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Most Recent Playlist - Spirituals


Leading off with a 1984 clip of Blondell Cummings in connection with a PillowVoices podcast on this influential artist, this playlist also encompasses other works from the 20th and 21st centuries set to African-American spirituals.

Blondell Cummings

He's Got the Whole World in His Hands, 1984

A 2021 exhibit in Los Angeles entitled Blondell Cummings: Dance As Moving Pictures brings Cummings’s work back to the forefront, and deservedly so. The recording from which this excerpt was derived was selected for the exhibition and it’s also referenced in a related book.

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Dance Theatre of Harlem

Come Sunday, 2018

Geoffrey Holder created this work especially for his wife, Carmen de Lavallade, and it was danced by DTH’s Amanda Smith to honor de Lavallade at the Pillow’s Season Opening Gala in 2018. The vocalist for both this and the Blondell Cummings solo was Odetta.

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Adam H. Weinert

"Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen" from Four Dances Based on American Folk Music, 2016

Although Adam Weinert originally revived this classic Ted Shawn solo for himself, he later taught it to Davon Rainey, who became the first Black dancer to perform it.

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Reggie Wilson / Fist & Heel Performance Group

Moses(es), 2014

The score for this full-evening work included diverse selections by Louis Armstrong and The Klezmatics, among others, while this section was accompanied by a remarkable 1940s recording by The Southern Sons.

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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

"I Wanna Be Ready" from Revelations, 2007

This solo was added to Revelations when the now-iconic work was first brought to the Pillow in 1961, originated by James Truitte and performed for the Pillow’s 75th Anniversary Gala by Matthew Rushing.

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Dianne McIntyre

Willow Song, 1998

Now best known at Jacob’s Pillow for her work with The School, Dianne McIntyre led her own company for many years, appropriately called Sounds in Motion for the way in which dance and music were inextricably linked.

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Dayton Contemporary Dance Company

Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder, 1990

This contemporary masterpiece was created by Donald McKayle, an artist whose connections to the Pillow spanned more than 60 years. He used traditional music to help create a theatricalized response to a chain gang.

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Ailey II

"Wade in the Water" from Revelations, 1988

Alvin Ailey himself witnessed this performance in his last visit to the Pillow, just a year before his death in 1989. Now recognized as one of the most widely-seen modern dances of all time, Revelations emerged from Ailey’s memories of his childhood in rural Texas.

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Pearl Primus

Spirituals, 1950

Although the music used here is not original, it approximates the accompaniment for this rare footage of Pearl Primus—one of the few known recordings of her dancing.

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Talley Beatty

"Mourner's Bench" from Southern Landscape, 1948

Already a veteran of Katherine Dunham’s company when he formed his own troupe at the age of 25, Talley Beatty is seen here in the Pillow’s Tea Garden, presenting a solo that has long since been recognized as a classic.

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Ted Shawn

"Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen" from Four Dances Based on American Folk Music, 1938

Though some people today might view Shawn’s use of an African-American spiritual as cultural appropriation, his intention here was inclusion, paying his respects to a musical form which he regarded as “a unique and valuable contribution to American Folk Music.”

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