Dance Theatre of Harlem Opens Jacob’s Pillow Season

Ashley Murphy of Dance Theatre of Harlem; photo Rachel Neville, courtesy Jacob's Pillow Dance.

Ashley Murphy of Dance Theatre of Harlem; photo Rachel Neville, courtesy Jacob’s Pillow Dance.

(BECKET, Mass.) – Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH), the groundbreaking and newly revitalized classical and contemporary ballet company, will open the 2013 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival season in the Ted Shawn Theatre from Wednesday, June 19 to Sunday, June 23, 2013. Led by founding member and former principal dancer Virginia Johnson, the company will present a range of classic and new ballet work including George Balanchine’s Agon, The Lark Ascending by Alvin Ailey, and Far But Close by Canadian contemporary choreographer John Alleyne.

These three neo-classical and contemporary ballet works span multiple eras of American and dance history. George Balanchine’s Agon is a challenging work for 12 dancers, and features an iconic pas de deux originally created in 1957 for DTH founder Arthur Mitchell and ballerina Diana Adams as members of New York City Ballet. Created in collaboration with composer Igor Stravinsky, Agon is one of Balanchine’s most notable ballets. In an article reflecting on Agon’s 50th anniversary, Alastair Macaulay of the New York Times called the work “astounding, full of shapes, phrases, rhythms, sounds that hadn’t been encountered before, but embodied New York modernism itself.”

Alvin Ailey’s The Lark Ascending (1972) is set to an eponymous score by English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams created for violin and orchestra in 1920. While the music is inspired by the English countryside of Vaughan Williams’ youth, Ailey’s choreographic interpretation is a depiction of a young girl’s maturation to young womanhood. As part of the American Masterpieces program of the National Endowment for the Arts, DTH received a grant to help reconstruct The Lark Ascending for inclusion in the repertoire of its revived professional company. One of the most balletic of Ailey’s creations, DTH is the first American company to perform the work sur les pointes.

Far But Close (2012) is a narrative work by Canadian choreographer John Alleyne, with spoken word poetry by award-winning actor, singer, and writer Daniel Beaty and music by composer and violinist Daniel Bernard Roumain. In addition to commissioned works for major orchestras, Roumain has collaborated with Philip Glass, Bill T. Jones (with whom he performed at Jacob’s Pillow), Savion Glover, and Lady Gaga. Commissioned by DTH and based on a short spoken word play conceived and written by Beaty, this modern day ballet tells the story of a young man and woman who meet on the subway and their journey toward trust. Alleyne’s work has previously been performed at Jacob’s Pillow in DTH’s last appearance here in 1997, and by Ballet British Columbia (the company now known as Ballet BC who returns July 17-21).

A scene from Dance Theatre of Harlem's 'Agon'

A scene from Dance Theatre of Harlem’s ‘Agon’

The dancers of DTH come from a variety of backgrounds including Dance Theatre of Harlem School, American Ballet Theatre’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, School Pacific Northwest Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Kirov Academy of Ballet, The Australian Ballet, Boston Ballet, and The Ailey School. Michaela DePrince, the company’s youngest member, was recently featured in the documentary First Position, which will be shown at the Pillow’s Member Appreciation Film Event on June 9.

In addition to the six performances, a DTH-related PillowTalk on Saturday, June 22, at 4pm, will feature excerpts from the company’s film and television appearances with commentary by artistic director Virginia Johnson. This programming serves as part of the Lift Ev’ry Voice Festival, a celebration of African American culture and heritage in the Berkshires, which kicks-off June 19 at Jacob’s Pillow. Correlated events continue throughout Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.

Dance Theatre of Harlem made its company debut at Jacob’s Pillow in 1970, and returned in 1973 and 1997. Forty years after this auspicious debut, and as part of the revival of DTH, the Dance Theatre of Harlem Ensemble was invited to perform at the 2010 Festival in the Doris Duke Theatre. Virginia Johnson served as master faculty in The School at Jacob’s Pillow that same year and participated in a PillowTalk called “Virginia Johnson Returns.” In 2012, a special appearance by DTH founder Arthur Mitchell closed each performance of The Men Dancers: From the Horse’s Mouth, created especially for the Pillow’s 80th Anniversary Season.


Dance Theatre of Harlem
Ted Shawn Theatre
Wednesday, June 19 through Saturday June 22 at 8pm
Saturday, June 22 and Sunday, June 23 at 2pm

Free Pre-Show Talks with Jacob’s Pillow Scholars-in-Residence are offered in Blake’s Barn 30 minutes before every performance.

A Post-Show Q&A with DTH Artistic Director Virginia Johnson and Pillow Scholar Maura Keefe will take place onstage on Friday, June 21.

Tickets $39-$75.

Now on sale online at, via phone at 413.243.0745, or in person at the Jacob’s Pillow Box Office. Under 35 Friday Tickets are available for $19 on Friday, June 21 (ages 18–35), two per person, must show I.D. when picking up tickets. $10 Youth Tickets, sponsored by ALEX®, are available for Friday, June 21 at 8pm and Sunday, June 23 at 2pm (must be accompanied by an adult ticket). Under 35 Fridays Tickets and Youth Tickets are available by phone and in person only.

Jacob’s Pillow is located at 358 George Carter Road in Becket, MA, 01223 (10 minutes east on Route 20 from Mass Pike Exit 2). The Jacob’s Pillow campus and theatres are handicapped-accessible.



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