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Black History

While February holds the designation of Black History Month, Jacob’s Pillow celebrates its connections with black dance artists year-round. This playlist includes some of the highlights since 1942 when Asadata Dafora participated in the inaugural season of the Ted Shawn Theatre.

18 performances

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Black History

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Camille A. Brown & Dancers

BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play, 2017

Now riding high as a Broadway choreographer, Camille A. Brown presented her spellbinding BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play in 2017, including the powerful solo seen here.

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Playing 1 of 18

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Jumaane Taylor

Supreme Love, 2017

Part of Michelle Dorrance’s rousing 2017 program entitled TIRELESS, this ensemble work pays tribute to John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” with live musicians onstage and four virtuoso tap artists.

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Playing 2 of 18

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Kyle Abraham

Inventing Pookie Jenkins, 2010

This solo represents Kyle Abraham’s initial appearance in the Ted Shawn Theatre after first introducing his company to Pillow audiences on Inside/Out in 2009.

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Playing 3 of 18

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Bill T. Jones / Arnie Zane Dance Company

Serenade / The Proposition, 2010

Seen here is Serenade/The Proposition, one of three works Bill T. Jones created to commemorate the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth.

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Playing 4 of 18

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Bebe Miller Company

Landing/Place, 2007

Presented at the Pillow in 2007, this enigmatic multi-media work explores our sense of self, and it joins the website along with a new essay on Bebe Miller by Maura Keefe.

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Playing 5 of 18

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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

"I Wanna Be Ready" from Revelations, 2007

“I Wanna Be Ready” was added to Revelations when it was first performed at the Pillow in 1961, and recreated here by Matthew Rushing in 2007.

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Playing 6 of 18

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Ronald K. Brown

In Gratitude, a tribute to Katherine Dunham, 2002

Here’s a historic and moving moment when Ronald K. Brown paid tribute to one of his inspirations, performing an onstage tribute to the legendary Katherine Dunham.

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Playing 7 of 18

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Zaccho Dance Theatre

Invisible Wings, 1998

This memorable site-specific work linked the Pillow’s past as a stop on the Underground Railroad with contemporary dance and music.  In addition to this clip, much more can be found in a multi-media essay on choreographer Joanna Haigood.

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Playing 8 of 18

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Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble

Nocturne, 1996

This Denver-based company revived Donald McKayle’s Nocturne more than 40 years after the work’s premiere at the Pillow in 1953. After sampling the excerpt here, be sure to check out this Donald McKayle essay.

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Playing 9 of 18

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Gregory Hines, Dianne Walker, Jimmy Slyde

Gala Performance, 1996

Legends all, watch them in action here and then read about each in Brian Seibert’s online essays.

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Playing 10 of 18

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Urban Bush Women

Praise House, 1990

Co-choreographed by company director Jawole Willa Jo Zollar and Pat Hall-Smith, Praise House was co-commissioned by Jacob’s Pillow and presented here just weeks after its world premiere in 1990. It was inspired by the paintings and writings of Southern visionary artist Minnie Evans. Essays on Zollar and her work are now available online, one by John Perpener and another by Maura Keefe.

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Playing 11 of 18

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Blondell Cummings

Chicken Soup, 1989

Her most famous work, the 1981 Chicken Soup, was inspired by childhood memories of her grandmother at work in the kitchen.

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Playing 12 of 18

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Judith Jamison

Scene Seen, 1988

A true rarity, this is the only known recording of Jamison dancing a work made especially for her by Garth Fagan in 1988, entitled Scene Seen.

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Playing 13 of 18

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Leon Collins

Flight of the Bumblebee, 1983

This tap dance icon performed at Jacob’s Pillow only once, but fortunately the cameras were rolling and we have this record of a classic Collins solo.

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Playing 14 of 18

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Pearl Primus

Spirituals, 1950

Little footage exists of Primus dancing, which makes this fragment all the more precious, with even more rare footage now available in a new online essay.

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Playing 15 of 18

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Jean Léon Destiné & Jeanne Ramon

Martinique, 1950

Friends and fans celebrated Destiné’s centennial in 2018, and we pay homage with this dance excerpt and an illustrated online essay.

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Playing 16 of 18

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Talley Beatty

"Mourner's Bench" from Southern Landscape, 1948

A fascinating and extensive multi-media essay examines this groundbreaking artist, while one of his classic solos can be sampled in this rare footage.

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Playing 17 of 18

Asadata Dafora

Shagola Dances of West Africa, 1942

Here’s a glimpse of Dafora dancing in the Ted Shawn Theatre’s inaugural season, with much more information available in this multi-media online essay.

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Playing 18 of 18

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