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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Mark Morris Dance Group
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!