Jacob’s Pillow Doc to Screen at the BIFF

Ted Shawn and His Men Dancers at Jacob's Pillow

(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass.) – Never Stand Still, a new documentary about Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Becket, Mass., is receiving a preview screening at the Berkshire International Film Festival (BIFF) on Saturday, June 4, at 7, at the Triplex Cinema, in advance of the film’s official West Coast premiere.


Directed by award-winning producer and director Ron Honsa and narrated by Tony Award-winner and Kennedy Center honoree Bill T. Jones, Never Stand Still is an inspiring film about dance and the extraordinary performers who have dedicated their lives to it, filmed on location at Jacob’s Pillow, a National Historic Landmark and America’s longest running international dance festival.

In 1931, during the Great Depression, modern dance pioneer and choreographer Ted Shawn purchased an abandoned New England farm as a retreat for his company of Men Dancers – a radical idea at the time. Shawn soon began inviting dance artists from around the world to perform, and Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival was born. Today, Jacob’s Pillow is considered “the dance center of the nation” (the New York Times) and a destination for artists and audiences alike. Never Stand Still transports the viewer into a world of non-stop movement as it reveals the story of ‘the Pillow.’

Director Ron Honsa comments, “From the youngest dancers in this film to the legendary masters, it was obvious to me that a deep and creative vibration has always resonated at Jacob’s Pillow. This mighty international dance festival captured my heart many years ago. Never Stand Still is a love letter to a rare place and the artists who dare to express the inexpressible through movement.”

THE FEATURED ARTISTS

Never Stand Still immerses the viewer in the world of dance through entertaining interviews with dancers and choreographers, backstage access, rare archival footage from the 1930s and ‘40s, and thrilling HD performances by internationally renowned dance companies including: Mark Morris Dance Group, Chunky Move (Australia), Stockholm 59° North (Sweden), Shantala Shivalingappa (India), Suzanne Farrell Ballet, Rasta Thomas’ Bad Boys of Dance, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the Royal Danish Ballet (Denmark), Mimulus Dance Company (Brazil), Zaccho Dance Theatre, and Paul Taylor Dance Company.

Intimate and candid interviews offer personal portraits of choreographers and dancers. Suzanne Farrell, one of the greatest ballerinas in the world, recalls some of her first performances; Tony Award-winner Bill Irwin marvels at the physical humor of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton; celebrated dancer Rasta Thomas discusses his ‘bad boy’ image; former Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo star Frederic Franklin recalls the early days of the Pillow, where Joseph Pilates taught his now ubiquitous body-strengthening methods, and when “there were no ladies to be lifted;” and Mark Morris talks about his love of music and explains, “I like to say that my work — it’s not for everyone, it’s for anyone.”

Paul Taylor, Judith Jamison, Joanna Haigood, Marge Champion, Anna-Marie Holmes, Shantala Shivalingappa, Jomar Mesquita, and Nikolaj Hübbe share personal stories and views on their art form; and in one of his last filmed interviews, the late legendary choreographer Merce Cunningham reveals why dance “is not for the timid.”

THE INSPIRATION

As a young filmmaker in New York City in 1981, Never Stand Still director Ron Honsa was hired to film a dance performance at Jacob’s Pillow. “I was struck by the beauty and intelligence of the work that was taking place at this exceptional place. I began to learn about the Pillow’s unique history and met one of its earliest dance pioneers, Barton Mumaw,” Honsa comments. This experience ultimately led to the making of Honsa’s award-winning 1985 documentary, The Men Who Danced, the story of Ted Shawn, Barton Mumaw, and the first all-male dance company in America.

Honsa continues, “Never Stand Still shows the passion, discipline, and daring that is demanded of those who choose a life in dance. Perhaps this extreme love and dedication to dance can only be experienced in the mind, heart, and body of a dancer. And yet, this film is a humble attempt to document the sacrifice, talent, and unending devotion this art form demands.”

 

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