Saturday, August 22, 2015 In the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Archives, a Magical Past and Present Unite [Carmen de Lavallade and Alvin Ailey at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in 1961]

Carmen de Lavallade and Alvin Ailey at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in 1961. Credit John Lindquist/Harvard Theater Collection

The New York Times

August 21, 2015


BECKET, Mass. — Jacob’s Pillow, the oldest dance festival in the United States and always eclectic and international in taste, began in the early 1940s. But its founding director, Ted Shawn, had been here since 1931, and when he died in 1972, still at the helm, he left the festival with archival materials that went back to his own early days in dance.
This year, the 20th anniversary of public access to the archives, Blake’s Barn, the building that houses them, has been greatly expanded as a result of a grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and a state development agency, as well as gifts from individual donors. The Reading Room is three times its former size, with more storage and exhibition space, and there are video editing facilities downstairs. The archives now bear the name of Norton Owen, who has overseen the collection since 1990.
Mr. Owen is himself an invaluable piece of Pillow history. He came from Alabama as a dance student and has been with the festival for four decades, serving in various administrative jobs before taking charge of the archives. When I visited last week, he lightly pointed out the significance of a poster for “Dances of the Ages,” a Shawn film dating from 1913. Dance literature often claims that Shawn (1889-1971) was not serious about dance until he partnered and married the celebrated modern dancer-choreographer Ruth St. Denis in 1915, but as Mr. Owen noted, this poster shows otherwise. And yes, some footage from the film is in the archives.    

No comments: