More than just performances, Jacob’s Pillow is a must see for any dance enthusiast or first time patron.
I first heard of the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival back when The Boston Globe cost twenty-five cents and the internet hadn’t yet gained popularity. My father would buy the newspaper each morning and look through the obituaries and the sports page while I flipped through the Living Arts section between mouthfuls of cereal. I would read the dance reviews, long to attend the performances, and dream of being the praised ballerina in every article.
One summer, I came across an article on Jacob’s Pillow. The idea of attending free performances all throughout the summer was a dream. I remember the feeling of disappointment when I realized that the festival was located in Western Mass which to my nine-year-old self seemed like it was a continent away. I promised myself that I’d someday make it to see a performance on the outdoor stage.
Twenty years later I couldn’t help but smile as my tires crunched over the gravel on the Jacob’s Pillow driveway. I don’t think I could have found a better way to spend the first day of my road trip. Whether you’ve dreamed of going for years or are just learning about it now, I encourage you to take a trip to Jacob’s Pillow and experience dance in way you’ve never seen it before.
If you’ve attend a dance performance elsewhere, you’ll notice an immediate difference about Jacob’s Pillow: it’s structured more like a summer camp than an opera house. Wooden signs throughout the property help you navigate and plan your visit. The atmosphere and layout encourage visitors to spend the day exploring dance and picnicking on the lawn.
There are three main spaces for dance performances on campus. Both the Doris Duke and Ted Shawn Theatres are built of wood and look more like barns from the outside. With a seating capacity just over 600 in the Ted Shawn Theatre, you’ll have an intimate view of dancers on stage with the full lighting and amenities of a modern theater. Seating at the Doris Duke Theatre is altered to fit the performance and two large barn doors in the back can be opened to provide a natural backdrop for the performers.
If you’re planning a visit to Jacob’s Pillow, you won’t want to miss seeing one of the free performances at The Marcia and Seymour Simon Performance Space—an outdoor stage overlooking the beautiful Berkshire mountains. Watch students in residence showcase their newly acquired choreography under the shade of the surrounding trees. Log benches are available for seating or you could bring your own lawn chair if you like.
Unlike most theaters where patrons pay a quick visit to the bar during intermission then exit immediately after the performance, Jacob’s Pillow is built to allow you the opportunity to relax and explore before or after the featured performance. There are two cafes on the property and one concession stand. The Pillow Café takes reservations and offers fine dining with a full bar beneath a large tent. If you’re looking for a casual dining experience, visit the Pillow Pub with its full bar, sandwiches, salads, and outdoor patio.
Just past the Pillow Pub, Blake’s Barn features vintage dance posters in the main entryway and a library in the back. You can browse through books or watch a recorded performances on a TV equipped with headphones to allow for single-person viewing. Every performance from the Jacob’s Pillow Theatres is archived and available to view for free.
Jacob’s Pillow Short and Simple
Take a trip out to Jacob’s Pillow and you’ll find much more than just dance performances. Join the free tour offered daily to learn the history of the campus and each of its buildings. Take a fitness class in the morning. Arrive before scheduled performances and watch dancers rehearsing in one of the practice studios. Sip a cup of tea among the flowers in the tea garden or take a stroll beneath the trees. Pack a picnic or buy a meal from one of the cafes. Watch an archived performance at Blake’s Barn. Experience dance in a way you’ve never seen it before. And please don’t wait twenty years to make the trip.