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Live Music

Dance performances with live music can deliver an extra dose of vitality. These highlights span more than 60 years of Pillow history, while even more examples can be experienced in the Onstage Musicians Playlist.

16 performances

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Live Music

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Ronald K. Brown/EVIDENCE

New Conversations, 2018

Arturo O’Farrill and his musicians were clearly among those “in conversation” with the dancers in this Pillow-commissioned work, created and developed in Pillow Lab residencies.

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Playing 1 of 16

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The Washington Ballet

Seven Sonatas, 2017

Alexei Ratmansky was certainly not the first choreographer to place a piano onstage alongside his dancers, but he uses the convention here with great effectiveness.

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Playing 2 of 16

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Dance Heginbotham

Chalk and Soot, 2014

There’s a good reason why Chalk and Soot, a collaboration by John Heginbotham and Brooklyn Rider’s Colin Jacobsen, looked right at home in the Doris Duke Theatre—because much of the work had been created in this very space as part of a residency.

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Playing 3 of 16

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Dorrance Dance

ETM: The Initial Approach, 2014

Michelle Dorrance also choreographed a new work during a Pillow residency. With collaborator Nicholas Van Young, Dorrance previewed a bold new concept known as ETM, a tap derivitive of the term EDM (for electronic dance music), using the dancers’ own taps to create a complex new sound score live in performance.

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Playing 4 of 16

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Mark Morris Dance Group

Crosswalk, 2014

Justly celebrated for his insistence on live music for all of his company’s appearances, Mark Morris has a distinctive musical sensibility (explored in this online essay). His works are firmly rooted in the music that inspires him, and this excerpt from Crosswalk demonstrates just how closely aligned the sights and sounds of a dance performance can be.

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Playing 5 of 16

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Jessica Lang Dance

Within the Space I Hold, 2013

Look closely, and you can see composer Jakub Ciupinski creating the music for Jessica Lang’s Within the Space I Hold on a theremin, and be sure to stay tuned until the end of this clip to witness a light-up tutu!

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Playing 6 of 16

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Bill T. Jones / Arnie Zane Dance Company

Serenade / The Proposition, 2010

Serenade/The Proposition was one of three works Jones created to celebrate the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln, and it brought distinctive sights and sounds to the stage of the Ted Shawn Theatre in 2009.

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Playing 7 of 16

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Jason Samuels Smith

A Song For My Father, 2009

The initials in his company’s name stand for Anyone Can Get It, and this is an accurate description for the accessible and engaging style of Jason Samuels Smith, seen here dancing to the music of Lioinel Hampton.

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Playing 8 of 16

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Liz Lerman Dance Exchange

Hallelujah: In Praise of Fertile Fields, 2000

Robert Een’s score for this Pillow-commissioned work was developed during multiple residencies and performed live.

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Playing 9 of 16

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Trisha Brown Dance Company

Five Part Weather Invention, 1999

While Trisha Brown didn’t always incorporate live music—and often used no music at all—this world premiere featured a commissioned score by the prolific trumpeter, composer, and educator Dave Douglas.

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Playing 10 of 16

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Meredith Monk / The House

Magic Frequencies, 1998

Of course, the musicians here are also the dancers—creating both a soundscape and a visual presentation that are interwoven in Meredith Monk’s inimitable style.

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Playing 11 of 16

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Ronald K. Brown

Awassa Astrige (Ostrich), 1997

The drummer heard here, Gary Sojkowski, enjoyed a long history with The School at Jacob’s Pillow, and on this occasion he was pressed into service to accompany this one-time-only recreation of an Asadata Dafora solo.

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Playing 12 of 16

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Jean Butler and John Jennings

Irish Step Dancing, 1988

For this one-time-only performance as part of the 1988 Season Opening Gala, a special stage was erected on the Great Lawn to accommodate both the musicians and the dancers.

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Playing 13 of 16

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Leon Collins

Flight of the Bumblebee, 1983

It’s hard to imagine a closer coordination of dance and music, with Leon Collins sometimes mirroring the exact rhythm of the tune with his taps.

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Playing 14 of 16

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Barton Mumaw

O Brother Sun and Sister Moon (A Study of St. Francis), 1981

This solo was performed countless times by Pillow founder Ted Shawn, most often accompanied by his longtime composer-accompanist Jess Meeker, who played the Respighi score for this final Pillow performance by Barton Mumaw.

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Playing 15 of 16

Sahomi Tachibana

Odori - Yukata, 1953

This may well be the earliest recording of a Pillow performance with live music, though sound and image weren’t reunited until 2021. Listen carefully and you can even hear the sound of the curtain closing at the end of the clip!

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Playing 16 of 16

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