Dance performances

Review: Jacob’s Pillow Virtual Gala Presents Dazzling Dance Performances

Gala shows often feature patrons in black ties and evening dresses, cocktails, and expensive seats.

Saturday night’s season opening gala for the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival was a whole different matter.

“Global Pillow: A Virtual Gala” took place online.

Entrance was free.

Best of all, if you missed Saturday night’s performances, you can still catch captivating performances from the nine dance companies featured in Global Pillow until Saturday, June 19.

Many of us have grown accustomed to watching shows online over the past year or so. Virtual performances will never replace live, in-person performances. There is nothing quite like the thrill of watching performers live with an audience sitting around you.

And for those looking for live performances, in person, they will have the opportunity to see them at Jacob’s Pillow in Becket later this month. The internationally renowned dance festival will feature outdoor performances on site from June 30 to August 29. (There are no indoor shows this summer.)

But there is also something special about being able to see artists anytime, anywhere in the world. This is one of the virtues of online performance. This is what makes this summer’s Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival so unique. If you can’t make it to The Pillow in person this summer, as dance fans affectionately call it, you can see most of the performances online.

The globetrotting character of the Global Pillow online gala is also one of its strengths. One minute, you’re in the lavish Palais Garnier in Paris watching an excerpt from a breathtaking new work by the Paris Opera Ballet. The next minute you’re on a sandy beach in Senegal watching a dancer perform an intimate solo with the calming sounds of the ocean in the background.

The Global Pillow Gala features nine different performances from nine different countries.

The first performance is an excerpt from “Lalita Lavanga”, a duet performed by two women from the Nrityagram Dance Ensemble in India. Filmed at their dance studio last month near Bangalore, India, the playful piece features smooth, elegant movements to rhythmic, lush music.

Next, head to England to see Candoco Dance Company, the London-based dance company that includes disabled and non-disabled dancers who perform works by some of the world’s greatest choreographers. The piece featured in Global Pillow, an excerpt from Jeanine Durning’s new work, “Last Shelter”, features angular, Merce Cunningham-style movements set to sparse music and dialogue.

The third piece on the program is the elegant solo on the beach in Senegal performed by Germaine Acogny, the Senegalese dancer who founded Jant-Bi, the dance company that performed one of the most amazing pieces I’ve ever had. seen at Jacob’s Pillow in 2000. Acogny’s solo Global Pillow features no music, no words – just the sound of the ocean and its graceful, elegant movements.

Any dance company wondering how to perform a visually stunning virtual piece can learn a lot from Danca’s Companhia Urbana in Brazil. Filmed on a sidewalk in Brazil, “Falling Apart” features a man and a woman dancing together at night wearing black masks that many of us have grown accustomed to wearing last year. The couple seem to push and pull each other as subtle electronic music plays in the background. Suddenly it is daylight on the same sidewalk. Then it’s night again. Then a dancer starts running and it feels like you’re watching an action movie. It’s simple, cinematic and captivating.

Then we are treated to a dazzling tap solo from 2021 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award recipient Dormeshia. Performing on a simple stage with a blue background and a pianist playing backstage, Dormeshia shows why she is considered one of the best tap dancers of her generation.

The Paris Opera Ballet then performs an excerpt from “Et Si”, a bewitching ensemble work that presents hypnotic music and movements that gain in intensity. A combination of Twyla Tharp and Pina Bausch, “Et Si” just made me want to see more of this work featuring these dazzling dancers.

Next, the Hong Kong Ballet performs an excerpt from their upcoming new production of “Romeo and Juliet”. Choreographer Septime Webre reinvents this classic ballet, featuring the doomed lovers in the Hong Kong of the 1960s. The movements are fast, crisp, lively and exciting.

The regulars at Jacob’s Pillow’s Nederlands Dans Theater then perform an excerpt from “From England With Love” by Hofesh Shechter. Dressed in school uniforms, the dancers get progressively more disheveled as they wrestle with snippets of classic British rock songs.

Finally, we are transported to New Zealand for an extract of “Surface”, a rhythmic and propulsive piece interpreted by Black Grace. This large ensemble piece illustrates why Black Grace was a festival favorite at Jacob’s Pillow. And here are looking forward to more memorials to them and other dance companies from around the world at Jacob’s Pillow this summer and for many years to come.

“Global Pillow: A Virtual Gala” can be broadcast online for free until Saturday, June 19 at 7 p.m. To register and watch the show online, go to https://www.jacobspillow.org/events/global-pillow/

Tickets for all other onsite and online events at Jacob’s Pillow are currently on sale. To purchase tickets, visit jacobspillow.org or call (413) 243-0745.