THIRTEEN’S Great Performances Presents the Television Premiere of The Award Winning Dance Documentary Dancing At Jacob’s Pillow: Never Stand StillFriday, July 26 at 9 p.m. on PBS
Narrated by Bill T. Jones, the film features rare performance footage
& candid conversations with many luminaries of dance
Winner of Best Documentary at both the San Francisco Dance Film Festival and the Dance Camera West Festival in Los Angeles, Dancing at Jacob’s Pillow: Never Stand Still will have its television premiere on THIRTEEN’s Great Performances Friday, July 26 at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings).
Directed by veteran documentary filmmaker Ron Honsa, Dancing at Jacob’s Pillow: Never Stand Still reveals the passion, discipline, and daring of those who choose a life in dance. Performances filmed live at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, interviews with extraordinary artists, rare archival footage, and behind the scenes insights bring dance to life, as Dancing at Jacob’s Pillow: Never Stand Still visits the iconic international nexus for dance: Jacob’s Pillow.
Founded in the 1930s by visionary dance pioneer Ted Shawn on a farm in the Berkshires region of western Massachusetts, today the Pillow is an idyllic mecca for artists and audiences from around the world, a place where dance in all its forms – from ballet to jazz to contemporary – is performed, studied, created and celebrated. Jacob’s Pillow is also the only dance presenter to receive the prestigious National Medal of Arts.
Intimate and candid conversations offer personal portraits of leading choreographers and dancers: renowned ballerina Suzanne Farrell 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” route to dance; former Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo star Frederic Franklin, in one of his last filmed interviews, recalls the early days of the Pillow, where Joseph Pilates taught his now ubiquitous body-strengthening methods; Mark Morris talks about his love of music; and Merce Cunningham, also in one of his last interviews, describes why dance “is not for the timid.”
Also interviewed are dance icons Paul Taylor and Judith Jamison, as well as a new generation of artists and companies including Chunky Move, Shantala Shivalingappa and Stockholm 59° North, who appear in performance and off-stage during their creative workdays.
The theatrical release of Never Stand Still last year coincided with the 80th anniversary season of America’s longest running dance festival. Andrea Pflaumer of the San Francisco Examiner dubbed the film “exhilarating” and noted the “kinesthetically gripping visuals.”
Director Ron Honsa first came to Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in the early 1980s on a film assignment and was struck by the beauty and intelligence of the work that was being performed, studied, and created at this exceptional place. This experience ultimately led to the making of Honsa’s award-winning 1985 documentary The Men Who Danced, the story of Ted Shawn and the first all-male dance company in America. On his film about the Pillow, Honsa states: “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. Never Stand Still is a love letter to a rare place and the artists who dare to express the inexpressible through movement.”
Throughout his career, Honsa has had a personal passion for directing dance for television, including his work with Dance Theatre of Harlem, the Limón Dance Company, Savion Glover and video projects for the Balanchine Trust. His television and film credits include: CBS Reports, NOW with Bill Moyers, Saturday Night Live, America’s Most Wanted, Sesame Street, US Tennis Open, Head of State, Cadillac Man, The Fallen, True Colors, She Devil and Live from Lincoln Center.
Great Performances is a production of THIRTEEN for WNET, one of America’s most prolific and respected public media providers. Throughout its 40 year history on public television, Great Performances has provided viewers across the country with an unparalleled showcase of the best in all genres of the performing arts, serving as America’s most prestigious and enduring broadcaster of cultural programming. Over the course of its four decades, the series has been the home to the greatest artists in the areas of drama, dance, musical theater, classical and popular music, providing many with their very first television exposure.
Dancing at Jacob’s Pillow: Never Stand Still was directed by Ron Honsa.
Written and Produced by Ron Honsa and Nan Penman. Cinematography by Jimmy O’Donnell and Etienne Sauret. Edited by Charles Yurick. Jacob’s Pillow Executive and Artistic Director Ella Baff is executive producer.
For Great Performances, Joan Hershey and Richard R. Schilling are producers. Bill O’Donnell is series producer; David Horn is executive producer.
Major funding for Great Performances is provided by the Irene Diamond Fund, Rosalind P. Walter, The Lewis “Sonny” Turner Fund for Dance, the LuEsther T. Mertz Charitable Trust, Jody and John Arnhold, the National Endowment for the Arts, The Starr Foundation, The Agnes Varis Trust, the Philip and Janice Levin Foundation, and PBS.
Photos and other material can be accessed at the THIRTEEN Online Pressroom.
Visit Great Performances Online at www.pbs.org/gperf for additional information about this and other programs. The program will also be streamed there in full after broadcast.
In 2013, WNET is celebrating the 50th Anniversary of THIRTEEN, New York’s flagship public media provider. As the parent company of THIRTEEN and WLIW21 and operator of NJTV, WNET brings quality arts, education and public affairs programming to over 5 million viewers each week. WNET produces and presents such acclaimed PBS series as Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, Need to Know, Charlie Rose and a range of documentaries, children’s programs, and local news and cultural offerings available on air and online. Pioneers in educational programming, WNET has created such groundbreaking series as Get the Math, Oh Noah! andCyberchase and provides tools for educators that bring compelling content to life in the classroom and at home. WNET highlights the tri-state’s unique culture and diverse communities through NYC-ARTS, Reel 13, NJ Today and MetroFocus, the multi-platform news magazine focusing on the New York region. WNET is also a leader in connecting with viewers on emerging platforms, including the THIRTEEN Explore iPad App where users can stream PBS content for free.
About Jacob’s Pillow
Jacob’s Pillow began in the late 1700s as a New England farm named after biblical story of Jacob, who laid his head upon a rock and dreamed of a ladder to heaven. In the 1800s, Jacob’s Pillow played a role in American history as a station on the Underground Railroad for slaves escaping to Canada. In 1931, when modern dance pioneer Ted Shawn bought the abandoned farm he and his wife, Ruth St. Denis, were America’s leading dance couple. Their Denishawn Company had popularized a new dance form rooted in theatrical and ethnic traditions rather than those of European ballet. Together they spawned a new generation of dance and dancers in America, including Denishawn company member, Martha Graham and many others.
In 1933, Shawn recruited eight men for his new company. The tall and burly Shawn and his athletic dancers were intent on challenging the image of men in dance. They forged a new, boldly muscular style celebrating Pawnee braves, toiling sharecroppers, and Union machinists. The Men Dancers began performing for the public in 1933, and the Pillow’s programming expanded to encompass other artists after the Men’s company disbanded in 1940.
Despite hardships during World War II such as gasoline and tire rationing, audiences climbed the hill on foot and horseback to attend a wide array of programs at the Pillow: ballet, modern, mime, ballroom, folk, and classical dance. In 1942, the Ted Shawn Theatre opened, built by the noted architect Joseph Franz, as the first theatre in the U.S. designed specifically for dance.
Shawn’s trail-blazing spirit resonates in the 21st century, and the Pillow has been celebrated with many recent distinguished honors. In 2003, the Federal Government named Jacob’s Pillow a National Historic Landmark for its importance in America’s culture and history, thus distinguishing the Pillow as the country’s first and only Landmark dance institution. In 2007, the Pillow was formally dedicated as a site on the Upper Housatonic Valley African American Heritage Trail, which celebrates people and places that hold pivotal roles in key events of African American heritage. On March 2, 2011, Jacob’s Pillow received a National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama at the White House, becoming the first dance presenting organization to receive this prestigious honor. The 2013 Festival runs June 19 through August 25; for more information visit jacobspillow.org.