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 Ted Shawn Theatre’s inaugural season, with even more selections to be found in three other playlists: Black Voices, More Black Voices, and Black Artists in the Duke.
Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble
Crossing The Rubicon: Passing the Point of No Return, 2022
Donald McKayle enjoyed a special relationship with the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, and his final work made full use of the company’s resources to dramatize the plight of refugees in today’s world.
Unsung Sheroes of the 20th Century, 2022
Recipient of the 2021 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award, Dormeshia here salutes one of her inspirations, Juanita Pitts, a rhythm tap artist who performed from the 1930s through the 1950s.
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.
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.
Companhia Urbana de Dança
Na Pista, 2014
This Brazilian company has served as a gateway out of the slums of Rio de Janeiro for many of these young dancers with roots in hip-hop, urban dance, and contemporary forms.
Dance Theatre of Harlem
The Lark Ascending, 2013
Alvin Ailey’s The Lark Ascending had only been performed barefoot until the Dance Theatre of Harlem first put the female dancers en pointe in this production.
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.
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.
Bebe Miller Company
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.
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.
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.
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.
Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble
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.
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.
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.
Chicken Soup, 1989
Her most famous work, the 1981 Chicken Soup, was inspired by childhood memories of her grandmother at work in the kitchen.
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.
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.
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.
Jean Léon Destiné & Jeanne Ramon
Friends and fans celebrated Destiné’s centennial in 2018, and we pay homage with this dance excerpt and an illustrated online essay.
"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.
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.