I think I’ve just found my newest form of procrastination.
Jacob’s Pillow, located in Becket, Massachusetts, has extensive on-site archives that allow visitors to view rare footage from dance performances — but you have to travel to Becket to view them. Virtual Pillow, which offers a series of digital dance programming for online audiences (such as PillowTalks), was an excellent step in the right direction to make their programs more widely accessible. On March 28th, the Pillow will launch Jacob’s Pillow Dance Interactive, its most extensive Virtual Pillow program to date. Dance Interactive is a curated online portal of select artists who have performed at Jacob’s Pillow from 1937 through 2010. The collection features performance video and corresponding insight about the artists and works. All videos were filmed at Jacob’s Pillow over the past 70+ years – and these aren’t videos that you can find on YouTube.
Although the general public can access Dance Interactive on March 28th, I was fortunate to get a press preview of the new tool. Searching by genre, era, or artist makes it incredibly user-friendly. Once I let it sink in that I was watching Maria Tallchief perform George Balanchine’s Firebird at the Pillow in 1951, I realized how unique Dance Interactive is – and how fortunate the public will be to have this at their fingertips. It’s also incredibly addictive. To give you an idea, I watched excerpts of the following, one after the other:
- Merce Cunningham in Banjo (1955)
- Pearl Primus in Spirituals (1950)
- Wendy Whelan and Peter Boal in William Forsythe’s Herman Schmerman (2004)
- José Limón in Doris Humphrey’s Lament for Ignacio Sánchez Mejías (1946)
- Members of the Royal Danish Ballet in August Bournonville’s in Konservatoriet (1955)
It’s a treat to marvel at these performances and get some background on the artists’ relationship with the Pillow. If you’re not quite sure what you’re looking for, you can click “Dive In”, which randomly selects an entry from the archives. And if you’re in the mood to test your knowledge, clicking “Guess” will show a video and ask the viewer to choose who the performer is from several options. This leads to information about the performance – who choreographed it, when it was performed at the Pillow, and more.
I’m eager for the public to start using Dance Interactive (watch choreographer Kyle Abraham getting a preview of the tool below), and hopefully there will be a lively online discussion about it. Mark your calendars for the 28th! But for now, I’ll simply say thank you, Jacob’s Pillow, for making your archives accessible to people worldwide in an intelligent, informed way. Not only will students, educators, and dance audiences benefit from this curated resource. Dance Interactive is also a welcomed resource for the field – artists, choreographers, dancers, and historians will find this endlessly rewarding.