(BECKET, Mass.) – Jacob’s Pillow executive and artistic director Ella Baff will present the sixth annual Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award to Kyle Abraham, an acclaimed contemporary dancer, choreographer, and artistic director of Abraham.In.Motion. The Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award honors outstanding, visionary dance artists and carries a prize of $25,000, one of the largest cash awards in the dance industry, to be used by the choreographer to enhance his artistry in any way he chooses. The award will be presented in person and celebrated at the Jacob’s Pillow Season Opening Gala on Saturday, June 16, 2012.
“Kyle Abraham is a charismatic performer, ambitiously creative, and an insightful dance-maker who connects powerfully with audiences,” comments Ella Baff. “With this award, we can help this exceptional young artist turn a corner in his career and artistic development. I am so pleased for Kyle to join the amazing group of Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award honorees, including Merce Cunningham, Bill T. Jones, and Crystal Pite.”
Honorary Co-Chairs for the 80th Anniversary Gala include Massachusetts Governor Deval L. Patrick and First Lady Diane B. Patrick, dance legend Carmen deLavallade, and David Hallberg, principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre and the Bolshoi Ballet.
A cocktail reception will kick off the event, along with a preview of Decades of Dance – a commemorative exhibit highlighting images from the extensive Pillow Archives – on display in the Blake’s Barn Gallery.
The Gala performance in the historic Ted Shawn Theatre will feature a variety of extraordinary artists and choreographers, and includes a world premiere by acclaimed British choreographer and former Director of the English National Ballet School Michael Corder, performed by dancers of The School at Jacob’s Pillow Ballet Program.
David Hallberg will perform Nacho Duato’s Kaburias, a hypnotic solo to music by Afro-Cuban composer Leo Brouwer. An excerpt of CIRCA, a thrilling circus-arts work by Australian ensemble Circa, and a duet from beloved Brazilan contemporary company Mimulus will round out this exclusive program.
The Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award was created in 2007 with an ongoing, annual anonymous gift of $50,000, of which $25,000 is given to an artist of exceptional vision. In addition to the cash award, the honoree receives a custom-designed glass sculpture by Berkshire-based artist Tom Patti, whose work is in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, among other prominent institutions worldwide. In 2007, the inaugural Award was given to Annie-B Parson and Paul Lazar, co-directors of Big Dance Theater. In 2008, the Pillow honored Alonzo King, Artistic Director of Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet. In 2009 the Award was given to Merce Cunningham, whose company gave its final performances during his lifetime at Jacob’s Pillow later that season; in 2010 Bill T. Jones accepted the Award weeks after receiving his second Tony Award for the Broadway hit FELA! Last season Crystal Pite, international choreographer and Artistic Director of Kidd Pivot, was honored; her company returns to the Festival in 2012 with the work Dark Matters June 27-July 1.
The additional $25,000 of the anonymous donor’s annual gift supports Jacob’s Pillow commissions, presentations, and the Creative Development Residency Program, which has supported residencies for numerous dance artists including Kyle Abraham, Camille A. Brown, Suzanne Farrell, Big Dance Theater, zoe | juniper, Stephen Petronio, Kimberly Bartosik, Rashaun Mitchell, and many others. During Creative Development Residencies, artists are invited to spend one to three weeks at the Pillow creating or rehearsing new work, with free housing for the company, unlimited use of studio space, and access to the Pillow’s rare and extensive Archives and other Pillow resources. In the beautiful, retreat-like atmosphere of the Pillow, the Creative Development Residencies are rare opportunities for artists to focus on the creative process without distraction.
Notable artists who have created or premiered dances at the Pillow include choreographers Antony Tudor, Agnes de Mille, Alvin Ailey, Donald McKayle, Kevin McKenzie, Twyla Tharp, Ralph Lemon, Susan Marshall, Trisha Brown, Ronald K. Brown, Wally Cardona, Andrea Miller, and Trey McIntyre; performed by such artists as Mikhail Baryshnikov, Carmen de Lavallade, Mark Morris, Dame Margot Fonteyn, Edward Villella, Rasta Thomas, and hundreds of others.
Kyle Abraham began his training at the Civic Light Opera Academy and the Creative and Performing Arts High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He continued his dance studies in New York, receiving a BFA from SUNY Purchase and an MFA from NYU Tisch School of the Arts. In recent years, Abraham has received accolades and awards for his dancing and choreography including a 2010 Bessie Award for Outstanding Performance in Dance for his work in The Radio Show, a 2010 Princess Grace Award for Choreography, a BUILD grant and an individual artist fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts, a Jerome Foundation Travel and Study Grant, and inclusion in Dance Magazine’s “25 To Watch” list.
Abraham has been heralded by OUT Magazine as an example of the “best and brightest creative talent to emerge in New York City in the age of Obama.” Roslyn Sulcas of The New York Times comments “[Abraham] is always a commanding presence onstage, silky smooth in his transitions and impulses even when he’s lashing his arms, whipping his legs around his body or convulsing his torso.” His choreography has been presented throughout the United States and abroad, including in three Jacob’s Pillow seasons: in 2009 as part of the free Inside/Out series, in 2010 for a weeklong engagement in the Doris Duke Theatre, and in 2011 in an exclusive joint program with Camille A. Brown and Dancers. He has also been invited to participate in two Creative Development Residencies at Jacob’s Pillow.
As a performer, Abraham has worked with acclaimed modern dance companies including David Dorfman Dance, Nathan Trice/Rituals, Mimi Garrard Dance Theater, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, Dance Alloy, The Kevin Wynn Collection, and Attack Theatre. In addition to performing and developing new works for his company, Abraham.In.Motion, Abraham also teaches his unique approach to post-modern dance in schools and studios throughout the United States.
The Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award will be presented in person during the Pillow’s 80th Anniversary Gala. The event features a world premiere by acclaimed British choreographer and former Director of the English National Ballet School Michael Corder, performed by dancers of The School at Jacob’s Pillow Ballet Program. Other performances include David Hallberg, principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre and the Bolshoi Ballet, in Nacho Duato’s Kaburias; an excerpt of CIRCA, a thrilling circus-arts work by Australian ensemble Circa; and a duet from beloved Brazilian contemporary company Mimulus. Honorary Co-Chairs for the 80th Anniversary Gala include Massachusetts Governor Deval L. Patrick and First Lady Diane B. Patrick, dance legend Carmen deLavallade, and ballet star David Hallberg. Dinner, dancing and a live auction follow the Gala performance. The 80th Anniversary Gala is a benefit event; funds raised support the artistic and educational programs of Jacob’s Pillow, a not-for-profit organization. Tickets are still available, call 413.243.9919 x126 or visit Jacob’s Pillow Season Opening Gala to purchase.