice weekly, and are available in the Archives to answer questions and facilitate your research.

The Jacob’s Pillow Archives is home to a rich collection of videos, historic films, photographs, programs, costumes, and other materials; covering more than a century of dance. School schedules include time to research personal dance interests and assigned topics. Alongside Festival artists, you will find yourself using every ounce of spare time to expand your understanding of dance in this treasure trove of dance history.

Be sure to explore archival gems right now on Jacob’s Pillow Dance Interactive, an online curated collection of videos filmed at the Pillow from 1933 to today. Visit now to browse and enjoy.

Contemporary Participant Mia J. Chong; photo Jamie Kraus

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, and teams of production and arts administration interns and staff. Thought-provoking conversations and invaluable relationships for the future are fostered by working with, and alongside, these professionals.

You might find yourself chatting with Kyle Abraham after he observes your class, browsing in The Pillow Store beside Alonzo King, having lunch with Michelle Dorrance, mingling with Sharon Eyal at a cast party, or chatting with Cleo Parker Robinson after a Q&A session.

The School at Jacob's Pillow in the Norton Owen Reading Room; photo Morah Geist

THE SETTING

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, and other visitors travel here annually to experience and celebrate the art of dance.

Ted Shawn’s students and company members built and maintained much of the property, including roads, studios, wells, and residential cabins. As a dancer at The School, you live on campus, residing near Festival artists, faculty, interns, and staff. 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 black-box Doris Duke Theatre and the iconic outdoor stage. There are five dance studios, including the 7,373-square-foot Perles Family Studio, home to The School at Jacob’s Pillow. The studio serves as a multifunctional rehearsal and performance space possessing: a 3,500-square-foot dance floor, a dancers deck, public observation area, and changing areas. Also onsite are exhibition galleries, the Archives, a health office, a campus center for gathering or cross-training, 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.

LOCATION

We are located in the beautiful Berkshire Hills of Western Massachusetts, near the Appalachian Trail. Other nearby cultural institutions are 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.

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Advance your artistry, build your career network, and become part of dance history at the Pillow.

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