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Women’s History

While it was founded by and for men dancers, Jacob’s Pillow has welcomed and celebrated women on its stages since 1940. These are just a few performance highlights, with many more to be found within the multi-media Women in Dance essays by Maura Keefe.

15 performances

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Women’s History

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Martha Graham Dance Company

"Prelude to Action" from Chronicle, 2019

This final section of Martha Graham’s Chronicle was described as a call for “a brave new world” at its premiere in 1936, and Graham characteristically envisioned herself as leading that imagined world.

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Playing 1 of 15

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Abby Z and the New Utility

abandoned playground, 2019

Abby Zbikowski examines the layered meanings of “play” in this ferociously virtuosic work, built upon years of training in tap, hip-hop, and West African dance forms.

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Playing 2 of 15

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Meredith Monk

Volcano Songs, 1997

This video represents the Pillow performance debut of one of America’s most original and iconic creative artists, nearly 40 years after her initial summer at Jacob’s Pillow as a teenage dance student.

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Playing 3 of 15

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David Gordon/Pick Up Performance Co(s)

"One Part of the Matter" from Parts of a Retrospective and A Work in Progress, 1996

As the life partner and muse of David Gordon, Valda Setterfield has held center stage in his works for decades, bringing her own mastery as a Merce Cunningham dancer to Gordon’s idiosyncratic vision.

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Playing 4 of 15

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Trisha Brown

If You Couldn't See Me, 1994

The final solo that Trisha Brown created for herself, If You Couldn’t See Me is distinguished by the fact that Brown never once faces the audience throughout the dance.

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Playing 5 of 15

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Carmen de Lavallade

Portrait of Billie, 1992

This classic solo was inspired by the music and life of Billie Holiday, premiered at the Pillow in 1960 with choreographer John Butler partnering Carmen de Lavallade. More than 30 years later, de Lavallade revived the work for this Pillow Gala performance attended by Butler.

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Playing 6 of 15

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Pauline Koner

Reflections, 1991

While Pauline Koner performed her work at the Pillow many times between 1945 and 1970, none of those appearances was filmed. She took matters into her own hands while she was teaching here in 1991, improvising for the camera when she was in her 80th year.

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Playing 7 of 15

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Judith Jamison

Scene Seen, 1988

This solo by Garth Fagan was the last work created for Judith Jamison as a performer, seen here in a Pillow studio showing presented by her company, The Jamison Project.

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Playing 8 of 15

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Marge Champion and Blake Champion

Dancing, 1986

A recent centenarian, Marge Champion enjoyed a close association with Jacob’s Pillow for more than 30 years, serving on the Pillow board and assuring the legacies of both her and her late son Blake by donating Blake’s Barn as a home for the Pillow Archives.

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Playing 9 of 15

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Blondell Cummings

Chicken Soup, 1989

This signature work (designated by the NEA as an American Masterpiece in 2006) memorialized Cummings’s grandmother, transforming her everyday actions in the kitchen into a poignant and indelible work for the concert stage.

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Playing 10 of 15

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La Meri

Hamsa-Rani, 1951

The subject of a new PillowVoices podcast, La Meri studied, taught, and performed dances from many cultures, here using Indian dance forms to retell the story of Swan Lake.

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Playing 11 of 15

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Maria Tallchief

Sylvia Pas de Deux, 1951

The extraordinary technique of Maria Tallchief is on full display in this excerpt from Sylvia, performed at the Pillow just a few months after George Balanchine created the work for her (around the same time when the two ended their five-year marriage).

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Playing 12 of 15

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Pearl Primus

Spirituals, 1950

Pearl Primus bridged the worlds of African and modern dance, training as an anthropologist as well as a performer. This extremely rare footage is one of the few records of Primus at her peak.

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Playing 13 of 15

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Anna Duncan

Unidentified dance by Isadora Duncan, 1942

These precious film fragments document the last major performance by one of Isadora Duncan’s adopted daughters, known as the Isadorables, who performed widely with Isadora up until 1921.

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Playing 14 of 15

Ruth St. Denis

"The Delirium of Senses" from Radha, 1941

Though this film was made 35 years after Ruth St. Denis premiered Radha in 1906, it helps document the dawn of American modern dance, an art form that was largely created by women.

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Playing 15 of 15

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